Ad execs are desperate to join these 6 VIP Slack groups. Some have years-long waiting lists.

Red velvet rope for VIP Slack group list
Advertisers, marketers, and PR professionals are vying to get into VIP Slack groups.
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

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  • Private Slack groups soared in popularity during the pandemic as a place to network and find jobs.
  • Many are limited to a few hundred people who are vying for a spot against thousands of applicants.
  • The wait time to join some of these channels can take up to two years.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Professionals in advertising, marketing, and public relations hit hardest by the pandemic are increasingly looking to exclusive, private Slack groups to find jobs and grow their networks.

These Slack groups have risen in popularity over the past few years as a place where people across industries can rub elbows with some of the most elite and interesting execs in their professions who they otherwise wouldn't have access to.

Several people described these chat groups as the internet versions of New York's private membership club Soho House, and some wait years and have to stand out among thousands of applicants to join these groups — especially as some cap membership at just a few hundred people.

"It's like when you're 18, and you're trying to get into a night club, trying to get past this velvet rope, and you're like, 'Why not me?'" said Remi Carlioz, a freelancer and a cofounder and creative director of Never Concepts. Carlioz is a member of one Slack group and is on a waiting list for another.

Most memberships to these groups are free, but some Slack creators are considering adding fees as interest grows. Slack offers free and paid options to group creators. Slack Pro offers advanced tools like a search function that costs $6.67 per person per month when billed yearly.

Below is a rundown on six of the most coveted private Slack groups by advertisers, marketers, and PR professionals, identified through Insider's reporting. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Alphalist

Tobias Schlottke, cofounder of Alphalist
Tobias Schlottke, cofounder of Alphalist.
Tobias Schlottke

Alphalist is exclusive to chief technology officers. Its online bio says it is "an exclusive and curated list of the tech elite."

The Slack group was created by German cofounders Tobias Schlottke, Iskender Dirik, and Johannes Schaback. Schlottke is a cofounder of the conference platform OMR, Dirik is the managing director of Samsung Next Ventures, and Schaback is the chief technology officer of the mobile-payments company SumUp.

Schlottke said they started the group four years ago to connect chief technology officers who are "typically not well connected." Besides having the title of chief technology officer, members must also apply to join. Alphalist has 500 members.

"It's the Soho House for CTOs," he said.

Alphalist cofounders have considered membership fees but do not charge any.

Most ad agencies have a chief technology officer, but Schlottke said the majority of Alphalist's members worked at European tech players like the e-commerce company Zalando, the software-development platform GitLab, and the online-shopping company Home24.

Schlottke said Alphalist did not accept many applicants from ad vendors because he feared they might spam members. The group typically denies about 20 to 30% of applicants, he said.

"You can do a little brag on your products, but no one should sell anything to a member," Schlottke said.

While Schlottke said he has never had to kick out a member, people can get kicked out of these Slack groups if creators feel they are soliciting too much, not contributing enough, or leaking content or conversations outside the group.

"It's extremely professional and also kind of a secret society," Carlioz, the freelancer and Never Concepts creative director, said.

"People don't brag about it or talk about it outside," Carlioz added. "There's a code of conduct. To be honest, also, there's a bit of a status symbol. It's like a sneaker drop, you want to get it."

Ladies Who Strategize

Ladies Who Strategize founder Kim Mackenzie
Kim Mackenzie, a freelance strategy director and the creator of the Ladies Who Strategize Slack.
Kim Mackenzie

Kim Mackenzie, a freelance strategy director, started the Ladies Who Strategize Slack group in 2016 for female-identifying and nonbinary strategists only.

She said she started the group to give female-identifying and nonbinary strategists the networks they need to succeed — but typically lack in a male-dominated industry.

"It's my way of fighting against the patriarchy," Mackenzie said.

Members have to apply, and the questions she asks ensure their jobs are 80% based in strategy, meaning they are thinking and conducting research most of the day, she said. "The word 'strategist' gets thrown around a lot," she added.

Mackenzie said Ladies Who Strategize had about 30 channels for professional and social purposes. One channel focuses on sharing marketing and research reports, while others are for parents of kids and pets.

There are 1,600 members and about 90 applicants waiting to join.

Members work within in-house brand teams, at agencies, and in government jobs. She said the group also accepted people looking to start a job in strategy.

Mackenzie said the group was built on trust among members. It's also free and will remain that way. The Ladies Who Strategize mission statement says: "LWS runs on good will and for the good of moving women forward."

"Women who get the most out of it show up consistently," Mackenzie said. "You shouldn't be showing up saying, 'I need this thing,' or, 'I need a job.'

"If the conversation is around strategy: great. If it's around how we're all dealing with the pandemic or how you're managing your kids or boss: even better."

Lean Luxe

Paul Munford, Lean Luxe
Paul Munford, the editor in chief of the Lean Luxe newsletter and creator of the Lean Luxe Slack.
Paul Munford

Several people told Insider that Paul Munford's Lean Luxe was the crème de la crème of private Slack groups because of its A-list network that includes execs across media, finance, advertising, marketing, and arts and entertainment. Munford started the Slack group in 2017, a year after launching his Lean Luxe newsletter for modern luxury brands that he leads as editor in chief.

Brand owners like Melanie Masarin, Glossier's former head of retail who launched the beverage brand Ghia in 2019, are members of the group.

Carlioz said he'd applied three times and was still on the waiting list.

Munford said the group had just under 1,000 members and the waiting list was "pretty long," with "thousands and thousands" of people on it. He said members needed to apply to join the group and subscribe to the Lean Luxe newsletter and open it 60% of the time. Applications were introduced last year when interest spiked during the pandemic. 

Every few months, Munford sifts through applications and lets a batch of about 50 people in. They have 24 hours to accept their invite before it expires, which helps him weed out the people who are not serious about joining, he said.

"I like to make sure everyone is in it for the right reasons," Munford said. "Are these people interesting? Do I get the sense you will participate in the conversation?"

The Lean Luxe Slack group has about 10 channels, including "general-convos," "media-talk," "brand-talk," "the-welcome-mat" for new members, and one to share job openings and seek talent recommendations. Munford said some members said they landed their dream job through the group.

The group is free for members. Munford said he didn't pay for the Slack Pro version but was considering adding fees.

Mixing Board

Sean Garett, founder of Mixing Board
Sean Garrett, a cofounder of the strategic-advisory firm Pramana Collective.
Sean Garett

Sean Garrett, a cofounder of the strategic-advisory firm Pramana Collective and the former vice president of communications for Twitter, launched the Mixing Board Slack group in January for brand and comms professionals.

It's already grown to about 100 members from places like Nike, Airbnb, Oatly, Instagram, Snap, Intel, Dunkin', LinkedIn, LVMH, Uber, Adobe, Glossier, the Obama White House, and Google.

Garrett said Slack members "come together to provide advice and strategic insights to organizations."

"It was started because too often companies rush toward short-term tactics before doing any thoughtful planning, and I wanted to remove the excuses for doing so," he added.

Mixing Board members form workshops and often set up calls to work together, Garrett said. They also do "community-sourced recruiting for senior-level roles," he said. "If a member has a suggestion for a role, they drop a name into a form."

Katie Dreke, who left her senior director position at Nike in January to start her own consultancy, is part of four private Slack groups including Mixing Board and said she relied on their networks — which include former US President Barack Obama's speechwriter and execs at Glossier and Playboy — for guidance as she branched out on her own.

"I have an army of people who I can collaborate with. I don't have to look for them anymore," Dreke said. "I have found these groups to be incredibly powerful for me as a person and for my business."

To get into the group, you must receive an invitation from a member and then undergo a one-on-one interview with Garrett.

"Mixing Board is not a fancy club with a bouncer and a velvet rope," Garrett said. "It's more of a chill Tokyo record bar that you have to make your way through a laundromat to get into. It only has so much room, for now at least."

Sunday Dinner

Lindsey Slaby, Sunday Dinner
Lindsey Slaby, the founder and creator of the Sunday Dinner consultancy and Slack group.
Lindsey Slaby

Lindsey Slaby, who founded the marketing-strategy consultancy Sunday Dinner in 2013, created her Slack group about two years ago.

While they share the same name, Slaby's Slack group and consulting firm are not related. Slaby said employing her consulting services wouldn't get you into the group. Instead, every member must apply, and she caps it at 250 people. Slaby said she had thousands of people on the waiting list.

She keeps the group free to members, though she pays about $280 to $300 a month for the Slack Pro version. 

Slaby said members included owners of direct-to-consumer brands, independent marketers, chief marketing officers, small-agency owners, freelancers, and consultants. She said she liked to primarily admit people who otherwise wouldn't have a large professional network.

Carlioz, the freelancer and creative director, said he joined the Sunday Dinner Slack group during the pandemic and it became "a support group" when finding work was difficult. He said he ended up getting 50% of his projects and jobs last year through connections he formed on the Slack. While public professional-networking sites like LinkedIn are designed for forming these type of connections, he said he found they failed at doing so because of too much spam and clutter.

Members must keep engaging with the group to remain in it, but conversations should remain focused, Slaby said. She said Sunday Dinner had channels including one for sharing strategy decks and another for people seeking talent recommendations or help on a project. Slaby said she would flag and delete posts that do not contribute anything useful or productive to the group.

There is also a strict rule against sharing the Slack group's content and conversations outside the group. Slaby said she once kicked out one of her closest friends for leaking conversations outside the Slack.

"You know you're with like-minded people," Slaby said. "You're lucky to be in here, you waited — there are rules. If you're inactive, I discontinue you and let someone else in."

Why Is This Interesting

Colin Nagy, Instagram exec and Why Is This Interesting founder
Colin Nagy, one of the two founders of Why Is This Interesting.
Colin Nagy

Noah Brier, the founder of the information-tech firm Variance, and Colin Nagy, a global-brand-strategy exec at Instagram, started their Slack group and Substack newsletter by the same name about two years ago.

Only contributing writers to the Why Is This Interesting Substack newsletter are invited to join the Slack group. Members and writers come from all sorts of backgrounds, from marketing to music.

People pitch to write for the Substack, and they must contribute at least every six months to stay in the Slack group, which is the cost of being in the group versus having fees. There are about 120 members in the group and 12,000 subscribers to the Substack.

Slack channels are focused on Substack article topics and world news. Members can also seek out advice and recommendations for jobs, like they do in other groups. There is a strict policy against discussing US politics, as the founders have deemed it too divisive a topic.

The Substack articles can include Q&As and discussions on a wide variety of topics, like how spotting a criminal based on facial cues or behavioral patterns doesn't work and why they're writing about them, i.e.: "Why is this interesting?"

Axel Springer, Insider Inc.'s parent company, is an investor in Uber.

Axel Springer, Insider Inc.'s parent company, is an investor in Airbnb.

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