By Corean Canty, COO, Goodway Group
This summer saw an increased focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, with many brands showing support and bringing attention to the victims. During this time, I questioned what will happen when attention dies down. Will these brands continue to be part of the conversation? Are they authentic or opportunistic? Do they really hold these values? Are they committed to driving permanent change?
I asked these same questions of myself and my organization and I am committed to real change like employee-led POC and ally groups, deeper integration of diversity practices throughout our business, and a focus on overall employee experience while being a voice in the advertising industry to create change. As for the rest of the industry? Time would tell. The Black community began watching, mostly with a side-eye.
Many are still fighting to get justice for victims like Breonna Taylor, whose family was awarded a $12 million settlement in a wrongful death suit against the city of Louisville. This comes with promises of police reform, yet no one charged for her wrongful death.
Meanwhile, brands are shifting focus to holiday spending and tapping into lucrative Black consumer spending. Those who go in blindly with insensitive messages targeting the Black dollar need to be aware of the state of our community. A community continually fighting the injustices faced for generations, trying to live through a pandemic, and mourning the loss of many beloved heroes.
The pandemic is hitting the Black community – and other minority groups – harder. Brands must recognize this and strive to connect with consumers at a deeper level.
Continue the conversation, Follow through with action
One and done statements from brands don’t cut it. The lack of trust carries through both internally with employees and externally with consumers. Publicly follow up on commitments made. Continue to show support, provide platforms for your employees, and push the needle forward. It’s important to remember your Black employees are still hurting, grieving, and tired.
Just look at the NBA. With 80% of players being people of color, the league openly continued to support the Black Lives Matter movement by displaying the words on the court when games resumed despite some owners being against it. The league allows its players a public platform to express their views, which is the opposite of what we are seeing with other associations like the NFL.
Look inward before looking outward
Companies like DoorDash and Etsy not only spoke out in support of Black Lives Matter but took action by donating, acknowledging problems, and addressing concerns. Action is key to showing the authenticity behind your words.
Having trouble figuring out where to start? Diversity in your own organization must come first. Make a real effort to ensure diversity at all levels so your voice in the conversation and connection to consumers of color is coming from an authentic place. Ask your employees about their experience, and what can be better. Look at your recruitment and hiring practices. Identify the gaps and put a plan in place to fill them.
Ensure your marketing has the right tone and voice
Understand what this audience needs from your brand right now, like Sprite’s “Dreams Realized” spot which highlights the Black experience and the importance of Black creators and artists. During a time when authenticity matters the most, the story must come from those who live it. It’s critical to have representation in marketing, and there is no shortage of Black creative talent to tap into. A hashtag search for #blackcreatives or #blackcopywriters is one small way you can get you started. Investing in Black talent and establishing a true understanding of and connection to the community to foster lasting relationships will ultimately keep consumers loyal and engaged.
Don’t fake it
Be true to your brand and the audience you are targeting. Pretending to be for or about an audience that your actions and practices contradict will fail. Michael Bloomberg released this statement to his employees, directly contradicting the injustice faced by many Black Americans due to New York City’s unconstitutional “stop and frisk” policy, which he oversaw. Don’t be an opportunistic advocate. If your brand is authentic, you are part of the conversation and committed to positive change, spotlight on or off.
It all comes down to building trust. Being authentic with words, actions, and commitments all the time, not just during “trending moments.” As a brand, you must recognize that this is far from over and if you are really down for the cause, then start doing the things that matter.