Many of our favorite household brands have weighed in over the past few weeks as an outpour of protests rattled the nation and swept the globe in the names of the unarmed Black lives lost due to police brutality and injustices in the Black community.
Research suggests that consumers respond better to brands that display corporate responsibility, with 73% of people believing that companies should do more than just offer a product or service. Recently, we've seen more examples than usual of brands picking sides on current social and even political issues. Some brands offered coercive and adaptive messaging that's empathetic to the cause and doesn't exploit the crisis. Nike is seasoned at social activism and was among the first brands to pivot its messaging. Nascar took a bold stance by banning all Confederate flags from racetracks. Then there's Crossfit's CEO who managed to highlight his prejudice, lack of empathy and cultural competency in an 11 character tweet. Within 24 hours, gyms across the country were withdrawing affiliation with the brand.
Then again, with 57% of consumers said to be willing to boycott brands who do not share their social beliefs – it's no surprise brands are pivoting their messaging.
Here's the thing; it is the brand's responsibility to contribute to this conversation and the solution. Even with the risk of alienating some followers or customers, the moral reward for being on the right side is much higher. However, the consensus in the Black community is that corporate America needs to go beyond generic PR statements, tweets, and old white men delivering talking points and really outline what they plan to do to combat racism not only in the workplace but also in business.
So, here's how to turn your communication efforts into real action during civil unrest:
1. Listen. According to a recent Nielsen report, Black consumers have a $1.3 trillion spending power and predicts that number to increase to $1.5 trillion by 2023. Your Black employees and consumers want to contribute to your narrative. Use internal communication methods to gather honest thoughts from your employees. Use social platforms to get direct input from your customers. Don't just sit on the data. Learn from it and put to action. Give your employees credit for their contributions and allow them to aid in creating better company policies. Praise your customers for their contributions and allow them to take pride and ownership in the messaging. Think for the people, by the people. This will encourage your employees and customers to become proud supporters of the brand in the short and long-term.
2. Own the problem. Facebook has one black person on its executive leadership team, and she is the Chief Diversity Officer. Google also has one black person serving in an executive capacity, and she is the Global Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Microsoft and Amazon don't have any on their executive leadership team. The lack of diversity in the workplace is often the reason why companies misunderstand critical segments of its target market. And honestly, it's 2020, and there's no good reason for the nonsense. Publicly commit to fostering a diverse and anti-racist workplace. Acknowledge your shortfalls and detail how the company will ensure a wide range of genders, races, religious and cultural backgrounds, ages, abilities, and sexual orientations will be represented moving forward.
3. Partner up. Just like politics, all business is local. For real authentic connections, use this time to connect with local community leaders and organizations aligned with the cause and company values. Write a joint statement if the opportunity aligns. These relationships will prove to be your most significant resource to reach consumers in an organic and meaningful way. If you don't currently have these relationships, it's never too late to start.
4. Be accountable. Saying you stand in solidarity isn't enough. Provide a detailed restructuring strategy. Outline your plans to shift inequality over the next 3-5 years internally. Define how and when employees and consumers can expect to see more diversity at the highest level.
The bottom line, consumers don't want to read another generic statement. They want action. Now is the time to turn your company into a real change agent. Let us not wait for another fatuous death to decide change is needed. The days of sitting on the sidelines are over. We all have a role to play. Do your part.