In a matter of months, the tone of our country has shifted from the debilitating horror of COVID-19 into an enraged passion for social justice reform. As Americans grapple with the virus and adjust to our new way of life, a much older plague continues to upset our nation—systemic racism. While millions across the country fight for real structural change to our police departments and government, our culture as we know it continues to change each day.
Advocacy and community work are not exclusive to personal life. Brands, too, have a fundamental responsibility to enter the conversation and be a part of the solution. Brands are a part of our culture, taking up space in almost every medium possible, where much of this work is being done. Making actionable contributions has become mandatory in our “new normal”; for context, this means changing a brand’s Facebook profile picture to a rainbow during Pride Month will warrant backlash if you aren’t actively supporting the LGBTQ community.
With inaccuracies spewing across all forms of media with the mission to disarm and confuse, brands have an important role to play as gatekeepers and purveyors of information. Consumers are holding brands accountable and expect them to deliver on any promises they make and will also call out a lack of response to issues they deem vital to address. Inaction is no longer an option in 2020. In fact, consumers are changing to brands who distinguish themselves as true advocates for the communities they’re involved with. If you aren’t supporting the community, don’t try selling to it.
The question now arises: what can brands do to enact change effectively and genuinely?
Changing the framework of a campaign strategy or brand voice can seem overwhelming, but just as the world pivoted for the pandemic, consumers expect brands to do the same in support of marginalized voices—and they should want to. This isn’t permission to use Black Lives Matter as a platform for good public relations, it’s a call for brands to step up for the communities they employ and sell to.
Leading with compassion is a strategy anyone can support. As a brand, falling short in the past is pretty standard. Now is the time to get involved and enhance your organization for all from the ground up; this is when inclusivity consulting can become an invaluable resource. Diversity and inclusion are a vital focus for HR, but that only covers the happenings inside your organization. What about the messaging you’re sending out as a brand or for clients? When revamping a brand’s involvement in today’s society, make sure to analyze what is being put out just as much as the structure within.