Beyond saying that you care: Why your activism needs to extend further than your LinkedIn logo
24 June 2021 at 7:00 am
Being an ethical brand is all the rage at the moment. But the truth is, it isn’t enough to just say you care – audiences will sniff out your slacktivism, writes Jo Scard, who says you should only align with causes you’re passionate about.
This month, rainbow flags and words of allyship have dominated our social media channels. New corporate partnerships have been established, LinkedIn logos have been changed and brands around the world, from all kinds of industries, have stood in solidarity for LGBTQIA+ rights.
When you consider that consumers are much more likely to opt for socially and environmentally responsible brands, it isn’t hard to understand why organisations would make these kinds of moves. Recent times have seen a push towards brand purpose – people are caring about themes like sustainability and ethical decision making more than ever before.
And similarly, marketers and PR specialists have spent the last decade capitalising on the digital economy and implementing innovative ways to position brands as activists, allies or advocates as a means to transition their audiences into consumers.
So while it is in many ways terrific to see the digital population band together to support Pride Month, some audiences are likely going to wonder whether it’s a marketing stunt, whether brands actually support the cause outside the realms of their social media profiles and, crucially, whether this support trickles down to day-to-day operations. Do employees feel empowered? Is the culture conducive to the sharing of lived experiences?
If you don’t make a conscious effort to hire people from the LGBTQIA+ community, or if you don’t ensure that their voices are being properly amplified, your support probably is a marketing stunt. More than that, it probably will leave a sour taste in the mouths of audiences that come across your posts.
In 2021, the PR world finds itself in a highly pivotal time. The global pandemic, a renewed push of the #MeToo movement and various passionate protests – virtual or otherwise – that have ignited over the course of the last year have meant that audiences are more politically engaged than ever before.
Further, we are speaking to audiences who can easily sniff out when words of support are simply words. The truth is this: if you make the decision to position your brand as an ethical or socially responsible one, you need to live up to that promise.
Take the time to adequately understand the cause that you are supporting
The political tussles of 2020 forced audiences to listen and reflect on some of the social injustices that still plague much of our lives. Although it may seem like the right thing to do, it isn’t a smart PR move to simply jump on the protest bandwagon so that you look appealing to consumers. You must properly educate yourself and your staff.
Importantly, consider whether your support is coming from a place of genuine activism and then align your brand with social matters that you care passionately about. Ensure that you are conducting proper research into the space in terms of how you can help, how you can amplify voices of oppressed groups and what kinds of tangible steps you can take to reverse social injustices.
Make room for the marginalised
Look beyond the Instagram post: how can your brand directly impact the cause? How can you implement day-to-day processes that rewrite the social and legal repressions of our history? This could come in the form of hiring talent from marginalised communities, participating in cultural awareness workshops, establishing diversity teams and being honest with yourself about whether you are doing enough.
It also means that you should actively engage diverse and marginalised communities in any communications that involve them. If you are going to post about standing in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ communities, ensure that these narratives are coming from somebody with lived experience.
Don’t stop after you post
The most important thing you can do as an ally of any kind of social movement is to not let the conversation end after you’ve posted a feel-good graphic. This means that when you decide on a social injustice that adequately aligns with your brand, it isn’t enough to share a social media post and call it a day.
The protest never stops and nor should your efforts. Keep the conversation going – post frequently, continue to improve your internal structures and look to establish diversity and inclusion boards that provide those with lived experience a proper platform to enable change and drive measurable impact.