The work isn’t performed: Make model activism greater than a second

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Nike and Colin Kaepernick said consumer expectations for brand activism continued to evolve in 2018, and even in the short period since then.

Sure, 70% of people want companies to take a stand on social and political issues. In 2020, however, more than half of consumers (55% overall and 65% of Millennials) expect brands to go beyond company statements and donations to announce new initiatives, goals and participation in industry-wide coalitions.

Those expectations rose to a crescendo last June as many brands expressed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and made public commitments to their BIPOC employees and the community. But since the wave of black squares and transformative commitments, many brands don’t have much to say in public.

This lack of communication is a problem for us as marketers – and we all need to make it our problem.

Let me finish …

It’s not just a position that is important to your audience. It tells how your brand is delivering on its promises.

Half of consumers want brands to use social media to share the specific details of their social justice commitments, including proactive updates on the progress they are making.

Consumers understand the power of a brand: its platform, its influence and its capital. They want to believe in the people behind their favorite products and be comfortable with the choices they make when shopping. Therefore, they encourage and expect brands to set – and deliver – ambitious goals. Those who do, like Peloton, can foster incredible brand loyalty and advocacy.

As marketers, our job is to bring our clients’ voices into every strategy meeting, brainstorming, and planning meeting. That means being the memory and conscience of our brand when it comes to the commitments we make – whether it’s directly about marketing efforts or about the broader promises our company makes to our customers, employees and communities.

Granted, this can be a challenge, especially because the marketing team typically doesn’t meet these obligations. What we do, however, is our social media strategy, our content strategy, our marketing campaigns, and our creative decision making. What can we do knowing that consumers want transparency and expect updates on our company’s progress?

Make accountability a part of your strategy

As a professional responsible for speaking to your customers externally and internally, make accountability a key performance indicator.

How does it look? It looks like your brand’s compliance is a filter for how you approach your job as a marketer. The wheels of system-level change may be slow to turn, but you can build what your customers want into the strategy and day-to-day approach you have. If your brand has made public commitments or has taken positions on specific issues, incorporate those perspectives into your own work and challenge them when they are not there.

This can include actions such as:

  • Regularly incorporate updates on your brand’s commitments into your content calendar, and proactively connect with internal teams for information to share with your audience. This can mean anything from a quick behind-the-scenes look, how to approach a specific project with a focus on sustainability, to publishing an annual report on diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Create content with team members talking about why these commitments matter to them and what role they play in helping your business grow. From executives to individual contributors, it is both an honor and a call for further action to be featured in such a location.
  • Use your social capital to influence internal decisions that are consistent with your brand’s values, whether you are using it to source influencers, set freelance or contributor compensation policies, or even curate third-party content on social networks.

The more you can incorporate your brand’s social activism commitment into your work, and the more you can buy-in for content on these topics as part of your strategy, the more you can hold your company accountable for its goals. And ultimately, making sure brand activism remains a practice, not a distant memory.

Check out our blog post on Creating a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Social Strategy to learn more about creating an action plan for realizing your values.

What is one step you can take to hold your brand accountable for its commitments? What update do you think your customers would like to see? We’d love to hear your thoughts on social issues – tag us with @SproutSocial.

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