What, if anything should your brand say about George Floyd right now? Should you say something and risk the ire of people who are in great pain and resentment? Should you ignore the outpouring of emotion? It’s a conundrum that I had to face as a blue-eyed, blond, Caucasian, Canadian business owner with an African-American community and clients.
Is Silence Better?
A few years ago, I posted a GofundMe request for a victim of the Vegas hotel shooting that someone in my community was running. To my shock, I got a scathing email condemning me for using a tragedy to further my business. I couldn’t even fathom how someone could make that leap (I mean, how would I make money from the GofundMe, how would it even connect to what I teach, which is niching? The questions are endless…) Anyway, I learned that it’s best to stay silent on most newsworthy heavy topics or risk getting hit by someone. But the truth of it is, that’s hiding and that’s not being authentic. And if I have to lead by example, I have to show all my clients and community that it’s worth the risk of being ripped to shreds to be visible. Be visible for your business, for your employees, for your family, your community and for yourself. Take a cue from the big boys. Even if they say very little, they do not stay silent. As in the example from Netflix in the picture above.
The Brand Decision
The big struggle that I’ve seen in brand messaging around the George Floyd conundrum is that if the owner is Caucasian, they run the risk of seeming uncaring or uninformed. If the owner is African-American, they may worry about running the risk of alienating their Caucasian clients. What’s a brand to do. The only answer that comes to mind is to speak from the heart. Those who like your thinking will stick and those who don’t will fall away.
The one option that wasn’t available to me was silence. And most PR experts agree. I mean I’m talking about racism with my autistic 11-year-old at home. I’m reading about it and watching its effects non-stop for the past few days. I’m talking about it with clients and friends and family. How could I stay silent in my posts and live trainings on social media? And because I believe in adding value with every single interaction with my audience, I decided to lean on someone I consider an authority on the subject. I quoted a Barack Obama article written about action steps to take and his perspective on how to fix things. I felt good about that because 1. I deferred to an expert in a topic I wasn’t well-informed in 2. I showed that I cared to investigate 3. I offered solutions to my community.
So the next time your brand has to take a stand amidst turmoil that’s affecting you and your community, don’t stay silent. Be respectful. Be brave and above all, be helpful.