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The work isn’t done: Make brand activism more than a moment



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

Nike and Colin Kaepernick said that in 2018, and even in the short time since then, consumers’ expectations for brand activism have continued to evolve.

Sure, 70% of people want businesses to take a stand on social and political issues. But in 2020, more than half of consumers (55% overall and 65% of millennials) say they expect brands to go beyond corporate statements and donations and announce new initiatives, goals and involvement in industry-wide coalitions.

These expectations rose to a crescendo this past June, as many brands expressed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and made public commitments to their BIPOC employees and community. Yet, since the wave of black squares and transformative commitments, many brands haven’t had much to say publicly.

That lack of communication is a problem for us as marketers—and all of us need to make it our problem.

Hear me out…

 It isn’t just taking a stand that’s important to your audience. It’s sharing how your brand is making good on its promises.

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

Consumers understand the power of a brand: its platform, influence and capital. They want to believe in the people behind their favorite products and feel good about the choices they make when shopping. So they encourage and expect brands to set ambitious goals—and deliver. Those that do, like Peloton, can drive incredible brand loyalty and advocacy.

As marketers, it’s our role to bring the voice of our customers into every strategy session, brainstorm and planning meeting. That means being our brand’s memory, and conscience, when it comes to the commitments we make—whether those are directly about marketing efforts or about our company’s broader promises to our customers, employees and communities.

Admittedly, that can be challenging, especially because the marketing team typically isn’t the one executing these commitments. But what we do execute is our social media strategy, our content strategy, our marketing campaigns and our creative decision-making. So knowing that consumers want transparency and expect updates on our company’s progress, what can we do?

Make accountability part of your strategy

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

What does that look like? It looks like making upholding your brand’s commitments a filter for how you approach your job as a marketer. The wheels of system-level change might be slow to turn, but you can build what your customers want into the strategy and day-to-day approach that you own. If your brand has made public commitments or taken a stand on specific issues, incorporate those perspectives into your own work and challenge that work when they aren’t present.

That might include actions like:

  • Building regular updates on your brand’s commitments into your content calendar, and proactively following up with internal teams to get information to share with your audience. That can mean anything from a quick behind-the-scenes post about how you approached a specific project with a focus on sustainability, all the way up to publishing an annual diversity, equity and inclusion report.
  • Creating content featuring team members talking about why these commitments are meaningful to them and their role in moving your organization forward. From executives to individual contributors, being featured in a spot like this is both an honor and a call to continued action.
  • Using your social capital to influence internal decision-making that aligns with your brand’s values, whether that’s how you source influencers, set compensation policies for freelancers or contributors or even curate third-party content on social.

The more you can build your brand’s commitments to social activism into how you do your job, and the more you can get buy-in for content about these topics as part of your strategy, the more you’ll be able to hold your organization accountable to its goals. And ultimately ensure that brand activism remains a practice, not a distant memory.

Check out our blog post on creating diverse, equitable and inclusive social strategy to learn more about building an action plan for putting your values to work.

What’s one step you can take to hold your brand accountable to its commitments? What’s one update you think your customers would want to see? We’d love to hear your thoughts on social—tag us @SproutSocial.





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