Corporations are grappling with what to say and where to say it as riots erupt in major cities across the nation over the tragic death of George Floyd. Social justice communications strategies are not a typical part of most corporate communications plans, something which is now rapidly changing. Within just about a week, the world has changed once again, and clients who’ve traditionally focused on their normal wheelhouses have now wanted to share their outrage at the death of Mr. Floyd, and express solidarity with those protesting his death and racism. We have been working closely with several clients to help them create strategies and statements, both for traditional media as well as their social media platforms. We need to realize that social justice communications will no doubt be a spoke in the wheel of comprehensive plans going forward.
We have taken clients through a process to help them identify their voice during this crisis and messages that are both powerful enough to be heard, while not off the mark as to be deemed tone deaf. We have sorted through the appropriate visual images and helped them identify and then distribute their messages. But, that is easier said then done. We begin the process with listening. What we are hearing from clients from every walk of business life – conservative to more liberal – is outrage over what they saw on television, a white police officer suffocating an African American suspect. When then update their stakeholder audience preferences and follow that with a benchmarking exercise to not only determine what peers are doing, but also aspirational companies our clients may follow.
But these clients realize that their stakeholder audiences are all over the map – literally – and their messaging and tactics need to take into account their customers in rural Wyoming as well as the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, NY.
As our nation wrestles with the fallout from the death of George Floyd, we may not be able to determine when the civil disobedience will subside, but can say with certainty that world-class companies will now incorporate social justice communications into their communications planning for the future. Paying attention to the injustice and insensitivity minorities face in this country and correcting them could be one positive outcome of this awful tragedy.