Black History Month Is Not A Marketing Trend

Every time it comes around to Black History Month we see an increase of businesses dedicate a four week period to suddenly acknowledging Black people and their struggles. I mean, yes it is nice to see the celebratory marketing messages and their solidarity - but it often feels that the real message is lost in what is now a Social Media Manager’s role to tick off “Black History Month” in their yearly holiday calendar. 

Kumba Dauda

Kumba Dauda

Founder & CEO
Wholehearted Social
October 7, 2021

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Reading time: 5 minutes

Every year during Black History Month we see an increase of businesses dedicating a four week period to suddenly acknowledging Black people and their struggles. I mean, yes it is nice to see the celebratory marketing messages and their solidarity - but it often feels that the real message is lost in what is now a Social Media Manager’s role to tick off “Black History Month” in their yearly holiday calendar. 

Despite the developments in the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement, we are seeing more businesses seeing the trend to support the cause but it is mainly an act of Performative activism. This is when activism is done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of their devotion to a cause. It can be a smokescreen, as even if you see companies' online presence shouting about how they support the cause, when you dive deeper you find that less than 5% of their workforce is BAME. 

Many people might not know that Wholehearted is run by two biracial, vegan sisters who are passionate about doing our best to make the world a better place. This is why we are so focused on ensuring diversity is part of the fabric of our brand culture - whether that’s sourcing influencers for our influencer marketing campaigns, our recruitment process, or the charities we support like Kwanda. We make it a priority to think about diversity and how we can give back to the Black community in every action we take. It is never an afterthought and certainly don’t just do it for the likes. 

If you are in the position where you want to do more to support the black community with more than just your words, we would like to share with you three ways you can do just that: 

1. Take Action And BE The Change

We are not against showing support online for Black-owned businesses and employees alike through using relevant hashtags, stories and posts - showing your support and solidarity is important to the movement. By working together is how we believe we can balance the scales. However, this movement is not about being opportunistic and creating merchandise to capitalise on Black History then taking no action to donate profits to causes that will help black futures. Not only do we lose respect for companies who do this, but your customers will too and they will be quick to call you out for being disingenuous. 

If your brand is going to speak, then you need to be prepared to act. You can not take a relaxed approach, take action, bring these marketing messages you are sharing into every element of your business and make it a part of your brand’s overall culture. 

You must learn to think beyond marketing messages, and help to truly dismantle systematic racism from the inside out. Start thinking about which policies that you can implement to ensure DE&I (diversity, equity and inclusion) runs deep through the roots of your organisation. Take action by looking at your leadership team and whether those in board level, executive and managerial positions are truly making decisions from a place of inclusivity. This may even mean training your HR department to empower them to make decisions and understand unconscious bias. 

We recommend visiting Inclusive Boards who is a former client of ours and we admire their work greatly for more information on your recruitment process and speaking with a diversity specialist such as Veronica Mulenga Founder of Real Inclusion who can help you implement policies effectively. 

2. Looking to the Future

Black history, what the culture has done for us, the people and their achievements should be continually championed - as Black history is still being made today. It shouldn’t be reserved for a 4-week holiday, so we need to ensure that we are thinking about directing our efforts into building a future we can be proud of. Really think about where you are prioritising your efforts and the impact that they truly make in 5 or even 10 years from now. Is that instagram quote graphic really going to change anything? How can you set an example for others to follow? We have a responsibility as business owners to build a better future and we do this by staying consistent with our values and not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Be the leader and act with integrity to be known as a company with ethics and values which your customers and future employees will respect and appreciate. 

3. Keeping the workplace safe

The statistics for employee satisfaction in the UK show an increase in reports in the lack of workplace voice channels in recent years. Shockingly the CIPD reports only 33% of those in routine occupations say managers are good at seeking the views of employees.

One of our wonderful clients, Captivate Coaching and Consulting , train organisations in psychological safety within the workplace and we asked them to weigh in on this particular topic. Here's what they had to say:

"The act of solely asking people to contribute is, quite frankly, not enough. You must go one step further and actually listen, without bias, prejudice and judgement, to foster a culture where people feel included, safe to contribute and challenge. Inclusive behaviours are what underpin this type of culture, and to achieve this you will first need to reflect on how openly you accept others, simply because they are human, and regardless of them being different to you." - Captivate Coaching and Consulting

The best way for you to know that you are doing all you can to keep staff, customers and clients feeling safe is by actively listening to them and making them feel heard. Does your business have resources available for people to voice their concerns and experiences with and within the company? If not you are leaving a gap for problems to grow in many areas including racism and discrimination within the workplace. 

Wholehearted puts diversity and inclusion first all year round

With our diverse team of digital marketing creatives you will never have to worry that your business won’t be represented in the way you desire, the way that is fair. If you enjoyed reading this article and would like to stay up to date with the real conversation surrounding the latest topics in business and marketing sign up for our newsletter here. 

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