Anti-racist activism: Communicating impactfully at a pivotal moment in history

During the last week, we witnessed the murder of George Floyd by a police officer using unnecessary and excessive force in Minneapolis, MN. We want you to know that we recognize, hear, and stand by the black community in this moment of grief and outrage.

As we see, and seek meaningful ways to participate in, the wave of anti-racist activism happening not only in the United States, but across the globe, we know this is a time for action. This time has to be different — it is time to address the underlying issues and fight for systemic change. For real equity for black Americans.

This will be an important time for impact relations professionals. More and more CEOs, community leaders, government officials and citizens are lending their voices, many for the first time, to call for action to end systemic racism. Brands are looking for meaningful ways to weigh in. Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G, put the following question forward during the Sustainable Brands Leadership Summit today, “how can we be a force for good?”

There is no one specific formula, but there are some considerations for our impact relations community as you counsel leaders across the spectrum. And, if you or your organization is not yet involved in this topic, please take a moment and ask why. Most global organizations engage with stakeholders from multiple ethnicities, whether it’s their employee population, customers, suppliers, or strategic partners.

Some considerations:

  • Start from the inside – members of your team are hurting right now. Have you established an environment for employees to feel respected, heard and safe? In this time of social distancing, are you reaching out directly to your employees of color and asking what they need and how you can best support them?
  • Authentically drive equity, diversity & inclusion – for years, organizations have been consulted on EDI. It is time to take an honest assessment of your organization’s efforts. Where are you? Are you making a real impact? What additional actions or urgency must be put into place?
  • Take action – Issuing statements about “thoughts and prayers” for victims or a community is not enough. And, people are not looking for a wishy-washy statement about love or coming together. People want action and a number of research studies have shown that people want organizations to use their scale and influence to make real change

It is important to make sure that you are not rushing to do something internally or externally without measured thought and sensitivity, consideration for affected communities, and assurance you are in tune with what stakeholders really need from you at this time.

As always, the Board of Global Impact Relations Network is here for you. If you’d like to pressure-test your thinking, please let us know and we’ll schedule a confidential one-on-one collaborative session.

As professional brand marketers, corporate communicators, and impact leaders, we know that using communications as a force to drive systemic change is nuanced, and the risk of getting it wrong is high. But when we get it right, when progress is made, it has the ability to change society and the world. And that’s why we’re all here, after all.


Brad MacAfee | President of the Board

Global Impact Relations Network