Noun: public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.
The history books will have a lot to say about the year 2020. And not just because of the global pandemic that has collectively changed the way the world operates and lives. In the United States, it’s been a year where the impacts of climate change, social justice and ongoing issues of inequality, and what may just be the most consequential election of our lifetime, have all come to a head.
For many brands and companies, it’s also been a year where they’ve recognized that with the changing times comes changing expectations. With so much going on in the world, gone are the days where you can go on with business as usual without addressing the (sometimes many) elephants in the room. Consumers are demanding more from the companies they support and are taking their business to those who align with their values and stand for more than just their bottom line.
As a female entrepreneur who has built and run Sublime Designs Media for 18 years, I will be the first to admit that while caring deeply about many of the world’s issues, I’ve held back from being outspoken about them on this platform. While making a commitment to myself to change that, I thought this could be an opportune time to highlight some of the best ways to go about leveraging your brand for good.
- Start at the beginning: think of this almost as an internal brand audit. Reevaluate your company mission statement and values and make sure that they are not only still relevant to the company, but are timely and relevant to today’s world. This should be the foundation from which you base any and all advocacy you engage with.
- Choose causes that align authentically with your brand: it goes without saying, but the only thing worse than silence or apathy, is disingenuous advocacy. If and when you decide to take a stand, make sure it’s genuine and driven by information and understanding of the issue(s).
- Get team input and buy-in: in addition to making sure you align with causes that are authentic to your company, it’s imperative to get internal buy-in from staff and stakeholders. Not only will they be your trusted messengers, but including them in your efforts has the potential to invigorate a renewed sense of loyalty and enthusiasm. Just like consumers, many employees want to work somewhere that stands for something. This open letter from Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella to their employees is a great example of a well-rounded company response to social justice issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement, and the plans to engage and address such issues both externally and internally.
- Offer resources: take it a step further after you get team buy-in and offer employees things such as diversity training (LinkedIn has offered this series of free resources good through the rest of 2020), volunteer time-off, and other unique options that will encourage and allow them to truly engage in your efforts. The same goes for clients and other internal stakeholders.
- Meet people where they are: When it comes to advocacy, one size does not fit all, and the most genuine engagement will come in the form of what one’s comfortable with and capable of. For some, that includes donating money or leveraging a large platform to be vocal on, while for others, it involves more volunteering, changing internal practices, and so forth. Find what works for you, your team, your clients and your consumers.
- Own your shortcomings: despite what some may try to make you believe, not one person or organization does it right 100% of the time. When it comes to advocacy, be graceful with yourself and those around you and understand that it’s about progress, not perfection. We all start somewhere in our advocacy journey. The important thing is that we start.
So while 2020 will be remembered as the year of so many challenges, we’re choosing to look at it as a year of opportunity for growth. If you’d like to continue this conversation with us and/or get advice on your brand mission and values, you can email us at [email protected].