Just because #blacklivesmatter is no longer trending doesn’t mean it’s time to move on

Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt, CEO of Truly, has over 20 years experience in market research and strategy on both client and agency side. She wrote one of the first books on how the social web is changing business, was named one of 2013's Entrepreneurial Women to Watch by Entrepreneur Magazine and one of the Most Influential Women in Technology in Fast Company. She has built an engaged and enthusiastic business audience online of over 345,000 followers, including a significant number of thought leaders. Tara combines a data-centric with a human-centric approach to building an audience, leaning heavily on insights into consumer patterns and behaviors while keeping an eye on online trends and changing expectations.

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This has been a touchy year for marketing (to say the least).

I’ve spoken out against scheduling social posts for many years, and 2020 has underscored one of the core reasons that I’m against this:

You just don’t know what’s going to be going on in the world in that moment that your content gets published.

So far this year, we paused on posting because of wildfires in Australia, a potential war with the middle east, anxiety over the looming threat of a global pandemic, the actual outbreak of a global pandemic, lockdowns due to the global pandemic, the realization that people were losing their jobs and businesses and the economy are in jeopardy because of those lockdowns, murder hornets, police killing George Floyd, the ensuing protests from the outrage that, even in a global pandemic, police are brutalizing and killing Black people, the police brutalizing protesters and the fear over more escalation…the anxious news cycle just keeps coming.

Not only has content paused, but entire campaigns and plans have been rethought in order to match the tone of the moment. Large brands pulled out of Facebook advertising (though they had already scaled back due to the pandemic) to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and demonstrate their commitment to systemic change. Even earlier in the year, brands like Coca-Cola stepped back to completely rethink their approach.

Never before have I witnessed so many brands being so in-the-moment responsive and agile to the shifting winds of consumer sentiment. A part of me hopes that this lesson will endure past this tumultuous year, but the other part of me is also fearing that this agile shift in marketing is equally damaging to the need for real change. Why?

Because, when it’s no longer trending, will companies remain committed to their public statements about supporting the eradication of anti-Black racism?

It will take a helluva lot more than a black square and a few pithy press releases to make any meaningful change. These were not the action, they were meant to be the promise of action. These were not the result, they were meant to be the beginning of the hard work towards the result.

Ask the people behind organizations like 600&RisingAllyship and Action, and AdColor if the work is done. (spoiler alert: it is NOT) In fact, long before most of us white people watched Derek Chauvin choke George Floyd to death, the people behind these organizations and many more were fighting for change…for hundreds of years:

Original by design house Zerflin: https://zerflin.com/item/slavery-long-ago/

[to note: as others have pointed out…that green bit at the end is, actually, a 66+ year era of mass incarceration and a more insidious version of segregation]

So, even though #blacklivesmatter is no longer trending on Twitter, brands need to continue to do the work every day. It’s wonderful that so many companies (finally) stuck their necks out to stand up for what’s right, but the real test of allyship will be in the longer-term commitment to action.

So then, where do we go from here? How do you go beyond the black square or press statement about your commitment? Well, a good start would be:

You listen to Black professionals in marketing.

So, that’s what we’re doing.

For the past few months, we’ve opted to put a pause on the podcast to create space for other conversations (with the exception of the episodes around climate change and how retailers should rebuild). Now, we see that our silence on the topic of Black Lives Matter was akin to saying, “This is not our problem.”

This was wrong and it took a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion facilitator, Karlyn Percil of KDPM Consulting Group, calling me out on this silence to knock me out of my comfort zone (and white fragility). So, Stef and I sat down and decided that we need to do the work and speak up about it and that this podcast was a fantastic place to start.

This episode is the introduction to a series of conversations with Black professionals in various parts of the marketing industry on their experiences, perspectives and insights into how marketing – as an industry, an institution and as a practice contributes to the perpetuation of white supremacy and anti-Black racism:

Because, as we posit in this clip from the opening episode:

In the episode mention the following resources:

——

Stay tuned and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts to receive the upcoming series that will include interviews with:

Cher Jones | Ian Forrester | Danica S. Nelson | Shervonne Cherry | Irene Mukasa | Karima-Catherine Goundiam | Jay Norman | Ken Lingad | Mohamed Hamad | Sojii Oyemomi | Sally S. Cherry | Baratunde Thurston | Roberto Blake | and more…

Interested? Have something to say? Black and Indigenous marketing professionals ping me!

Episodes to drop every 2 weeks (unless we decide to accelerate because there are just so many amazing conversations here!).

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