October marks Black History Month in the UK – a time for awareness and celebration. But while it’s important for brands to let consumers know they stand together, it’s also vital to avoid performatism and ‘woke washing’ – i.e. co-opting causes for gain without making a genuine contribution or change.
With this in mind, our Diversity & Inclusion team at Battenhall has rounded up its thoughts on how brands and companies can celebrate Black History Month, while remaining sensitive to issues and messaging.
1. Check your tone of voice
Consult with members of the Black community to check your tone of voice and make sure messages land how you want them to. This should be a collaboration rather than top-down communication. Remember: nothing about us, without us.
2. Be genuine
Avoid treating Black History Month as another key date in the marketing calendar. It’s important to make your brand’s commitments known year-round, and ensure you’re backing them up with truly genuine action.
Try to make meaningful changes, not only with regards to the representativeness of your campaigns, but also in the make-up of your workforce. These should be long-term and non-performative.
4. Don’t jump on the bandwagon
Avoid jumping on the bandwagon with fad promotions or changing your icon on social media. Instead just keep your branding the same as it is year-round.
Celebrate upcoming Black talent, not just well-known historical figures.
It’s better to do something than nothing. Educate yourself and the wider team so the importance of Black History Month is truly understood internally, and doesn’t appear only externally and performatively.
7. Take turns
Be prepared to pass the mic to Black people and creators who can draw on personal experience and may be better primed to speak out.
8. Be prepared
Allocate a budget to Black history and prepare your campaign in advance. It also needs to come from a genuine place, rather than be done for the sake of it.
9. Respect boundaries
Be mindful that not everyone will be comfortable talking about their own experiences, as they may feel tokenised or vulnerable. Respect individual boundaries and don’t push them.
10. Keep it positive
Remember, Black History Month is a time for celebrating and bringing attention to the wonderful achievements of Black people, despite structural racism. Keep it positive and aim to uplift and champion Black colleagues, creators and peers.
Ultimately, your brand should be authentic and genuine in all the activities it undertakes for Black History Month. It can feel like a daunting prospect to get it right, but that shouldn’t be a reason to do nothing. These tips can help serve as a starting point to staying aware, being sensitive and spreading positivity during this month of celebration.