It’s February, and companies are determining how to celebrate as #BlackHistoryMonth becomes a trending hashtag for the next 28 days. While this is a time to recognize and remember the history, achievements, events, and people, companies will undoubtedly drop the ball. From culturally unaware campaigns to not walking the talk, let’s talk about what NOT to do during Black History Month.
1. Do NOT be a one-month-ally.
Creating a campaign aimed at Black representation and inclusion and then returning to non-inclusive campaigns for the rest of the year is not okay. Customers are smarter than you think and will call you out on performative allyship. Show representation and celebrate communities year-round. Diversity and inclusion should be something other than a once-a-year thing.
2. Do NOT wait until the last minute.
If your Black History Month campaign meeting took place in January, you are already behind. Creating a well-thought-out and impactful campaign takes time. Acknowledge that your marketing team needs more than two weeks to plan, write copy, create graphics, and launch the campaign. Plan accordingly so it doesn’t come off as thrown together.
More than that, employees will notice if internal events and communications are thrown together versus being well thought-out and executed. Black History Month campaigns and events should become a priority, not an afterthought.
3. Do NOT celebrate externally but not internally.
Take Google, for example. Only 5% of their workforce is Black. While their campaign, “The Most Searched: A Celebration of Black History Makers,” ended up with over 70 million views, it’s clear from a quick search that their internal culture doesn’t match their external position. Most notably, they have faced several discrimination lawsuits for allegedly underpaying and undervaluing its Black employees. They have also been investigated by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for their treatment of Black female employees.
Walking the walk is especially important regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. If your communications don’t match what’s going on internally, you risk coming off as inauthentic.
4. Do NOT exclude Black-owned businesses.
Black History Month creates the opportunity for companies to not only celebrate the Black community but to invest in the community. From partnerships with Black-owned businesses to offering their products in stores to ordering catering from a Black-owned restaurant, supporting and including a Black-owned business can come with plenty of options.
Also, partnering with Black-owned businesses to consult or give their ideas can save you from coming off as culturally insensitive. Take the Bath & Body Works Black History Month Collection as an example. If a Black-owned business or consultant had been invited to the table to assist with the strategy, that collection might have been successful.
Black History Month campaigns and programs succeed when they are not treated as one-and-done but integrated into the overall business strategy. If you need help aligning your communication with your efforts, we can help. Reach out to one of our DEI consultants today.