How to Take a Public Stand Without Looking Like an Opportunist
If you have a business, you have a brand. And sometimes, it is necessary for brands to speak up. It could be about something related to one of your products, to the market in which you operate in, or to something which is going on in the world.
The murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minnesota, USA, on Monday, 25th May 2020, has prompted organisations from all over the world to speak up and join the fight against racism. When you want to stand up for a cause, it is important to do so with the right intentions and to communicate your stance clearly. In these kinds of situations, failure to do so can make a brand look opportunist, or as if they are 'jumping on the bandwagon' for publicity.
In this blog, we examine a statement which was put out by ice cream company Ben & Jerry's, in response to George Floyd's murder. Within it, we will see some very powerful messaging which makes the firm's position clear and preserves its integrity. For reference, you can read the statement here: https://www.benjerry.com/about-us/media-center/dismantle-white-supremacy
Addressing the issue
When writing statements that are a response to a certain incident (albeit, part of a wider problem), it is best to tackle the issue head-on. Ben & Jerry's open their statement by doing this, covering what happened, reiterating why it was so wrong, explaining why they are making a statement, and dissecting the wider problem of racism in relation to America's past.
A track record
If you are a brand that has a track record in fighting racism, there is certainly no need to be coy about your principles. Ben & Jerry's includes a reminder that it was standing up in solidarity against racism before the worldwide protests started, offering a link to a previous statement in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign.
A call for action
Ben & Jerry's statement doesn't just publicise their stance or create brand awareness. It includes a four-point action plan of steps which the organisation believes should be taken in order to address the problem of racism. This shows that the statement has substance, and is about more than merely dancing around a problem - it seeks to help the cause by suggesting proactive ways in which the movement can move forward.
The bigger picture
The statement ends with a unifying yet realistic message. The final paragraph declares: "Unless and until white America is willing to collectively acknowledge its privilege, take responsibility for its past and the impact it has on the present, and commit to creating a future steeped injustice, the list of names that George Floyd has been added to will never end. We have to use this moment to accelerate our nation's long journey towards justice and a more perfect union."
This is Ben & Jerry's using the platform which it has to alert people to the importance of change. There are many statements of solidarity being released by commercial organisations - or their PR agency and PR firm - at this time. Ben & Jerry's give us a great example of how to speak from the heart while using the head.
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