Don’t Be A Slacktivist

The world we live in has been particularly charged with social and political issues over the last several years. 2020 was the year the pandemic turned everything upside down, disproportionately impacting marginalized communities; it’s also the year George Floyd was killed, shining a light on the systemic racial injustice that remains in this country. Since then, countless other issues have had their time in the spotlight, including the January 6th insurrection, the war in Ukraine, the persistent and horrifying mass incidences of gun violence, and most recently, the effort to strip women of their fundamental right to bodily autonomy.

There has been no shortage of causes to get behind or avoid, and as strategic advisors we are fielding requests daily from current, former, and prospective clients on how and/or should brands and companies join the conversation. But therein lies the problem; joining the conversation, or posting support for an issue one time, is not enough. Brands need to be ready and prepared to take action, to back up their statements with real-life proof that they’re contributing to the movement of their choice in meaningful ways. If you’re not willing to dive in and back up your statements with proof of your support, don’t do anything. Doing nothing is better than doing something half-way, or worse, as lip service.

More and more consumers today–not just Generation Z and Millennials–want to buy from and work with brands and companies that publicly align with their own values. More and more “demands for transparency,” “calling out corporate policies that say one thing but do another,” and “if you did this, you can do that” calls for companies to support everything a person cares about are happening every day. New “requirements” from vocal consumers with a lot of spending power have lured many brands to “talk the talk” without “walking the walk,” and left many companies flopping in the wind, buffeted by every lighting issue that arises. And hello, there are no shortage of issues!

First things first. What are your company and brand values? What do you stand for? What issues line up with your mission and vision? What issues are important to your employees? Start there. Before you get sucked into posting black squares or trite “we stand with” messages, define what you will and will not do. What you will and will not support. How you will and will not act. What lines you won’t cross. What issues are important but not critical to your business. And how what you say and how you act lines up. Have a process for deciding which requests or demands you will respond to, affirm, or not reply to. And then once you start, keep going.

Bottom line: don’t be a slacktivist! If you truly want to take a stand on an issue or cause, first, make sure it aligns with your brand values, and second, back up your statements with purposeful action.