by Grace Vance & Taylor Aldridge
In the realm of marketing and social media, it’s crucial to approach Black History Month with a nuanced and respectful strategy. Here are some essential Do’s and Don’ts to uphold a responsible and authentic presence in your marketing.
Educate AND Celebrate
Your primary objective during Black History Month should be to educate your audience about local and global Black history while avoiding the pitfall of overshadowing Black voices. Learn from historians specializing in these areas and listen to people with first-hand experiences and become a historian yourself. Authenticity is key; celebrate Black successes by reaching out to Black-owned businesses, learning their stories and sharing them with your audience.
Collaborate with Black Voices
Engage in collaboration with Black influencers, leaders and activists. This collaborative approach ensures authenticity, preventing the risk of misrepresentation. This should be a year-round commitment, reflecting a genuine dedication to Diversity and Inclusion.
Steer clear of tokenizing Black individuals in your company and using them solely for content purposes this month. True representation should be an ongoing and genuine effort, not a fleeting gesture. This pushes companies to move beyond surface-level initiatives and integrate inclusivity into their fundamental values and practices.
Don’t Ignore Cultural Context
Approaching Black History Month without the proper understanding of its cultural and historical context can lead to misguided campaigns. Recognize what celebration this month represents and infuse your campaigns with understanding. You must understand the why. This involves exploring the profound impact of Black leaders, activists, artists and thinkers whose contributions have shaped not only African American history but also the broader cultural landscape. Be sure you’re specific to the community or audience you’re targeting to create a custom message for them.
Don’t Be Overly Promotional
There’s a middle ground between being tone-deaf and being opportunistic. Identify how this audience matters to your organization’s goals or objectives and speak to them authentically. Don’t simply use this as an excuse to “refresh creative” and capitalize on a “marketing moment.” Avoid promoting your own products or services alongside Black History Month content, unless it’s a natural tie-in or truly applicable to this cultural group.
Social Media Do’s
Educate and Share Knowledge
Become an informed voice on the subject before creating a post. Learn about influential Black Americans in history and direct your audience to subject matter experts. If you lack first-hand experiences, engage with someone within your company to educate and enlighten you. Always use your platform responsibly to spread awareness and promote understanding.
Support Black-Owned Businesses
Use your platform to shine light on Black-owned businesses. By actively promoting and showcasing these businesses, you contribute to breaking down systemic barriers, fostering economic growth within the Black community. While this should be a continuous effort, Black History Month serves as an opportune time to initiate or intensify these efforts.
Engage in Conversation
Create spaces for respectful conversations about history and experiences. Facilitate a learning environment where people can share and gain insights from each other. Open up your comment sections for discussion on relevant topics and foster a conversational environment.
Reshare, Reshare, Reshare!
Amplify Black voices by sharing content from Black creators on the subject. This not only diversifies your content but helps contribute to a more inclusive narrative. The call to amplify Black voices through content sharing recognizes the wealth of insights, experiences and creativity that Black creators bring to various topics.
Social Media Don’ts
Avoid the Overwhelming Social Page Color Change
Resist the urge to turn your entire page red, yellow and green for the month. Overusing the flag can be perceived as disrespectful and insincere.
Don’t Overspeak Black Voices
Online overspeaking of Black voices is a common pitfall. Instead, collaborate with your diversity committee to formulate a respectful plan for education and acknowledgement during this month. By involving a diversity committee, organizations can benefit from diverse perspectives, experiences and insights, ensuring that the educational initiatives are well-rounded and representative of the richness within the Black community.
Don’t be Last Minute on Content
While any recognition of Black History Month is commendable, a hurried or haphazard celebration by companies poses the risk of conveying an unintended message. Such an approach may suggest that the acknowledgment of Black History Month and the associated community is more of an afterthought than a crucial priority.
Avoid Only Celebrating Well-Known Black Leaders
A graphic about Martin Luther King Jr. is not enough; companies should take the opportunity to expand their acknowledgment beyond the handful of well-known leaders we hear about every year. By doing so, companies not only honor the rich legacy of diverse Black leaders but also demonstrate a commitment to recognizing the expansive impact of Black individuals throughout history.
It is crucial to anchor participation in authenticity and a sincere commitment to positive change. Authenticity serves as the cornerstone, urging individuals and organizations to approach discussions with a deep understanding of the historical and cultural context of this observance. Genuine engagement goes beyond surface-level gestures, necessitating a profound appreciation of the struggles, triumphs and contributions of the Black community throughout history. This commitment is not merely a performative act but a genuine pledge to foster a more inclusive and equitable society.