media update’s Taylor Goodman takes a look at how brands can utilise their platforms in an authentic manner by focusing on making a difference as opposed to a profit. 

Corporate activism falls under the umbrella of corporate social responsibility (CSR), a key component of public relations. CSR is a business model that enables brands to become more accountable for their actions economically, socially and environmentally

As a PR specialist, you need to communicate and interact with a bunch of different people, making it crucial that you understand the nuances of different cultures and backgrounds.

Over the last week, there has been a resounding outcry for racial justice and equality following the unjust death of an unarmed black American, George Floyd

This lead to a global amplification of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and one of the largest collective demonstrations this generation has ever seen. 

The rise of the socially conscious consumer

In 2020, we have seen a rise in corporate activism and this is likely due to consumers becoming more socially conscious. 

Why is that? Well, as of late, the divide between liberal and conservative parties is polarising.  

Consumers want to declare which side of the fence they stand on and why. This, coupled with the rise of social media activism, has resulted in a more vocal and conscious consumer. 

Millennials play a crucial role in the rise of conscious consumerism because they place great importance on brands paying attention to social causes and showing sincere support rather than using social responsibility exclusively as a ploy

According to Medium, in 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be millenials. And typically, millennials tend to be passionate about social issues. 

This is significant because:
  • 73% of millennials are willing to spend more on sustainable brands,
  • 81% of millennials expect brands to make public declarations of corporate citizenship, and
  • 87% of millennials will purchase a product because the company advocated for an issue that they care about.

Activism or marketing ploy?

Corporate activism is a fickle concept; is your favorite brand speaking out to make a difference or to make a sale? 

This is where consumers reach a crossroads with corporate activism. The public wants brands to utilise their platform and deep pockets, but they don’t want to be conned by false attempts at solidarity that are purely rooted in capitalistic gain. 

Take the recent ‘#BlackOutTuesday’ movement for example. Countless brands shared a black square alongside the hashtag on Instagram and Twitter in an attempt to raise awareness for the ‘#BlackLivesMatter’ movement.  

Many considered this a feeble attempt at solidarity and performative activism because the square is seen as a cop-out and counterproductive. Brands should be wise in that if they choose to participate in a social movement, they actually need to put into practice what they say that they are standing for.

If a brand associates itself with #BlackLivesMatter, for example, without making a concerted effort to practice what it stands for, this can be seen by its consumers as hypocrisy and it damages the brand’s reputation.

With that said, let's look at exactly how a brand can benefit off of taking an activistic stance:
  • Improved brand image: The most obvious way that a brand benefits from speaking out are improved public perception. This enables the business to be seen as one that cares about uplifting society and making a difference. 
  • Employee retention: People tend to hold businesses that value diversity and inclusion in high regard. Corporate activism allows brands to retain and attract employees of a high caliber, due to their positive reputation.
  • Increases in financial value: Corporations financially benefit from activism because not only do they receive a reputation boost, but when they do post activist messages, they are likely to be widely shared amongst their audience.  

How can brands show genuine solidarity

Brands show authentic allyship when they back up their statements with real actions

Your business can make a genuine difference by doing the following:


A simple way for brands to make a difference is to make donations to organisations that support the given social cause. 

You could even work on starting your own fund. An example of this would be the cosmetics brand Glossier, which pledged $500 000 in grants to support black-owned beauty businesses

This donation should not be a once-off but a constant contribution to the upliftment of black communities. 

If your brand does not have the means to donate money, you can lend a hand in many other ways. This includes contributing time, space, resources and influence towards the cause, as these, too, can also inspire change. 

This proves to consumers that you are willing to put your money where your mouth is and make an active difference.

Encourage diversity in the workplace

When working on tackling issues like racism, it is essential to look at your brand’s internal operations.

Having a diverse team will help your brand to avoid tone-deaf messages and faux pas in the media, as every voice and perspective will be well represented. 

Your brand should reflect on the following questions:
  • What is your make-up of black employees?
  • Are your black employees happy in the work environment?
  • Do you have black employees in leadership positions?
  • Is your brand providing a platform for black voices?
  • What kind of outreach programmes can your brand take on to enrich black communities?
  • What are your policies regarding racism in the workplace?
In order to be an ally, your brand needs to empower black-owned businesses and show diversity in all areas. As your brand becomes more diverse, it is imperative to educate your staff on creating an inclusive work environment. 

Employees should be encouraged to get out of their comfort zone and educate themselves on the structures and microaggressions that perpetuate racial oppression and violence. 

Start a conversation where people of colour are able to openly share the experiences that they have with racism. 

Although it may get uncomfortable, the fear of getting out of your comfort zone should not stand in the way of forging an anti-racist working environment! 

How does your company take a stand against racism and promote diversity? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to learn more about how to encourage diversity in PR? Be sure to check out these Three tips for promoting diversity in public relations.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy