Lesson Three - Prioritise positive internal change for Black employees over external comms
Unanimously agreed upon during our conversation - an external campaign which ignores potential issues on the inside does not do what’s required of it during Black History Month.
So, hold a mirror up to your organisation and be prepared to realise, acknowledge and then take action to resolve the issues faced by Black employees.
WHAT BLACK HISTORY MAKERS SAY:
“Think internally first. External campaigns can be a plaster, and that plaster will fall off without a solid internal structure. Look into what issues have been raised within your organisation relating to the experience of Black employees. Don’t pretend to support Black History Month if your internal process is a shambles.” - Tanya Compas
“Make sure Black History Month is run company-wide, and not just a BAME group. Ask yourselves, Is it something that everyone will believe in and get behind or just something for the ethnic minorities and head of D&I?” - Khalia Ismain
“Find out what Black colleagues and industry peers think the celebration should look like. The why? should come from consulting those people.” - Chanté Joseph
“Don’t let Black History Month sit solely on Black employees. They need the support of everyone within an organisation and initiatives need money behind them. You can’t just rely on the passion of one person to drive an entire campaign.” - Rhammel O’Dwyer-Afflick
“Brands should examine their own history and narrative through the lens of Black history and culture, paying attention to the evolution of their company or sector. Are there connections and intersections which you should acknowledge? Motivation can’t come from guilt and shame. It has to come from a desire for real change.” - Greg Bunbury
“The importance of internal buy-in is something which a lot of organisations get wrong. Campaigns which make assumptions make mistakes. Not everyone in the organisation feels the same way so there has to be a process of de-biasing before anything happens. If your culture doesn’t represent the platform that you stand on, then it’s hollow. Consumers pick up on this now.” - Greg Bunbury
“Black History Month needs to end with actionable things. Always think about the next steps. There’s no point relying on BAME or LGBT+ societies - everyone needs to have buy-in, otherwise there is clearly a deeper-rooted issue.” - Tanya Compas
WHEN IT’S DONE RIGHT
Sainsbury’s released a content series expressing their support of anti-racist policies and celebrating the heritage of its Black employees. So far, employees have shared stories of their role models, recipes which have shaped their culture and a series of interviews examining what it means to be Black in Britain. Sainsbury’s has also promised to review and publish its ethnicity pay gap this year, showing that they’re taking Black History Month beyond October.
WHEN IT MISSES THE MARK
ROYAL MAIL BLACK POSTBOXES
The award for this one unfortunately has to go to Royal Mail again. While the four painted postboxes might express good intentions, they fail to acknowledge or highlight the Black representation (or lack of) in their own organisation. Had they focused on this before grabbing the paint brush, they could have developed something with real, lasting benefits.
WHAT WE SAY
Sainsbury’s has taken Black History Month further by highlighting the individual nuances which make up Black identities in the UK, such as food and individual role models. Creating this discussion with Black employees and using it as a springboard to review their ethnicity pay gap shows that they’ve thought beyond their Instagram or Twitter feed, which we love to see. If Royal Mail had put more of themselves into their campaign, it would have felt more genuine and highlighted what it needed to without Twitter doing it for them. - Chris Pearce, Design & marketing consultant