The climate today is unlike anything we have seen in a long time. Through the pandemic and recent activism people, at large, have been awakened – awakened to their role in community and politics, awakened to their wellbeing and awakened to a reshaped value and belief system.
The convergence of COVID-19 and heightened citizenry has been a challenging space for many brands to live in. It has simultaneously required reflection and action. It has required businesses to give back, speak up and answer to accountability.
For many organizations, the infrastructure for the required corporate activism and involvement was nascent or, for some, nonexistent.
Our senior leadership reflected on what it means for us – as brands, communicators and individuals. We chose a single word we felt captured what it means to exist in this climate of heightened activism and moving forward, as follows.
Act – Amanda Munroe, Senior Vice President
“Silence and sitting still is not acceptable. We must do more than simply listen and make plans to change the status quo, whether it’s mandating training to eliminate implicit bias, making diversity a company priority (and sharing progress), or investing dollars and resources to organizations that fight social injustice. The time is now to act. We are committing to doing so at SHIFT through our culture and practices and in our client programs through consulting around creating content that is inclusive (through text and images), engaging with diverse influencers that reach a wider audience and setting a higher purpose for the organization that serves as the communication program’s compass.
Blackwashing – Rick Murray, Managing Partner
“Companies, brands and individuals of all types and sizes are weighing in on the #BLM movement; all with good intent, but many without the commitment to action required to walk the talk. All of us are being held accountable to a new, higher standard of social justice. And that’s a great thing. Ending racism, discrimination and unconscious bias can only happen from the inside out. We are committing to change how and whom we hire. Here at SHIFT, we’re committing to investing in the future of a diverse and inclusive culture. And we are committing to being an active champion for change in the marketing and communications industry – ensuring that everyone has a place they feel welcome and safe, and a voice that will be heard. This is our standing promise — one that goes beyond an outrageous incident in one moment in time — to doing better every day. I hope you’ll join us on that journey.
Change – Natalie Townsend, Vice President
“We must be mindful of how we help shape future conversations in the media, make meaningful changes to our communications approach and commit to elevating a more diverse set of voices.
Character – Dan Brennan, Senior Vice President
“Situations like we’re experiencing right now reveal and showcase true character. The character of people. The character of brands. The character of leaders. And the character of followers. As a father of three, I am constantly reminding myself how important character is when growing people. The same is true for businesses. Each action we take or recommendation we make needs to be for the right reasons – not to simply check a box (or because everyone else is doing it). Even when it’s the more difficult path. And often we need to remember the personality of the business in its infancy to hold true to our original motives and our original character. That’s important. And it’s never been more important than it is today.
Listening – Matt Raven, VP, Digital Marketing
“With countless digital soap boxes just a click away and the pressure to respond to recent events rising, it’s become clear to me that as a society we’re over-indexed on speaking before listening. As communicators and storytellers it’s our mission to engage and influence, but we can only be successful in doing so if we have a deep understanding of the topic at hand. Before strategizing what role your organization plays in these challenging times, seek knowledge, ask questions, help someone in need and self-reflect. We won’t get where we need to be by all yelling at once, but rather through a long series of incremental individual improvements. Self-awareness is a vulnerable yet empowering state and one that I encourage us all to explore.
Now – Alan Dunton, Managing Director, West
“The silver lining of the past three incredibly tumultuous months is that a groundswell of energy to enact positive change – not just superficial talk or hashtags – has emerged with a force similar in size and scope to previous moments in history that forever changed our trajectory. Everyone now has the shared responsibility to get informed, determine what we can do to improve the collective situation for all, and take the appropriate action to make it happen in their homes, communities, states, and country.
Power – Sarah Babbitt, Vice President
“What’s evident to me is that we – as brands and individuals – need to reflect on the power we inherently hold. Everything we do as part of our discipline has tremendous impact on the public. Do we hold implicit biases that manifest in our content and copy? Do we fail to see a lack of diversity and opportunities to improve that, such as in influencer marketing programs? With whom should we align and give our time and resources to create positive impact? With the convergence of a global pandemic and a new energy behind social justice, it’s been made clear that any gap in my (and our, as brands and professionals) understanding and knowledge have a bigger impact than just our own being.
Time – Annie Perkins, Managing Director, East
“I have developed a love hate relationship with time over the past 3 months. Some days seem to last 500 hours and then, just like that, the we flip the calendar and another month has passed. This feeling has turned us upside down as we face challenges with a sense of urgency like never before. While we push the brands we represent to move fast to address issues, it is critical for us all to take time to examine ourselves, our thinking and our willingness to do the hard work required to make an impact. When we take time to think we are able to unleash our creativity and bring forth ideas that inspire action.
Truth – Megan Gaffney, Vice President
“The past four months have been a big chapter on brand truth – and rethinking what that moment of brand truth and authenticity really means for companies and their customers. As we continue to navigate a global health crisis and a renewed drive for racial justice, we have to pause to ask ourselves: is everything we’re doing as a brand map back to who we really are – our values, purpose and ethos. Are our messages and actions true to us or are they simply what we feel we have to say? Have we maintained a true company culture and community and provided the right resources and flexibility for our team members? Hard facts and actions are critical – the world is watching and the voices are loud. How we react and what we do now as marketing leaders will severely impact consumer behavior and brand perception in the future. Remain true and take a meaningful stance.