Context /noun/: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.
We tell our brand stories so that customers have an easier time understanding and emotionally connecting with the value that we want to offer them. As storytellers, we know firsthand what a critical influence context is to the other’s perception and the action they’ll end up taking, so we invest a lot of resources into crafting that message with care.
My team and I are here to share our perspective on communicating in June 2020 given the historical context of this moment, with resources that are helping us to shape our point of view at KW Content, so that you can operate your businesses thoughtfully during this critical time. Your actions in this moment will shape the context of your company’s story whether you’re intentional about it or not.
To clarify: We’re here to amplify the voices that we’re learning from, and offer our perspective on how it intersects with the world we’re qualified to comment on, brand communications.
First, thing’s first: American society is at a tipping point. There’s a revolution at work.
Tipping point /noun/: the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.
The actions you take this month and far beyond will become tangible components of your brand story, so we’re here to urge you to be an active participant.
At KW Content, we’re outraged by the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. We’re appalled at the continued violent response against peaceful protestors. We’re watching and listening with the rest of the world, and we know that we’re in a position to start dialogue. We begin that conversation here in the spirit of progress over perfection. As we continue to educate ourselves, we invite those who are reading this to work with us and learn together through this process.
If you feel called to join us, here is a framework and resource list that we’ve been using and plan to continue with as we identify our next steps. We’ll return to keep this conversation going.
The framework, borrowed from Rachel Cargle
Rachel Cargle is a public academic, writer, and lecturer. In her Public Address On Revolution she shares the following framework to help us understand what actions to take when we want to do anti-racism work but we don’t know where to start:
Critical knowledge + radical empathy + intentional action
On this topic, on May 27th she shared, “I implore you to remember — the point of AntiRacism work isn’t to make white people feel they are “doing better” in their positions of privilege and power within this immoral system—it is for them to hold themselves and their white community accountable for addressing and attacking the very system that needs to be destroyed in order for black people to stay alive and to be well.” Do you feel overwhelmed, shocked, unqualified to comment, but like you’re looking for somewhere to start? Step one: Carve out the time to seek knowledge.
The importance of context right now – Brittany Packnett Cunningham
“It really is about understanding the roots of this situation so that we can eradicate the situation fully, not just temporarily. If we are going to continue to discuss the protests we have a responsibility to discuss them in their full context. That is to say we have to be clear about the fact that it was police violence that took the lives of George Floyd, and Breona Taylor, and so many more—an unprovoked police violence that we continue to see on video and sometimes live TV—that continues to escalate many of the protests. Then we have to understand that the roots of modern policing are deeply entangled with slave patrols and the history there. That means that America has always prioritized protecting property over black lives even and especially when black lives were that property.” I recommend viewing her full response here.
Critical knowledge resources that we are depending on right now
- Rachel Cargle’s Public Address on Revolution
- Anti-racism resources for White people – please be patient while this link loads as it’s experiencing high traffic volume, but is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to do this work. Compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein in May 2020.
- Template for holding your employer accountable for racial justice. Shared by Rachel Cargle.
- 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
- Anguish and Action – resources from Obama.org.
- See our comprehensive resource list here.
Intentional action we’re taking
Business as usual is fully paused at KW Content as we gather resources and reprioritize in order to step into our responsibility of addressing and amplifying this conversation. We acknowledge that we must invest in facilitating a meaningful conversation and make an impactful action list for ourselves.
We have identified three ways that we can take action: With dollars, with time, and with voice.
As a tiny business fighting our way through economic uncertainty, we know we must be decisive, discerning, and committed with the resources we are allocating in every single direction. Especially small business owners with little-to-no time: if you care but you feel overwhelmed and confused about what to do, you must literally invest in making the space to address this within yourself, learn and listen to what you think is right, and then proceed.
If you are a small business owner, you face limited resources and economic uncertainty. You can only give what you can give. We see you and we see this challenge, and we recommend that you take a pause from the daily churn to examine what this moment means to you so that you can be an active participant in how you show up.
We’re beginning with:
- Listening to the voices that have been teaching us. They have asked us to amplify theirs.
- Clearing the decks. We stopped our marketing this week and paused all “new business” activities so that we could continue to build on the work we’ve all started (learning and amplifying the voices of the movement).
- We’ve donated to our local chapter of Black Lives Matter, community bail funds, Campaign Zero, and Rachel Cargle, and we’ve created a plan to ensure we can continue to do so next month and beyond
- We will develop a plan to reach out to and work with Black students and business communities through donated time, resources, and scholarships.
- We’ve pledged to come back together each week to revisit and further build out our action plan for how to allocate dollars, time, and voice to the revolution in a committed and ongoing fashion. If you would like to subscribe to updates on our progress you can do so here.
To leave you with a summarization of our perspective on why you’re here listening to me in the first place (advice on communicating), remember that this is about operating thoughtfully during a moment that will shape the context of your brand story. Think beyond your communications strategy and further into how you view your personal and corporate responsibility.
Before trying to find the right words or arrive at that conclusion, commit to learning as much as possible from the voices of those who are doing the work, and to learning about the difference between being “not a racist” and anti-racist. Be intentional. Stay tough. Imperfect activism is the path.
Before communicating at all, ask yourself: Why do I think I should say something right now?
Move forward with communication on this topic only if you can commit to an ongoing action plan that follows the framework of critical knowledge, radical empathy, and intentional action. If you are not there yet, commit to active listening. We have listed these resources above to make that as accessible as possible for you.
Most importantly: Only communicate about your action plan if it’s to support a belief that by doing so, you will influence others to do the same. If that’s not the case, then get after the doing and the amplification of voices who are doing the work, rather than talking of your own. This is not an opportunity for you, it’s a tipping point for the folks who’ve committed their lives to fighting for racial justice and the world as we want to know it.
If you’re a Strong Brand Social student that wants to be included on a follow up discussion, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line BLM Follow Up so we can keep in touch.