Supporting Social Justice Issues as a Business

Supporting Social Justice Issues as a Business - #TwitterSmarter chat with Katie Kern and Lee Deas - July 16, 2020

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, so many other social injustices have come to light. If you’re a business, it’s not the easiest of times to manage your social media accounts. That’s why we invited Katie Kern and Lee Deas, the co-founders of Agencies Act in Solidarity, to talk to us about how a business can support social justice issues and do it well. Here’s a summary of our chat.

Guests: Katie Kern from @MediaFrenzyGlob and Lee Deas from @obviouslee
Topic: Supporting Social Justice Issues as a Business
Format: Eight questions directed at the guests. Everyone’s welcome to share.

Q1: Why should you voice your beliefs on social justice issues publicly?

It’s important to remember that even if your employees or team mates don’t openly talk about a specific social justice issue in the workplace, almost everyone is thinking about or is affected by it.

Acknowledging it will help you and those around you recognize the harsher impacts of social imbalances. And as our guest pointed out, ignoring it will only increase unconscious biases.

Lee also reminded us that the best way to ensure your efforts bring about change is to be transparent about your goals and values.

And that includes being transparent with your employees. A lot of businesses project themselves as honest and straightforward with customers, all the while feeding unhealthy politics within and keeping employees in the dark. That’s not ideal—to make a difference, you have to be upfront about who you are and what you stand for.

Above all, as Coleen so well put it, not voicing your support publicly only makes you part of the problem.

Q2: Other than sharing your own posts, how else can you support social justice issues on social media?

Lee explained the importance of action. Sure, so many people talk about what they’d like to do and how they’d help if they could. Instead of talking, focus more on doing. For instance, aside from sharing posts about how you support a cause, consider broader aspects like donating to organizations that work to solve the problem. Or if you’re talking about lack of diversity, share more details about how you’re tackling that in your business.

Remember the key phrase Katie told us: there’s strength in numbers. The more people you show your support to, the stronger your voice will become.

If you can’t donate money, donate time, as Jignesh suggested. A lot of social organizations rely heavily on funding, but even more so on human hands. Whether it’s an hour every week or more frequently, do your part to support a cause you care about. And while you’re at it, you’ll also learn so much more about the issue you’re dealing with and all the various people supporting it alongside you. Knowledge is a great enabler.

Q3: Should employees speak up for social justice issues even if their organization lacks that diversity?

Absolutely. Every individual has the responsibility to acknowledge issues and voice their opinion. As Katie said, employers should empower their staff members to take the reins and lead by example.

Lee shared the inspirational story of Nathan Young who publicly called out his employer for not acknowledging that Black Lives Matter. It brought about such big action that the entire workforce demanded change.

As Jim mentioned, however, it’s also important that your employees know whom to turn to when they want change. It takes a lot of self-learning, but employers can also do their part by conducting workshops, open discussions, and promoting a healthy mindset overall.

Q4: How can employees or team members help fix social issues in their organization?

One of the best ways to fix a social problem is by removing the taboo of talking about it. For instance, the more employees discuss issues within their company, the more widespread the topic becomes, forcing management to make a change. That’s why it’s important to educate each other—and remember that everyone’s learning. It’s crucial to communicate effectively and not to let ego get in the way.

Lee reinstated the importance of group communication and learning. She also told us about the Racial Equity Institute that has a lot of helpful information and workshops. It’s certainly a great resource to tackle one of the major issues on our society.

As Aditi pointed out, everyone battling social injustice needs privileged folks standing by their side. For example, BIPOC communities need white allies, LQBTQI+ groups need support from cisgendered people. That’s what makes us human race more rounded as one.

Q5: How can business owners solve diversity issues in their own company?

The first thing would be to accept and acknowledge that there are diversity issues. As long as you recognize it and walk towards changing it, you’re progressing. As our guest mentioned, a lot of business might not even accept that they lack diversity. Running away from a problem never solves it.

To see that you even have a race problem, you have to be transparent and honest about who you are as a person, as a business. As Lee told us, the more willing you are to improve, the easier it will become. She also shared the solidarity plan she and her team put together. Have a look at it for insightful tips.

The next step, once you’ve realized that you have a race issue within your business, is to bring about some new policies, like Nathalie mentioned. Diversity should become part of the core business values. Only then can you move forward and hire more diverse people, implementing your policies.

Q6: Is it common to receive backlash when supporting social issues?

Unfortunately, yes. But don’t let that deter you. Like Lee said, it’s always better to face backlash than to remain silently complicit.

Hima echoed the same opinion. Just because it’s the tough thing to do, doesn’t mean you should take the easier route and remain silent. Always choose to do the right thing, even if it’s the less popular option.

Katie added that it’s common to get backlash if you seem fake or the values you promote don’t align with your actions. However, we’re all in different stages of learning, and so it’s important to be kind and considerate towards other businesses that are trying to do better.

Q7: How do you deal with backlash on social media?

Supporting a social justice cause is always risky. That said, just remember what Richard Branson says about risk taking, “every risk is worth taking as long as it is for a good cause.”

As Lee emphasized, if it’s a good cause worth fighting for, go for it. Don’t let social media backlash bring you down.

After all, as Katie put it, you can’t make everyone happy on social media. You just have to be ok with that.

Kennedy from Rob & Kennedy suggested another good way to deal with backlash. You can avoid a lot of angry outbreaks on social media if you just let the other person explain their stance. Instead of retorting or retreating, consider probing them—why do they say what they say?

Q8: How can you support social justice issues outside of social media?

A good way to support social causes, is to get involved in local communities as a business. Rally your employees as well, and make it a regular part of your activities. Aside from donating money and time, you can also help organize educational workshops or guidance programs.

And of course, vote for positive change. And encourage your employees and local communities to vote as well.

John told us about Tracy Brown’s What is mine to do movement. Check out the website—it’s a good resource for people who want to actively help reduce race-based violence.

Well folks, that’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading and for more great insights from our chat with Katie and Lee, check out this Twitter Moment that Joana put together. And if you’ve got any time to spare next Thursday, join us at 1pm ET for the next #TwitterSmarter chat.

About me, Narmadhaa:

I write all things—technical and marketing copy to fill the pocket; haiku and short stories to fill the soul. A social media enthusiast, I’m a member of the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and always happy to take on writing gigs.

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