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As Juneteenth approaches, brands are again preparing to commemorate this day. While the holiday has been celebrated within the Black community for quite some time, it was not until 2021 that it became a federal holiday. Juneteenth has become more commercialized in recent years, and some companies have received much backlash surrounding their rollouts. As a result, brands need to approach their Juneteenth marketing efforts with care and mindfulness. While it is great to see brands acknowledging the holiday, it is equally important to do so respectfully.
One of the critical issues with Juneteenth marketing is that it can come across as insincere or opportunistic if an organization does not commit time and resources to the Black community internally and externally. To avoid these pitfalls, brands should focus on being true allies to the Black community. This means going beyond surface-level marketing efforts and investing in tangible actions supporting Black employees, customers and communities. Here are a few areas companies can focus on to authentically serve as allies to the Black community.
Recruit from HBCUs
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are an essential resource for the Black community. Although they represent just 3% of all higher-education institutions in the United States, 10% of all Black students matriculating through U.S. colleges are enrolled at HBCUs. By recruiting from these institutions, brands can help support these schools and also tap into a talented pool of diverse candidates. This is an excellent way for companies to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and equity while benefiting from the unique perspectives and experiences that HBCU graduates bring to the table.
Listen to Black internal and external stakeholders
One of the best things brands can do to support the Black community is to listen to their voices. This means actively seeking out feedback from Black employees and customers and taking steps to address their concerns. Listening to external and internal stakeholders is essential for building trust, improving communication and making informed decisions. One effective way to listen to external stakeholders is through one-on-one meetings, allowing personalized interactions and the opportunity to address specific concerns or feedback. Social media is also valuable for engaging with external stakeholders, as it provides a platform for two-way communication and can reach a wider audience.
On the other hand, internal stakeholders can be best heard through focus groups or company surveys, which can provide valuable insights into employees’ or other internal stakeholders’ opinions, attitudes and experiences. These methods can help companies identify areas for improvement. In addition, by listening to external and internal stakeholders, companies can create a culture of transparency, accountability and collaboration, ultimately leading to greater success and satisfaction for all parties involved.
Be active in the communities the company serves
According to McKinsey, “Black consumers are much more likely to seek out and place emphasis on brands that are trustworthy, have a clear social mission, appeal to their cultural values and generally have credibility among the Black community.” A way to build rapport with this community and be an ally is to support the Black community by establishing relationships with community organizations, leaders, etc. This can include partnering with local organizations or sponsoring events that support Black communities.
Have internal educational sessions
Having internal sessions to learn and discuss Juneteenth and the achievements of Black people can be a powerful way to promote understanding, empathy and unity within a company. Black employees or outside experts can lead these sessions. They can include presentations, panel discussions or interactive activities that educate and engage employees on the significance of Juneteenth and the contributions of Black Americans throughout history.
By learning about and reflecting on these topics, companies can foster a culture of inclusivity and respect — and demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. These sessions also provide employees opportunities to share their perspectives and experiences and build relationships across different backgrounds and identities. Ultimately, by celebrating Juneteenth and the achievements of Black people, companies can help promote a more just and equitable society within their own walls and beyond.
Launch a supplier diversity program
Fifty-seven percent of procurement leaders report that they have a supplier diversity program. By partnering with Black-owned businesses and incorporating their products and services into your supply chain, you can demonstrate your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and foster goodwill within the Black community. In addition, launching a supplier diversity program drives innovation and improves supply chain resilience.
Brands interested in participating in Juneteenth should focus on shifting their marketing efforts towards diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Rather than using the holiday as a marketing gimmick, brands should strive to be genuine allies to the Black community in their external efforts and internal policies.
By investing in DEI, brands can demonstrate their commitment to creating a more just and equitable society, which aligns with the spirit of Juneteenth. This could include sponsoring community events or programs that celebrate Black culture, providing resources for education and training on anti-racism and bias or supporting organizations that work towards racial justice. In addition, by taking meaningful actions towards DEI, brands can build trust and credibility with their customers and employees and contribute to positive change in society.