Ten ways tech’s SMEs can find their voice on social issues such as Black Lives Matter
For the majority of SMEs, communicating with consumers, their clients and the general public is reserved for commercial interests. Rarely do social issues require action or comment. But sometimes the world beyond business demands a response – The Black Lives Matter movement is one such issue.
Sparked by police brutality and creating a tidal wave of global protests, the pain and anguish being felt by black communities across the world meant that for many companies, silence was not an option. But without enormous comms teams, lawyers and diversity and inclusion directors, SMEs can find it difficult to know where to start.
On the back of our webinar, Breaking the silence: How an authentic voice can help your business to grow, we offer some of the advice from our panelists, aimed at helping SMEs to find their voice on the Black Lives Matter movement and the issue of diversity and inclusion.
Not everybody has the answers and that is okay. But SMEs can start by simply listening – to their black employees, clients, customers – to understand the issues.
“When black community members are sharing their experiences, be open and listen,” says Giselle Frederick, founder, Sonaaar. “Create a safe space for the black community to bring their authentic voices to the table.”
“Importantly, don’t take it personally. Do not take everything that is deemed a negative reflection of your company or company leadership as a personal attack on you or your company’s reputation.”
Authenticity is key. To make sure what you’re saying and supporting is reflected in your company culture, you may need to look at your core values and make changes.
“It’s really important that the messages that are being put out there are aligned with company values and culture,” says Oliver Smith, managing editor, Alt-Fi.
“We’ve seen some companies in fintech that are very good at marketing and putting messages out there and then you do hear stories of the internal side of that and it’s not always aligned and that causes tension and stress in the workplace.”
If you’re looking at your company values and thinking about the kinds of content you can create to illustrate how the company thinks and feels, make sure you collaborate with a diverse team of internal voices to ensure it is representative.
“If you’re focusing on core values, bring your team along with you,” says Marie-Claire Frederick, co-founder, Lemon Quarters. “Inviting colleagues to get involved is a great way to add value and encourage your team to use their voice.”
Your company should be reflective of the society it serves. This means having a diverse team and keeping the diversity of your customer base front of mind.
“Make sure your company reflects the spaces they operate in,” says Giselle. “If you haven’t deemed the black community your target audience, ask yourself why not. Be honest with yourself when you answer. Did you make any assumptions or applied any stereotypes in your reasons?”
For open and honest discussions to take place, there needs to be a feeling of support, not sabotage. “Get rid of blame culture,” says Marie-Claire. “Everyone should be welcome to provide constructive ideas on how to make things a more equitable and fair place to work – these ideas and discussions can be documented and shared internally first and then externally they can be shared as pieces of content.”
When you’re starting to think about how to communicate your company’s thoughts and feelings on an issue like this, a good place to start is to share and champion the content of others that aligns to your thinking. This enables you to illustrate your position and celebrate others who have communicated it well, while you take the necessary time to consider your own content outputs. You can also share any external resources you have found useful, TransferWise did this nicely.
An open letter is a good way for business leaders to quickly and effectively communicate their position as a business. In this instance, honesty works particularly well. This can be shared on social media and on your website.
“We’ve seen business leaders engaging directly with their customers, saying they don’t have all of the an-swers but they stand against racism and these kinds of things are powerful because they really seek to connect and be honest with their audience,” says Marie-Claire.
Encourage further education within the business by creating opportunities to learn and improve, such as working groups, training or even book clubs. Monzo has published the details of its training, for example. These actions can be talked about in content form and championed internally and externally as an illustration of the work you’re doing.
Women of FinTech meanwhile, has created a diversity and inclusion book club. “As an avid book reader, I have loved the Black Lives Matter book campaigns to get people reading about and empathising with why the movement started,” says Women of FinTech and DiversiTech Hub founder Gemma Young. “As a mum of four kids I have also used this as a way to talk about this topic to my children.”
Putting your money, or indeed fundraising efforts, where your mouth is, is a good way of illustrating intent. “Donate to charities which are openly helping to redress the balance within society,” suggests Marie Claire. “But ensure this isn’t the only thing you’re doing to bring about change, underpin donations with real internal change if it’s needed.” The 4Front Project and Colourintech are two examples supported by Starling Bank.
If you feel you’ve done the work to ensure your internal practices align with the movement and you want to go even further, you can consider creating a whole campaign around it.
This incorporates real action, social media, content outputs such as reports and blogs. If you’re ready to make that investment and send a clear message to the market, a campaign is powerful. “Starling Bank’s Make Money Equal is a great example of this,” says Oliver.
As you can see, there are many ways SMEs can take action and find their authentic voice on the things that matter most. If you are keen to start taking action and communicating your position, but don’t want to do it alone, a content specialist can help with an internal audit and plan to shape your thoughts and ideas. Get in touch if you’d like to work with Lemon Quarters.