It’s been over two months since the Black Lives Matter protests began. Since then, we’ve seen many promises of change and support from the world’s most influential companies and people.
There have been several prominent moments in popular culture reflecting this new stage of the movement, and we’ll continue to see more. Vogue’s upcoming September issue, which throws the spotlight on 40 ‘faces of hope’, will feature Marcus Rashford on the cover – shot by Misan Harriman, the first black male photographer to shoot a cover of British Vogue in its 104-year history.
However, the Black Lives Matter movement, in general, is now getting less coverage in the media. As communications specialists, we need to ensure that we’re helping brands to continue supporting and talking about this positive change. And one sector that is fundamental to this is entertainment.
Entertainment brands are in an extremely powerful position to be able to communicate with people through multiple channels and truly challenge their mindsets. Companies like Netflix, Oculus and Amazon are actively promoting black talent and creators, so viewers can learn more about black history and real-life experiences. Both Netflix and Amazon have also already given and promised large amounts of money to support black communities.
Other streaming services were also vocal during the protests, with Spotify using its platform to stand with Black creators, amplify their voices, and accelerate meaningful conversation and long-needed change. Its ‘Black Lives Matter’ playlist saw a 1000% rise in subscribers on ‘Blackout Tuesday’ and the streaming provider has since committed to contributing up to $10 million to organizations that are focused on the fight against racism, injustice, and inequity around the world.
Other global titans in the music industry have taken very positive steps as well, with both Sony Music Group and Warner Music Group each establishing a $100 million fund to support charitable causes related to the music industry, social justice and antiracist initiatives.
Another huge part of the entertainment industry is gaming, so it would be remiss of the leaders within this sector not to demonstrate that they are pushing for change as well. We have seen games such as Call of Duty and console brands like Xbox showing their support through in-game messages and social posts. But what was particularly creative was actual gameplay being used to take a stand. Players of both Animal Crossing and The Sims created virtual protests where other users could come and join. Twitch was used to stream this, so those in real-life could show their support, with thousands being raised through this platform.
However, brands also need to be conscious of committing to meaningful promises, rather than just sharing statements paying lipservice to equality.
While many companies have donated vast sums of money that should go very far in changing lives, some actions from other global brands in the entertainment industry have been quite short-lived – which raises questions as to what else they will be doing. In the world right now, brand activism – when done authentically – is something that consumers not just support, but increasingly expect.
With this in mind, it is no surprise that we saw so many companies going public during the Black Lives Matter protests. However, brands need to draw long-term plans for social inclusion and racial equality that go beyond just saying that they ‘stand with black people’. They need to be honest with their customers if they have not been doing enough and make concrete plans to change this, communicating milestones along the way. As it profits so greatly (and in many different ways) from the creativity and cultural influence of the Black community, the entertainment industry, in particular, must act to recognise its essential role in addressing these needs.
It is not just newsworthy campaigns that can make a difference either; internal communication is extremely important in making sure the workforce is educated enough to want to make positive changes with the company. At H+K London, we have set up H+K Roots, which anyone from the agency is welcome to join. Here, we will be working on ways for our employees to learn more about black culture through events and thought leadership, as well as helping black communities outside of the agency, using our expertise in media, strategy and creative.
Entertainment brands are in a unique position which allows them to have a huge influence on what people see and hear in their lives, which can ultimately influence what they think. Following the Black Lives Matter protests, we have seen that most of these brands did have a positive reaction. However, for real, long-term change to happen, they need to ensure that this was not just short-lived brand activism to ‘fit in with the crowd’ and talk to their consumers about how they are constantly striving to do better, whilst also ensuring that they are getting their own house in order. Through mindful and strategic communications plans, there is no reason this cannot be achieved.