There is a national issue of systemic racism, police brutality, and inequality in the United States. Most recently, the killing of George Floyd while in police custody has unleashed a conversation about what it means to be Black in America. The lifelong and generational pain and suffering that Black people feel is being highlighted in an unprecedented national and international forum.
The events industry is not immune to overt and covert discriminatory practices. Many members of our community are beginning to speak out against racism and are building bridges, healing wounds, and changing the way we operate. However, this is a new topic for most and you may be confused about what messaging to use on social media. Posting pretty pictures of weddings seems out-of-touch but turning your accounts into pure activist platforms means that you aren’t able to showcase the pride you have in your craft.
What do you say and how do you say it to show that you are engaged in world issues while also promoting your business to potential clients?
First, you need to take a step back. The words that you say and pictures you pop up on social media are the end results of a deeper, more encompassing concept of who you are as a business.
Step 1: Develop your north star
Ask yourself, “What do I want to be known for?” and use that core concept to guide you through our nuanced landscape. This goes way beyond the “live, laugh, love” that you nail on your office wall. It also transcends your customer service credo or the company values you chose because the words sounded great. This will involve you authentically diving into your why.
A great example of a company that embodies their beliefs is Love Inc. Magazine. They are clear about who they are and their north star of “celebrating all love, equally.” If you scroll through their Instagram feed, they showcase couples of all races and genders in a beautiful way.
If you need help developing your why, a great read is “Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team” by Simon Sinek.
Step 2: Check yourself
Just because you are beginning to discover how to navigate through your awakening to racial injustice doesn’t mean that you’ve set yourself up for success. Take a look at your systems and relationships to align your ideology with your actions.
Discrimination is a systemic issue and requires systemic solutions. Are your SOPs designed to proactively be anti-racist? Do you have a process for reaching outside of your immediate bubble to partner with other industry experts who might not look like you? You need to make taking an anti-ethnocentric stance part of how you do business by being intentional about how you operate and outlining processes that will ensure your efforts continue in perpetuity.
One of the key ways to make sure that you are implementing lasting change is by building authentic relationships. You can’t call yourself an ally until you get to know Black people and members of the Black event community on a one-to-one basis. Change your routine, widen your group of vendor partners, and constantly take stock of who you associate yourself with. An important way to avoid slipping into the tokenism trap is to be surrounded by diversity instead of pulling in Black people as an afterthought.
Don’t just get to know the struggle; get to know the story. Now is an amazing time to educate yourself, but you need to eventually move from the academic knowledge that teaches how we find ourselves in this current predicament to lived-in truth. You can only reach that higher understanding by realizing that Black people are much more nuanced than you could ever glean from words written by even the most prolific authors.
After you listen to the issues, educate yourself about your role, and outline what actions you want to take, pause. Before you present yourself in the conversation, you need to change your mindset first. Double-check any lingering implicit biases and make the conscious shift from seeing Black people as “other” to seeing them as fellow souls having a human experience. Empathy becomes pity unless you understand and internalize the full story.
"If you start off blasting messages out into the world without any substance behind them, you may experience avoidable backlash."
Step 3: Craft your messages
Only after you’ve done the work have you earned the right to participate in the conversation. If you start off blasting messages out into the world without any substance behind them, you may experience avoidable backlash. It’s time to revisit or create your content strategy. Start simply by choosing three to five topics that branch from your North Star.
For example, if you are a caterer who wants to have a platform of “heart-centered service with globally-inspired flavor” you might include topics in your social media posts like food sustainability and inequality, spices from around the world, how to incorporate global flavors into your event, and food as the great culture communicator.
In relation to being anti-racist, a week of posting using those topics might look like this:
Day 1: Education about food deserts in predominantly Black communities
Day 2: How to incorporate Ras el hanout, an African spice blend, into an event menu
Day 3: The history of rice production in the US with a quick recipe for the rice pudding you recently created for an event
Day 4: Sustainable farming practices inspired by African farmers
Day 5: How to have a Moroccan themed event, complete with Moroccan dining etiquette
If you build the platform, you will be able to be flexible with your messages while still staying true to who you are.