Anti-racism is not a PR Play: 5 Sustainable Practices for Businesses

by | Business, Community, Feature Post

Artwork by Whitney Luu

Since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 26, many businesses and corporations worldwide have attempted to show their support and concern for the Black community. Some companies tweeted statements in solidarity, and some businesses posted black squares with no context. A lot of these messages came off as performative. It was the first time we, as a society, pulled back the proverbial veil to see companies aligning themselves with the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement without actually committing to an opportunity to advance racial equity. 

What is truly needed is action. Anti-racism is not a short-term public relations play for businesses. We’re in it for the long haul, and companies need to start developing long-term plans to combat anti-racism. As professionals, we have an essential role in doing better in the future and giving equal representation to people of colour in our community. Here are five ways to support anti-racism and continue to do the work.

1. Identify the issue at-large

A common theme among many businesses is the disconnect between a company’s statement and the daily employee experience. Leaders need to actively identify the problems of racism with their organizations. The unfortunate reality is that victims of racism often remain silent out of fear of judgment or repercussions, making the pervasiveness of this issue less apparent. Now is the moment to allow your employees to speak up, identify the harm, and respond without being defensive. 

2. Consider the racial representation of employees

Before you do the work externally, think about what you’re doing internally. Are there any Black, Indigenous, People of Colour on your team? If not, ask yourself why and what you can do to change that positively. Ensure the representation of all employees and do the work to support them.  

3. Implement an anti-racism task force

If you recognize that you have more work to do to advance your employees or team members’ racial equity, then it may be time to commit to anti-racism policies. Connect or consult your BIPOC employees to help establish an anti-racism task force within your organization. This is an opportunity to better understand and deal with issues of racism. 

4. Provide racial equity training for employees

Change starts within your company. If you’re going to provide a statement that says you’re committed to “listening and learning,” then prove it. There are so many resources and workshops available. You can invite BIPOC leaders like Cicely Belle Blain, Vancouver-based equity, diversity, and inclusion consultant and activist and founder of Cicely Blain Consulting, a diversity and inclusion firm.   

5. Understand that this is an ongoing process

This work is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. We have years of systemic racism and systematic oppression to battle within our businesses and outside of them. Committing to being an ally means keeping your mind open to learning more and making mistakes along the way. Your BIPOC colleagues will understand and respect that you are making an effort to be an instrumental part of this movement. 

These are all simple tasks. Companies need to hold themselves accountable for what they stand for, do the work internally, and bring more awareness to these issues of racial equity and anti-racism by using their platforms to stand up for the cause. 

About the author: Sharla Farrell is a public relations and marketing consultant with over a decade of corporate, agency, and small business experience. Her career has spanned across the fashion, lifestyle, restaurant, health and wellness industries, assisting companies in crafting and carrying out PR strategies to help them get the word out and get noticed. Her agency, Easy Consulting Studio, was created out of an entrepreneurial desire to help businesses and to make PR easy. Sharla offers her clients a more personable and holistic approach to developing communication strategies that are both effective and valuable. She is also the co-founder of High Power, a lifestyle brand in the burgeoning psychedelics space.