TUESDAY 9 JUN 2020 9:00 AM


Each week our panel of senior communications professionals dissect the comms and brand issues coming out of the main news stories. Right now, they are turning their attention to the way social media and big brands are responding to #BlackLivesMatter, the government response to the denial of racism in the UK, and the reputational impact of Covid-19.




Brands are responding to #BlackLivesMatter




"I like the Ben & Jerry's statement. What's interesting is when it was acquired by Unilever it retained enough independence to enable it do things like this : https://www.benjerry.com/whats-new/2016/why-black-lives-matter "

Stuart Bruce, Independent management consultant



"As a black woman I must say I have had a range of emotions throughout this. What I will say is that I wish more organisations would make a commitment to look at themselves and admit they are getting it wrong. Showing that they are determined to have honest and open conversations with their people and really listen to what they are saying and experiencing.

In terms of responses from business and brands just saying you’re committed and supportive is not enough. Many brands still make unacceptable ads and messaging. Many brands still ignore the diversity of their customer base.

What we are seeing in the UK and the US is not just about George Floyd it’s about every single Black person’s continual fight to be recognised and treated as equal in all circumstances not just when it suits. We all have a role to play in truly listening and looking at ourselves, our colleagues and our leaders to see where mistakes and injustice has happened before, however small, and think about we can act and behave differently. My personal experience when I speak to people about our experiences is they think I’m talking about ‘other’ people rather than themselves."

Jennifer Thomas, Direct Line Group






And Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have been dealing with the growing anti-racism movement and their own purpose, culture and moral leadership issues, in quite different ways




“Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel… made a strong statement, although I think his might have been an internal memo to employees. He also said the company would no longer promote Trump's Snapchat account. It would have been better if it had been issued as a public statement, given that it was inevitable it would be leaked anyway.”

Stuart Bruce, Independent management consultant



“When internal memos get leaked, I always wonder if it's a soft way of announcing something a company wants to be known but without going too big / fast.”

Nina Arnott, Dominos Pizza Group





The government's response to the denial of racism in the UK




"I understand (Matt Hancock) not wanting the sound bite of ‘the UK is racist’, but rather than ignore the point Sophie was trying to make, he could have said he recognises that sadly we do still have racism in this country and then start to seed some messaging about how (the government) intend to tackle it."

Jennifer Thomas, Direct Line Group


"Home Secretary Priti Patel MP said today that it’s important that “justice is undertaken... for such disorderly and lawless behaviour” in light of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston being toppled. Following a fortnight of demonstrations following the tragic death of George Floyd, this comment ignores the cultural grief of our BME community and is out of touch with the British public, who in the majority have recognised that change is well overdue."

Sarah Waddington, Astute.Work and #FuturePRoof community



Meanwhile, coping with Covid19 continues to cause consternation for brands




“The tech sector is not my area, but it feels as if brands generally (the bigger ones especially) are being asked to step up more in the wake of covid and that trust is becoming increasingly more important in all sectors, not just tech. People want brands to become more responsible and involved than ever before - work with and lobby government, protect employees and customer and use their resources for the greater good. Our latest customer engagement scores have seen trust rocket up as a priority. More respect for the individual worker (key worker effect) and more onus on companies to step up.”

Naomi Jones, Suez



“I see two types of key brand behaviour emerging in the CV19 landscape.

Some brands are using a ‘crystal ball’ approach, looking into the mists of their brand and their audiences future and guessing what might be right to hear right now. I see a future where everyone works from home, all products are bought online, and where we live in fear of close contact with other humans.

People are notoriously dreadful at future predictions. I once had my palm read on Hastings pier. The mystic predicted I would not continue the career path I was on or continue the relationship with the girl waiting outside. I’ve been doing my job for 20 years now and married the girl waiting outside. Crystal Balls don’t work, they undermine trust, show a lack of intelligent leadership and trivialise the matter at hand.

Crystal Ball strategy for brand also seems to lead everyone to the same spot. They tell you that we're living in "uncertain times", but "we're here for you". They say they prioritise "people" & "families" by supplying services to the "comfort and safety of your home". And don't forget: "we're all in this together.” Desperate vanilla fluff better at spending marketing dollars than providing a reason to care.

The other approach is for organisations to use a compass to navigate a brand’s future. Use what was the strategic ‘true north’ before CV19 to chart a course for tomorrow. This is better. You can move the rudder and change direction to avoid icebergs but know which way to turn to get where you need to go. Nuffield Health has been great at this… handing over hospitals to the NHS, using Gym spaces to help those affected by CV19. They have always been about working towards a healthier nation… so while financially costly, it’s the right move so when restrictions lift, people will be right to trust them more than competitors, and that’s the role of brand… to enable one service/product/organisation to be chosen over another.”

Simon Manchipp, SomeOne