“The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others have prompted overdue conversations about race, social justice, and diversity and inclusion. While much of the national outrage is regarding policing practices, there is a growing conversation in the business community that companies have an important role in addressing racial injustice. It’s what feels different about this moment – the widespread recognition that everyone, not just government, needs to do better. While leaning into social justice issues is hard and uncomfortable, it will make your company a stronger and more inclusive organization.”
This quote from the blog post Corporate Communications and Social Justice – What You Must Know to Avoid Blunders from PhenomenalWriting.com is pointing out that businesses can and should become involved in social justice issues. It is something that Generations Y and Z expect, and older generations are starting to accept. The post goes on to point out three communication strategies to use when navigating the social justice landscape.
Commit to Change
“[A] statement of solidarity without real action or contradictory business practices is an empty and offensive gesture. Therefore, take a hard look at how your company plans to improve internally and externally and build a genuine message.”
“[I]f you don’t communicate that your organization is working on them, people will assume nothing is happening. This is the fastest way to undermine credibility and trust.”
Be Part of the Movement
“The attitudes of most Americans, especially many white Americans, on race, are changing, with more white people understanding the hardships that black people carry every day. … With this shift in public opinion, it is a poor strategy for companies to return to the status quo over the coming months.”
It is also important to keep in mind the guidelines for good business communication, in general. They still apply when communicating about social justice issues.
Keep it Succinct: It is critical for you to be clear, succinct and organized in all of your messages. To help with this, communicate everything as if you are limited to presenting only one slide on the topic. This rule forces you to filter your message down to only the key points, and succinctly organize that information. This self-constraint of “one slide thinking” will encourage you to practice sorting through complex information and boiling it down to the key concepts without the cluster of superfluous words.
Ask “Why is this important?”: Think before you speak. And, just before you speak, ask yourself, “Why is this important?” Craft your messages to focus on the two “I’s” – intent and impact – and de-emphasize the details that simply explain. Communicating intent will keep you from going off on a tangent, and focusing on impact will ensure you are directly addressing what is important to the listener, which is why you are communicating in the first place!
Remember to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid): Communication needs to be relatable. Don’t try to over-impress. Use simple language that sorts through the complex and creates common ground with your audience. Communicating is dynamic enough in itself, so don’t try to complicate it by using complex sentence structures and unnecessary words. Simplify your delivery and always use the KISS rule.
Think Bullet Points: It is important to always boil your message down to the critical few points – what are the barest bones you need to say what you need to say? Strive to be a person of few words while making every word count. To help do this, pretend you are writing bullet points in an email. This will help train your mind to summarize key concepts. Bullet point thinking forces you to sort through the complex details and get to the point, which will ultimately lead to better listener engagement.
Practice, Practice, Practice: Nonverbal, verbal, and written communications are all landmarks of being able to deliver an idea in an accurate, clear, and straightforward way. Each has its own nuances, but by subscribing to the above practices and using bullets, summarizing key details, and crafting more direct messages, your level of communication can drastically improve. And, of course, the more often you do it, the better you become at communicating clear and effective messages.
The PhenomenalWriting.com blog post sums it up well: “To avoid tone-deaf, meaningless, and racist gestures, your organization must shift its mindset and lean into race and social justice issues. The status quo has changed – tiptoeing and silence is no longer an option. Public opinion is changing, the U.S. consumer market is changing, and the world is changing – for the better. Your company should adopt these practices because it’s the right thing to do, and if you don’t, you’ll get left behind.”