How Brands Should Respond in the Face of Racial Unrest


These are unprecedented times. The world was already feeling constrained and anxious with a global pandemic halting life as we know it. We were forced to be still in ways we had never been. That stillness gave Americans a front row seat to the emboldened, modern display of systemic racism that Black America has faced for centuries. We are now collectively staring in the mirror at an unwashable stain that is ingrained in the fabric of this nation. Being common in such an uncommon time simply isn’t an option.

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How do companies and brands respond in such a pivotal moment?


The urgency of now mandates high cultural acumen and understanding of how to operationalize transformative change. As a Black and women-owned, award-winning polycultural agency, we are helping brands and businesses reimagine a more culturally intelligent and inclusive model, now and for the future.

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How can we be of service?


Kelli Richardson Lawson

Orlena Nwokah Blanchard

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These guiding principles provide a baseline for how brands and companies should respond and act in this moment.


[highlight background=”#f04e23″ color=”#fff”]Accept This is Not Business as Usual[/highlight]

Do not assume everyone is okay. Show empathy and compassion by checking in, at the beginning of meetings, on how people are doing. Acknowledge the pain, anxiety and frustration many people are feeling, especially your Black employees and partners. Avoid being insensitive with casual banter that ignores the fragility of this time. Give people freedom to be off camera or take personal time.


[highlight background=”#f04e23″ color=”#fff”]Make a Statement[/highlight]

Speak to your constituents – internally and externally.

1. Provide your employees, partners, and ambassadors with reassurance. This is the time for executive leadership to communicate acknowledgement, empathy, and a clear commitment to helping build a more equitable and inclusive world.

2. Your consumers need to know where you stand. Communicate via social media and/or email, your position on current events and be mindful of your audience. If you have not traditionally been a company that focused on diversity and inclusion, a bold “Black Lives Matter” statement may seem out of place. Ensure your position has clear alignment with the ethos of your brand and your vision for the future. In the long run, your actions will speak louder than words.


[highlight background=”#f04e23″ color=”#fff”]Provide Support[/highlight]

1. Emotions are heightened. Ensure you are equipped to support employees. Engage psychological experts. Offer flexible schedules where needed.

2. Speak directly to your Black stakeholders. Provide psychologically-safe spaces for more intimate conversations with Black executives, employees, and partners.


[highlight background=”#f04e23″ color=”#fff”]Define Your Role[/highlight]

1. Will you serve as a change-agent for a better world at a macro-level, will you focus on micro-level change within your organization, or both?

2. Don’t just provide lip service. Back it up with immediate action. Donate to a cause or establish a strategic partnership with a like-minded organization. Be sure to articulate your intention and commitment for long-term action.


[highlight background=”#f04e23″ color=”#fff”]Plan for Transformative Change[/highlight]

1. Invest in building cultural understanding and competency across the organization ASAP with cultural immersion training.

2. Commit to diversity in your organization AT ALL LEVELS (employees, suppliers, partners). Put the plan in place with quantifiable metrics. If you have already been working towards this, assess where you are, identify gaps and commit to expediting progress.

3. Consider a pro-social cause that supports racial equity. Ensure it aligns with your brand and is sustainable over time. Establish meaningful strategic partnerships in the Black community that help scale impact.


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