Chelsea Handler and Mary McCormack are angry about the state of the country, and they’re not alone. If you’re familiar with Ms. Handler’s work, you may be expecting a very boisterous, well-informed, and humorous monolog on the subject. You would be wrong in that assumption, but only about the boisterous part.
Handler and McCormack’s essay “Why We March” has resonated with so many, myself included because it is real, authentic, and honest. It’s not about how hypothetical changes affect hypothetical people. It’s about how real changes affect real people, and why fighting for what you believe in is always worth the effort. You will know exactly what the authors believe by the end, and exactly why they believe it.
Why Framing a Message and a Moment Requires Authenticity
When brands speak, consumers don’t always listen. In defense of those consumers, why would they? So often, brand-speak is little more than noise – a brand projecting the image it thinks its customers want to see, with no substance to back it up. At the risk of offending someone, they wind up boring everyone. Or they simply say nothing at all.
Embracing the moment comes with risks, especially during troubled times. You might say the wrong thing, offend the wrong person, or get involved in a conversation that’s beyond your expertise. You might make an embarrassing error, or go viral for the wrong reasons. The way things are going, you may even get an angry tweet from the president himself.
But you know what? If you’re not willing to take a chance and give people a voice, you will never, ever frame a moment like Handler and McCormack do. “Why We March” works precisely because its authors are not afraid to speak their mind in a constructive, eye-opening, honest way. There is no way to work backward and recreate that authenticity. Either you have it, or you don’t.
Empowering Employees to Embrace the Moment
Moments normally pass quickly, but these are not normal times. All of us, including your employees, are faced with the same stories when we check the news in the morning. The instinct for many brands would normally be to run, hide, and ride out the political storm, ideally without angering anyone from their target demographics.
Except that’s not what’s happening. On the one hand, you have the biggest names in tech making a statement on equality, and taking action. Not through lobbies, but by supporting their diverse employees very publicly and empowering those employees to have a public voice. You can also see the other side of the equation if you just open your Uber app. What’s that, you deleted Uber? Such is the risk of a brand taking action solely based on its bottom line.
It’s all about authenticity, and you can’t embrace the moment after the fact. There’s no handbook to getting it right, either, though you’ll usually find that common sense goes a long way. Empowering employees to speak up and be unique always comes with risks, no matter the subject matter. The risk that comes with remaining silent, however, is also very real.
The key is to be constructive, in good times and bad. There’s no doubting for a moment that Handler and McCormack don’t pull any punches when you read “Why We March,” but it’s framed in a way that calls attention to the issues much more than it calls attention to the authors. If it were written by two people you had never heard of, it would still be just as moving.
Your employees have a voice and deserve to be able to use it. Not just on the big-picture stuff, but in those important moments when they are interacting with customers and need the freedom to be human. No matter what industry you’re looking at, brands are speaking up in a way that they really haven’t before. Those words only have meaning if the people who work for those brands are also given the freedom to have a voice and use it constructively.