The Chauvin trial verdict was an opportunity to continue the dialogue on racial justice and what part communicators play in advancing it. Page Chair Charlene Wheeless led a Page Conversation with Becky Edwards of the ACLU, Stacey Jones of Accenture and other Page and Page Up members to discuss the verdict, the one-year remembrance of George Floyd’s murder and how CCOs can guide their organizations to take action on societal issues.
Here are some takeaways from our exploration of how organizations are approaching their internal and external communication responses and navigating how to best support employees during this time.
- Organizations and individuals cannot view this verdict as substantial progress toward ending systemic racism. It is important to acknowledge that this verdict was a rare case of accountability—not justice. A single verdict cannot make a significant societal shift against racist systems without individual and organizational action and advocacy.
- Don’t release a statement if you don’t have a plan for acting on it. The real measure of your organization will be in what it does next. Attendees on the call shared some ideas about concrete actions communicators can guide their organizations toward taking: Move policies beyond DE&I and toward combating racism.
- Expand your organization’s political giving report card and audit your partnerships. Are the candidates you are supporting advocating for policies that align with your values? Are the vendors you use in alignment as well?
- Create a plan for hiring more diverse candidates, particularly in management positions.
- Invest in Black communities through creating internships, helping train and upskill workers to meet a changing job market and supporting Black and brown businesses.
- Train your team on anti-racism, how to spot racism and what to do about it, admitting that it could be happening within your organization too.
- Take care of your employees, particularly your Black employees. Your leadership team must be proactive. Some of your employees are going through this trauma relentlessly and need immediate, ongoing support in the workplace. Tell people that they can step away from work when they need to, express empathy and, when possible, share resources in advance. One best practice shared during the call was to plan 10-minute blocks of time for people to reflect, be silent and be in community and meditate, particularly in the wake of traumatic events.
- Everyone needs to be part of dismantling structural racism. And yes, there might be backlash. Leaders can’t look only to Black people to solve this problem— it’s not a Black problem, it’s a societal problem. If your senior team is nervous about backlash, either internally or externally, use your organizational values as a framework for decisions. CCOs can use the power that comes from being at the center of discussions about corporate voice and values to guide organizations toward decisions, and subsequent meaningful actions, that are based on those values.
For more information on issues in this sphere, take a look at these articles shared from participants on the call: