Social Shake-Up Show Recap: When Brands Take a Stand

Brands and Social Justice

In 2020 it’s not enough to tweet in support of an overarching social justice issue. Users expect, if not encourage, brands to deliver statements regarding their position. 

A dynamic Social Shake-Up panel including Catherine Hernandez-Blades, SVP, chief ESG and communications officer at AFLAC, Nadia Khamis, director of corporate engagement for Planned Parenthood, Elianne Ramos, chief communications officer at LatinoJustice, and moderator Dwayna Haley, SVP and practice director, brand innovation and impact at Porter Novelli, discussed the necessity and nuances of tackling social justice issues, and creating messaging behind it.

Doing the Pre-Work

Much of the work comes before a statement is decided on or delivered. Hernandez-Blades said AFLAC does not even talk about an issue, unless it has taken action on it. 

“We look at the value we can create—donations, (work on) educational disparities, economic empowerment through supply chains, fair labor and HR practices, advocacy work,” she said, mentioning its reform work to help pass the Georgia hate crime bill. 

Ramos agreed and said that LatinoJustice leads with its values. 

“We focus on the outcomes—taking action on things that will have a lasting impact on the community,” she said. “We emphasize our desire to eliminate barriers, give people options and solutions.” 

Pressing Issues

The group also commented on the importance of listening to audiences and focussing on what organically matches with their organizations' values. This leads to programs making a larger impact. 

For Khamis, much of Planned Parenthood’s mission is timely. With the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the organization knows it’s a critical time, and, as Khamis said, many people in this country are “fighting for (their) lives.”

“(We are there) first and foremost as a healthcare provider, closing the gap to access, and making sure everyone has access to affordable healthcare,” Khamis said. 

Planned Parenthood does much of this outreach through strategic partnerships that allow access to necessary PPE, and development of digital products, like telemedicine, which greatly impact the base.

“We’re making sure compassionate care is still front and center,” she said. “We’re noticing the disproportionate medical benefits for some over others, systemic inequalities in healthcare and the economic system. We’re working with community partners (to reach those in need), more broadly with The Trevor Project and Black Lives Matter.”

Respecting Space

And even though social justice lies at the heart of many organizations, there comes a time to know when signal boosting may not be a necessary part of the plan.

“We highlight our history of solidarity with the Black community in the messaging of the litigation and work we pursue,” Ramos said. “Because our work is rooted in social justice, (it’s our job) to honor solidarity, and show that we are unequivocally on the side of the Black community. Not to take their space, but support their messaging and initiatives.”

For more on how brands navigate the sometimes tense social justice arena, check out the session on-demand.

Nicole Schuman is a reporter for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal