Global research has revealed just under a third of employees (32%) don’t believe their company was being authentic when it communicated about the Black Lives Matter movement earlier in the year. In the UK it was even worse with 45% employees feeling this, compared to 26% in both the USA and Australia.
It’s a classic example of companies not understanding that public relations is about what you do, not just about what you say. I’m constantly emphasising that PR is not just communications.
When asked if the respondents felt embarrassed by the way the company, they worked for spoke about the BLM movement, 38% of Brits agreed. This fell to 23% in the US and 21% in Australia. This was especially true for employees who worked at companies with between 5,000 and 10,000 members of staff with 43% globally saying they felt embarrassed.
The study also highlighted that employees felt there was a gap between what their companies were saying publicly about BLM and what they were saying internally. In the UK 43% stated they felt there was a disparity between internal and external messages. It was most likely globally in companies with 5,000 and 10,000 employees with nearly half (47%) agreeing messages were different. Millennials were the most cynical with 41% reporting different messages compared to 20% of baby boomers.
The global study was conducted by Arlington Research amongst a sample of 2,000 employees at enterprises with a minimum of 1,000 staff with respondents from the UK, USA and Australia.
Interestingly, despite employees feeling there is a disconnect between internal and external messages, half (51%) say their company has publicly stated what it’s doing to improve inequalities in society and amongst its own staff. Likewise, considering the whole world is in the middle of a global pandemic, 48% of employees said there had been an increase in staff training/education in response to BLM. This was highest in Australia with 59% and lowest in the US with 37%.
Paul Stallard, managing director of Arlington Research said: “Blacking out your social media for a day or releasing a statement about standing with communities who suffer prejudice is no bad thing. As long as it is backed up with action. The danger we have seen from a communication perspective is that many companies did this without any thought as to how they would back it up and an emotive topic suddenly looks like a company jumping on a PR bandwagon. Employees are brand ambassadors and if they don’t feel that the business is being authentic, word soon gets around.
“With some brands being accused of hypocrisy it is important to not ignore or shy away from supporting movements, but if a business talks the talk, it’s imperative it also walks the walk. Authenticity is so important when managing a communications programme for a business and if you publicly support a movement it is essential a company becomes the change it is calling for or it can be seen as simply a PR stunt and do more damage than good.”
You can see all the data, including methodology, in the full Enterprises talk the talk but do they walk the walk report on the Arlington Research website.