How does your business respond to a tragedy?

Three things from the last week:

  1. Yet another African-American has been killed by the officers who swore to protect and serve him.
  2. My country had an election. We voted back in a scorchingly racist woman who vows to prioritise the terrible evils undermining our society, aka halal and climate change science.
  3. Daesh (an infinitely better name for ISIS) have destroyed any claims they made to religious commitment by bombing one of Islam’s holiest sites during one of its holiest times of year.

I have strong feelings about all of these events.

If you care, what do you (a business owner) communicate?

Option #1: Say absolutely nothing, anywhere.

Pros:

  • No customer backlash.
  • No awkward conversation with your much-more-racist-than-predicted cousin.
  • Brand consistency, probably.
  • Avoid saying something cringeworthy (especially likely if you’re outside the persecuted group.)

Cons:

  • You are a coward.
  • Your silence encourages the repugnant status quo.

Option #2: Talk about it in your personal channels, not the business ones.

Many channels might be an amalgam of your business and personal selves, which sometimes makes this a bit blurry. You decide what constitutes personal.

Pros:

  • Keeps the business message consistent.
  • Adds another smidgen to the scales.

Cons:

  • Since most of your personal followers will be like-minded darlings, you tend to be preaching to the choir. (Aside from aforementioned cousin.)
  • Can create smug pridefulness, when all you did was change your FB profile pic.

Option #3: All in

Talking about the issue passionately, with fierce clarity, in your business’ social media, blog, newsletter, etc.

Pros:

  • Much greater spread, since your clients are often much more diverse than your personal circle.
  • May be (knowing you, dearest, probably is) aligned with your business brand and values.
  • An excellent chance to clarify your target market.
  • Guaranteed non-beige, riveting marketing.

Cons:

  • Expect haters. (I still get the occasional comment five years after one inflammatory post.)
  • You can (unmaliciously, unconsciously) start taking advantage of the situation. Not cool.
  • It is hard hard work to write.
    • Correction: to write well.
    • Requires self-reflection, honest admitting of your own failures, bravery and a good grasp of the facts.
    • Again, this is always easier to fuck up if you’re not a member of the shat-upon group.

Option #4: Amplify the voices of others.

Again, this can be done in your personal space, or your business space. (OR BOTH.)

Pros:

  • Less work!
  • Can rely on experts:
    • People who actually live in the area
    • People who have experienced this before
    • People who talk and write with rage and precision and depth beyond our own
  • Gives more power to the unheard and ignored.

Cons:

  • You vouched for them by sharing their work. It will suck if they turn out to be factually inaccurate, ethically shady, or straight-up lying.
    • Do a bit of legwork. The internet will provide.
  • It is easier to find reporting and opinions provided by People Who Have No Skin In This Game.
    • Make the extra effort to find voices that share the same skin colour, religion, sexual orientation, etc as the victims.
  • Enraged customers, cousins, etc

Which do you choose?

Depends.

*cue flat unimpressed look from the audience*

Look, you can’t cover every tragic event, because you would honestly get nothing else done. In regards to police shootings in the US, for example, I go with the personal channels option, and not always then. Not because I don’t seethe about it – o boy do I  – but because a) sometimes I am too ill to contribute, and b) I don’t live in the US. Instead, I am openly committing myself to raise holy hell about Aboriginal deaths in custody, which we have far too many of.

And neither do you need to close down every single other topic when something happens. In fact, since many of them are terror attacks, you definitely shouldn’t stop taking photos of ducklings and celebrating a new product line. Just be maybe a little gentler, especially around the people who are affected.

But what’s the point of just saying something? Only actions matter!

Wrong wrong wrongitty wrong, sugarpea.

Imagine a bell curve. (You have to, because if I want to finish this post I don’t have the energy to make one.)

Down the low end, there are The Heartless Arseholes. Up in the top wedge are The Warriors of Love. And of course, in the middle is… all the rest of us.

We each have a teensy effect, which feels stupendously meaningless. What’s one Facebook post in this world, you wonder. It doesn’t matter at all.

But look at the base line of this bell curve, and realise that it is waywayway bigger than the spot our bell curve lives on. No one, except for maybe the thinnest wedge of Heartless Arseholes, is currently okay with saying, “Slavery is the natural order of things and there’s nothing wrong with it.” (Or in my nation: “This land is totally free of people and so we claim it.”) But not too long ago, the majority of people would have not only been fine with that statement, they would have been taken aback if you disagreed.

The middle was moved.

With setbacks and resistance and petty petty shittiness, the middle point was dragged toward the humane end so that slavery is no longer a norm (and it’s acknowledged that indigenous Australians really do have a right to the lands they inhabited when the whitefellas arrived). Some of the steps were big and bold and historical. But a lot of them were the size of a tweet, or a sign.

With enough small efforts, we can move our bell-curve further away from Inhumanity and toward Utopia.

Be brave, and take a stand on the issues that matter to you. Do it in your personal life, and feel absolutely free to do so in your business. Otherwise, what’s the point of having your own business? If you were planning to shut up and do as you were told you might as well be in a day job.

I’ve tapped out my energy writing this, and I know I have missed plenty of points. Share some in the comments so I can improve this article once I’ve had a long long nap.