PR’s Top Pros Talk…Social Awakening – Marc Banks
Marc Banks, National Press Secretary at the NAACP
Marc Banks, National Press Secretary at the NAACP, discusses how organizations can maintain the social justice momentum created in 2020 heading into the next year. He urges brands to work with organizations like the NAACP to educate themselves and incorporate the ongoing issues into their messaging.
Marc also emphasizes the importance of creating not just short campaigns, but complete initiatives centered around racial justice to facilitate change.
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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: MARC BANKS
DOUG: So, it’s been an historic election, and President Trump has been defeated. Now, he brought a lot of the energy, perhaps on both sides, to the social justice movement. Now that he’s been defeated, do you feel the NAACP and major brands will be able to continue their efforts towards increased social justice and have them be effective?
MARC: Yeah, well, I certainly hope so. I think if we want to learn from this moment, we definitely need to continue the work that we’ve seen over this past year to change the culture and change the narrative around social justice and racial justice, and how it’s important for brands to incorporate it into the fabric of their organization.
DOUG: Social justice was actually listed in exit polls as the number two issue on the minds of Americans behind the economy, so that still resonates. NAACP, It’s been around for more than 100 years on this mission, does partner with brands. Can you speak first internally to how you would actually work with a brand and when a brand would bring you in, what that would look like for them?
MARC: Yeah, so we partner with many brands across several different industries and sectors. They bring us in when they want to… when they realize that they neglected a certain group of the population; black people, brown people, and they want to do better with catering to that particular demographic. So, they bring us in, we create programs together. Sometimes they have ideas, sometimes we have ideas about how they can best serve the community, and from there we create partnerships. And that’s anything from giving small black businesses grants and money to creating pipelines into industries such as entertainment and film.
DOUG: And there’s so much data that the more diverse companies tend to perform much better. So, I imagine a lot of your work is guiding how to communicate internally and give opportunities from people from diverse backgrounds to be able to rise up within organizations.
MARC: Yeah, exactly. I think it’s important for brands to take note of that and realize the barriers that are in place sometimes for people of color. When the culture doesn’t allow for black and brown people to excel in their organization, and they have to take account of that and they have to take stock of that and really get to the heart of the matter why that is. If you look around a c-suite table, and there’s no person of color, or black people, or brown people at that table, you might want to say, OK, why is that, and look deeper into the culture of the company.
DOUG: One of the interesting things and challenging things that I noticed, which you should have some great insight, is it’s very often thought that people of color, brown people are all put in this one box, like everyone in that group thinks the same way and acts the same way. And I mean, the post-election results, there was shock that different Latinos actually thought differently on different kinds of issues. How do you try and combat that to create a greater awareness that there’s such an individuality within these larger communities?
MARC: No one community is a monolith, and there are nuances within every community. But I think when you talk about the majority of what any one community goes through, there’s a coalescing of thoughts of feelings about how they’re being treated in America. So, I think it’s important to note that there are nuances in there. There are certain feelings within communities about how people identify. Some Latinos don’t identify as black, they identify as white. So that’s something to note there. But regardless of that, there is those that are oppressed and those within the Latino community that do feel oppressed within America. And those are the voices we should be listening to. The privilege at the top, they don’t have the issues, It’s the ones who are being oppressed and those who feel that they don’t have a voice. Those are the ones we should be listening to and reaching out to.
DOUG: What do you see in terms of the big issues for 2021 on social justice? The brands should be leading the way on, like if a brand wants to be doing well in this area, what are some of the things they should do, and then how do they manage communicating them? Because you don’t want to seem like you’re just talking the talk without walking the walk.
MARC: Well, I think brands have to, like you said before, take really a scope of what’s going on internally in their organization and begin to change that. It’s not going to be a short-term fix. Nothing is going to happen overnight. So, by the end of 2021, we’re not going to see brands all of a sudden make a 180 and change their direction of how they operate. But I think it’s a long-term strategy that they have to put in place about where they want to see their brand in five, ten years, and how they want to change to be more social justice and racial justice minded in their organization internally, and what they are displaying to the greater public. And that’s done through advertising and partnerships and things such of that nature. When you can partner with organizations like the NAACP, Color of Change, any organizations that’s working in this space to make racial justice more commonplace in this society. So, I think brands first start, like you said, internally and take scope of where they are as a brand and their culture and who’s there to make the decisions for the brand. And then from there they can start to create an identity of how they want to be seen for the future.
DOUG: So, there’s been this huge energy towards social justice and brands are implementing campaigns. Do you have concerns and is it important that they not just do this as a short-term fix in the moment, but really make a longer term commitment if they’re truly going to make a difference with both their employees and their customers?
MARC: Of course, I think if it doesn’t want to be seen as performative, if a brand’s jumping in this moment doesn’t want to be seen as performative, which is a concern for some brands, they have to think deeper about their organization, and they have to really get to the fundamental of where they want to see their brand in five, ten years, how they want it to look and how they want it to feel to the public, but more specifically to people of color.
DOUG: That makes great sense, and we hope after 2020 that everything could possibly be solved in 2021. But at least you’ve given some great advice to people to take some big strides in the right direction. Thanks so much for joining us.
MARC: Thank you for having me, I really appreciate it.