Nobody is perfect.
Your company is bound to mess up sometimes, and that’s okay.
Your Just Marketing™ journey is dependent on your reaction to the situation, not on the situation never happening in the first place. Your reaction determines the reputation you hold.
It also depends on the relationship between the intent and the impact of your actions.
- » Intent: The “why” behind an action. Intent is simply the reason you do something.
- » Impact: The effect your action has on others. It is independent of the action’s intent.
Sometimes, good intentions can have a negative impact.
There can be cases where you KNOW that you didn’t mean to be racist, anti-LGBTQIA+, or inaccessible. Your intentions were good, but at the end of the day, someone was hurt by your actions.
You can’t always control when this happens, but you can learn to anticipate it, react to it in a courteous, understanding way, and adjust your actions moving forward accordingly.
Read on to learn how to respectfully react in these situations.
Don’t Be Defensive
We are all human, and these are complex issues that are constantly changing and evolving.
You’re not always going to get it right.
Remember this is not a personal attack on you — this is feedback to help you continue to learn and grow. Welcome and embrace all feedback you receive.
If possible, take a moment to work through the immediate emotions you feel about the issue.
Full disclosure: I am a crier.
More specifically, a white woman who tends to cry at confrontation.
It is important to recognize that crying white women have often been weaponized against people of color throughout history. It’s my responsibility not to put the burden of my tears and my emotions on others.
Since I often struggle to control my immediate emotional reaction, this is when I would excuse myself and handle my feelings in confidence, so that I can prepare myself to actively engage in the discussion and learning that needs to happen.
As I’ve continued to work on myself, I’m becoming better at controlling the tears. It’s a journey.
Learn by Listening
It’s essential that you do less talking and more listening when receiving criticism related to a misstep you have taken.
Creating space for marginalized groups to speak is part of the learning curve. Accept feedback with an open mind and a goal of understanding.
Don’t make the conversation about you, your friend, etc. This is not the time. Listen to the lived experiences that are being shared with you, and believe the stories you are told.
This process can definitely feel uncomfortable, but important growth will come from sitting with that discomfort.
What could you say?
Something like: “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. That impact is certainly misaligned with my values. I appreciate everything you’ve shared with me on the topic, and I will do the work to educate myself further and change the way I speak/act going forward.”
Question and Educate Yourself
We cannot expect others to educate us.
If someone approaches you and WANTS to educate you — that’s when you should listen.
Otherwise, take any information you’re given and make a plan to do the work of continuing to educate yourself. Not only about the initial misstep, but in the way that you handled the feedback.
In order to pinpoint the work that you need to do moving forward, ask yourself these questions:
- Why did you respond the way that you did?
- Why do you feel the way that you do/did?
- What could you have done differently?
Recognizing where you, and others around you, have gone wrong – and accepting that it’s bound to happen – will help you avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.
Work With Your Team
Talk with your team about the potential for missteps.
We all make mistakes, and sometimes things don’t pan out as intended. Work together to come up with a social response plan that covers:
- Who to inform when negative or constructive feedback is received
- Who will respond or approve responses
- The general tone of all responses (open-minded, respectful, and genuine)
Share your own mistakes.
Being open about the past helps to normalize personal growth. It may even address harm felt in your community, even if these people did not reach out to you directly at the time.
Admitting you were wrong is hard, but the message you are communicating is more important than how it feels. Honesty and continual growth are key signs of genuine commitment and will help others see that you’re invested in doing the work, even when it gets difficult.
Most importantly – remember not to allow the fear of making a mistake to hold you back from speaking up or taking action.
Perfection Is Not the Goal
When mistakes happen, learn from them. Growth happens outside of our comfort zone, and we need growth now more than ever.
Now is the time to be open to criticism and change.
In order to anticipate the reaction to your actions, you have to take the time to think not only about the intent of your marketing content, but also the potential impact that it will have on your community.
How do you make sure your marketing content is accessible and inclusive to the most marginalized members of your community?
Think about the range of diversity in the community you reach, and as you develop marketing campaigns, ask questions like:
- Are we appropriating elements (words, phrases, images, etc.) of a marginalized culture?
- Are we using language that has racist origins or insensitive connotations?
- Are we amplifying the voice of someone who is considered racist or harmful to the BIPOC/LGBTQIA+/disabled community?
When you make it a habit to analyze your content through a lens of equity, while still being prepared to get it wrong sometimes, you’re setting yourself up for continuous forward motion on your Just Marketing™ journey.
If and when you do make a mistake, you’ll be able to reflect on the process you went through, determine what went wrong, and identify how to improve in the future.
For more information on promoting your business in an accessible and inclusive way, check out the Just Marketing™ podcast!