The Online Allyship Commitment
Today, the conversation about diversity and inclusion takes place largely on social media. As brands are taking action to be more inclusive, it is vital that our social media communications keep pace.
As leaders in outdoor, we know that our social platforms are a reflection of our brand personality. And when we allow harmful commentary to go unchecked on our channels, we risk being complicit with those views.
So how can we define and support inclusive and antiracist behaviour online? And how can we and our teams and community safely and effectively challenge unacceptable behaviour? We know this is not easy to navigate. We are all learning how to do this - and we will get things wrong as we reshape our brand voices.
But as brands with a shared love of the outdoors, and commitment to equity and inclusion, we are determined to help each other support, protect and promote our partners and talent. And this means taking responsibility for managing content shared on our channels, including the comments.
Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the challenge, and we struggle to manage difficult conversations. And sadly we are all aware there have been moments where we as brands have not been bold and clear about the standards of expected behaviour on our channels.
What it is
The Online Allyship Commitment is a practical tool for outdoor brands,organisations and individuals to help manage ignorance, prejudice, racism and other forms of harmful commentary on social media channels.
We believe that if we are to become anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, and anti-hate forces for positive change in order to foster a more inclusive and equitable outdoor community, we must all act with responsibility, authority and accountability.
By signing these Commitments on behalf of my organisation, I share responsibility for implementing the following five steps. I also acknowledge that companies are at different stages of this journey, and that this work will never be “finished”.
Five Commitments for Online Allyship
- Understand your brand positioning around diversity, inclusion and racial equity
- Is this clarity of purpose communicated to / understood by your employees and customer community?
- Does your social space reflect this positioning, in terms of content and tone?
- Are your social media actions coming from a wider place of authenticity? How else will you be showing up for your partners, groups or issues? Be honest with yourself and your community, including acknowledging your blind spots.
- Commitment: articulate and share your brand positioning around diversity, inclusion and racial equity on both internal and external-facing social channels. Reach out and get advice from experts with lived experience, and ensure they are being compensated for their insights.
- Set the rules of engagement
- Would someone new to your social channels understand the types of conversation and debate that are expected and encouraged?
- Engagement guidelines and a moderation policy on topics such as hate speech and racism are crucial in empowering social media executives to act quickly and decisively when necessary
- Be explicit about these rules so your community and employees are aware of the line you are drawing (such as via pinned tweets)
- Remember that most engagement happens in the first 4 to 5 hours of posting. Be prepared and available to handle this, interacting with commenters in real time and taking action against engagements that break your rules.
- Commitment: prominently display a post of your engagement guidelines and moderation policy in your online spaces. Take a bold stance around what you will and will not accept here.
- Expect the best, prepare for the worst
- Planning to post content that may spark a harmful reaction? Communicate the protocol with your team ahead of posting
- Circulate talking points and Q&A documents to all customer-facing teams before posting. Include a phone number and email to contact in case of questions / issues Find examples here and here.
- At every stage of partnership announcements, ensure that you are communicating with, and supporting, your ‘talent’. They should understand in advance how you plan to support them in case of negative reaction and feel confident that you are a united front across all brand contacts. Seek to understand their needs too, on both their channels and yours.
- Ensure your front line team feel confident and supported. They may be managing deeply distressing threads featuring hate and violence. Be mindful of their lived experiences and encourage an environment where everyone feels empowered to practise self-care, above and beyond defending a brand’s stance online. This should incorporate training, reading materials, reference points, offering a forum to discuss and clear contact details for additional support when needed.
- Commitment: prepare and share a living protocol document with your ‘talent’ and front-line teams as to how potentially controversial posts will be handled. Create space to incorporate their feedback to ensure everyone is feeling heard, supported, and protected in a way that best serves them.
- Take bold action where needed
- Commit to upholding your rules - adopting a zero tolerance policy to racism and other forms of harmful commentary online
- Give your social media managers the skills and space to take an unwavering, bold stance in the face of rule breaking
- Be prepared to ban and report users who engage in harmful commentary
- Harmful language and hate speech should be countered with calm authority - for example:
- Issuing statements that neither inflame nor invite further dialogue
- Immediately blocking of users in the case of severe / repeated contraventions
- Understand that you may get it wrong sometimes. Be quick to own your mistakes
- Commitment: align social media managers and contractors around your zero tolerance policy, and empower them to act.
- Bring others on the journey with you
- Use your platforms to help educate your community (such as differentiating comments intended to learn and comments intended to harm, and tailoring your responses accordingly)
- Other brands” are probably dealing with the same issues you are. This is an opportunity to show solidarity (for example, sharing statements and sentiment). See this example from Yorkshire Tea and PG Tips.
- Commitment: the next time you are on another brand’s channel and you witness harmful commentary, weigh in! If you see a brand encouraging inclusion or fighting hate online, acknowledge and uplift them with comments of support. See this example with Muslim Hikers.