Do employees believe their company’s communications about BLM were authentic?

Paul Stallard - Friday November 6th 2020

A new global study of employees at enterprises by Arlington Research has found just under a third (32%) didn’t believe their company was being authentic when it spoke about the Black Lives Matters (BLM) movement earlier this year. This number rose to 45% in the UK compared to a quarter of employees in both the US and Australia.

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.

Likewise, 43% in the UK stated they felt the message their company was putting into the public domain about BLM was different to what is said to employees. This disparity between internal and external messages 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.

“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,” states Paul Stallard, Arlington Research MD. “The danger we have seen from a communications 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.”

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%

“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. Being authentic 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,” concludes Stallard.

Further findings from Arlington Research’s survey are available in the full Enterprises talk the talk but do they walk the walk report online and additional content can be found via its market research blog.

Research Methodology

The survey was conducted online between 27 July and 5 August 2020, surveying 2,000 employees who work for brands that have a minimum of 1,000 members of staff. Respondents came from the USA (667 respondents), the UK (667 respondents) and Australia (666 respondents).

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