Commentary

No Juneteenth Messaging This Year? How To Get Ready For 2022

The stakes surrounding getting Juneteenth messaging right are higher than ever, as it has just become a federal holiday. If your brand stayed on the sidelines this year, unsure of how to observe, now is the time to start thinking about 2022.

Brand voice will be vital in creating the right message, and there are many ways to do it wrong. Old Navy called off a campaign last month following negative response to a “buy our T-shirt to show your support” social media influencer outreach.

Tying holidays like Juneteenth to sales is a bad idea. A better approach would have been for Old Navy to use its platform to promote Black-owned businesses, with Black influencers included.

Your brand’s voice should be rooted in a well-functioning, up-to-date strategy, working as a set of coherent attributes for expressing or implying that strategy in every message. In combination with a clear view of your audience, strategic components like mission, vision, and values can inform what your brand has license to communicate when it comes to sensitive issues.

Here’s how to use key messaging elements to prepare for Juneteenth outreach next year:

Strategy. What does your brand hope to achieve in the world, and how does it propose to achieve it? How does the U.S. officially ending slavery impact or affect your mission?

Answers to these questions are likely related to your company’s larger diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy. This is an excellent place to seek content for a Juneteenth statement or campaign. Strategic maturity on DEI is crucial to creating an impactful, on-brand Juneteenth message. For 2022, plan ahead to arrive at alignment well in advance of the holiday. 

Audience. How familiar is your audience likely to be with Juneteenth? If you’re unsure (or the answer is “not very”), educational messaging to spread awareness may be the right first move.

If your audience is likely familiar, your brand’s actions will speak as loudly as your words.

Align on what you’ll do to support what Juneteenth is truly about, and focus on creating messaging within your brand’s voice that supports those actions. Your DEI strategy should encompass specifics for promoting and celebrating the Black experience in America today. These long-term, progress-driven initiatives are the right place to begin a plan for next Juneteenth.        

Voice. Brand voices are intentionally flexible to accommodate new or changing messaging demands. Occasions like Juneteenth are opportunities to express range: It’s a celebration, but also commemorates ending a heinous wrong. Juneteenth is a serious affair, anchored in reflection and remembrance.

All brand voices, regardless of tonality, can challenge themselves to be both more personal and more direct when it comes to social justice or DEI-related topics. The time for anodyne is over.    

Opportunities for brand voices to rise to new occasions are not in short supply, and the future promises more of the same. When approaching topics like Juneteenth, look to your brand’s strategic fundamentals first, and if you don’t find what’s needed there, ask everyone you can why. All of us, and every brand, has a stake in, and responsibilities toward, Juneteenth -- learning from our past, and always seeking to improve our future.

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