As Juneteenth gains widespread recognition and significance, it becomes crucial for companies to be attuned to the sentiments and expectations of their target audiences.
- Understand How Your Target Audience Thinks About Juneteenth and Prefers for You to Recognize It.
To effectively observe Juneteenth, businesses must first understand how their target audience thinks about the occasion and how they prefer it to be recognized. Some Blacks have grown up celebrating Juneteenth, while some are just becoming aware of the holiday. There are regional differences as well in the way people may celebrate Juneteenth. Last year, I worked with several retailers who wanted to understand Blacks in the context of Juneteenth and what themes resonated with them. Conducting thorough research and engaging in conversations with customers, employees, and community leaders can provide valuable insights. This approach ensures that the company’s Juneteenth’s initiatives align with the sentiments and expectations of their diverse stakeholders.
- Know the Mistakes Other Companies Have Made
My mom would tell me, “You don’t have to make all of the mistakes yourself; you can learn from someone else’s.” Learning from the mistakes of other companies is crucial when honoring Juneteenth. We have seen instances where well-intentioned efforts have fallen short due to insensitivity, rush, or lack of authenticity. A major retailer faced online backlash when they released a limited-edition red velvet-flavored Juneteenth ice cream. They were criticized for what appeared to be a rush to profit from the occasion without considering the broader historical and cultural context of the holiday. Similarly, a children’s museum had to swiftly remove its “Juneteenth watermelon salad” from its café menu after realizing that the use of watermelon could be deeply offensive. Despite watermelon’s history as a racial slur, the museum had not recognized the implications of its choice. By studying missteps, companies can avoid repeating them and strive for genuine and meaningful engagements. Companies should examine past controversies, such as commodifying Juneteenth, and take a proactive approach to address concerns. Self-awareness and sensitivity can foster an atmosphere of trust between the company and its stakeholders.
- So, How Can Companies Honor Juneteenth?
There are several ways that companies have been recognized for their efforts in honoring Juneteenth. Some companies have recognized the national holiday by:
- Giving their employees a paid holiday or incorporating the holiday in their pay structure (overtime for those who must work)
- Giving employees a paid day to volunteer
- Bringing in speakers to discuss the significance of Juneteenth
- Crafting communication campaigns around the Juneteenth holiday for their customers
- Fostering dialogue and education around Juneteenth by creating platforms and opportunities for open discussions, both internally and externally about the historical significance of Juneteenth and its relevance today.
- Actively engaging employees and customers with workshops and guest panels or curated content, to promote understanding and empathy
Companies should consider what is important to their target audience in crafting their communications instead of focusing on commodifying Juneteenth. Additionally, supporting Black-owned businesses, investing in diverse talent, and continuously advocating for racial equity are tangible ways for companies to demonstrate their commitment to the Black community beyond Juneteenth.
In conclusion, honoring Juneteenth goes beyond a mere symbolic gesture for companies. It requires a deep understanding of the target audience, learning from past mistakes, and actively engaging in dialogue and education. By implementing these strategies, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to racial equity and play a meaningful role in advancing social justice. Juneteenth serves as a reminder of the journey toward freedom and equality, and companies have a unique opportunity to engage with their customers on something that matters deeply to many.