Ada Slivinski: People notice when businesses use all the right hashtags, but don’t walk the walk.
Authentic and transparent communication has never been more important than now. With the public increasingly aware of businesses who preach one thing and practice another when it comes to racial profiling and discrimination, private text messages and conversations with employees that don’t align with the company line are fair game for public scrutiny.
The case of Vancouver Candle Co. is one of the most cringe-inducing examples. The company posted an image of a black fist with the pantone colour name “Human Being” along with the Martin Luther King Jr. quote “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
The comments came fast and furious, listing examples of one of the company’s owners acting to the contrary. One posted screenshots of texts, later confirmed to be from Nick Rabuchin, one of Vancouver Candle Co’s owners, using racist slurs and uttering threats against past employees.
In the resulting social and traditional media frenzy, Rabuchin apologized, but when the public pressure didn’t let up, he resigned.
It didn’t end there. Shops both small and large promptly started boycotting the brand, cancelling purchase orders and ending long-standing sales relationships. Influencers the company had previously hosted at launch events and sent product to posted their disgust. One let her son deface a candle and posted the photo to social media.
It’s a blow this local company may not fully recover from. While this may be the most pronounced recent example, many other companies have been pressured to apologize and pivot their policies around systemic racism.
Dating app Grindr has removed their ethnicity filter for search results. Home and clothing brand Anthropolgie has made a vague public statement after allegations surfaced that the store instructed staff to follow and watch black shoppers. It’s likely this isn’t the last we’ll hear on this subject.
The lesson for business owners is to get their own house in order. Social media posts need to match actions. Businesses are built on relationships with people, and when those people can’t trust you, the castle crumbles.
Whether or not you posted a black square or muted your social media for a week, it’s a crucial time to examine past actions and be your own harshest critic. Learn about implicit bias and systemic racism and work honestly to root it out.
The tides are shifting; businesses who don’t walk the walk risk losing their public. And in this fight, it seems everything is fair game.
Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ada Slivinski last wrote about “Covid fees” as a tightrope for businesses to navigate.
- Grocers have moved away from hero pay for their frontline staff. Industry analyst Sylvain Charlebois looks at why.
- Blair King trains people how to properly and safely use PPE. Here’s how (and when, and where) to wear gloves.