October in the UK marks the celebration of Black History Month. For internal communicators this is an opportunity to share knowledge with their organisation and celebrate their colleagues.
However, there have been good and bad examples of organisations doing that. Which is why we’re sharing five things you need to consider when communicating Black History Month.
Today’s guest post has been written for All Things IC by Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua. Beatrice partners with organisations that are doing good for the world to inspire and motivate internal and external audiences through stories. She has been featured on the BBC and Talk Radio and her clients refer to her as a “storytelling champion.” You can find out more about Beatrice via her website www.kabutakapua.com.
I’m looking forward to seeing her at The Big Yak unconference on Saturday. Thank you Beatrice for writing this article for my blog.
I’ll hand you over…
Five things to consider when Communicating Black History Month
It’s never too late to start celebrating Black History Month.
When organisations tell me they don’t celebrate Black History Month or they have never done it before or even that they don’t have a strong Black legacy within their organisation, I get it. I also started celebrating Black history and the histories of underrepresented groups, late.
And celebration meant something different every time: sometimes it was about reading a book like “My Black Stars” by Lilian Thuram; other times it was about going to a Black Opera singers concert in London.
What all of these moments have in common is that they enriched me with stories.
Stories can teach, celebrate, inform and inspire. And they can be brought into an organisation. Which is why my professional title is “business storytelling coach and consultant”: I partner with organisations to use stories to remind employees why they do what they do.
As a communicator for your organisation, you can share the stories that matter to your team, that can inspire them.
But what should you consider when communicating those stories during Black History Month?
I could make it this a very long list but the truth is that you only need to focus on the following five things.
- Black History Month is a “we” celebration not a “them” celebration
While Black History Month was created in the US in 1923 to celebrate and remember the history of Black people, within your organisation it’s not just about Black people. Your organisation is like a family. And families celebrate together. Hence, when communicating Black History Month, celebrate Black employees but avoid creating the “we” vs “them” narrative. For instance, when creating content, don’t single out anyone but rather show how you all connect to each other through shared values.
- Black History Month is as a chance to reiterate the organisation values, mission and purpose
The number one rule of business storytelling is: stories need to be followed by actions. So when you are celebrating Black History Month don’t just stop to sharing stories. Instead, explain why it’s important to do that, remind your colleagues what are the values of the organisation that make it so that every single person needs to be celebrated. Go back to the mission and purpose of the organisation, how does this reflect in the way you communicate Black History Month?
- Share stories rather than data
It’s very easy to fall into the temptation of sharing data about how the organisation is doing in terms of diversity and inclusion. And that’s because data gives us the impression that we are measuring something. Also, collecting stories takes longer and I understand you are already busy. But stories activate our happiness hormones, they grab attention and are easier to retain.
- Communicating Black History Month it’s about passing the mic
Black History Month is a great opportunity to pass the mic to your colleagues. Let’s be clear, is not about requiring your Black colleagues to share something at all costs. Passing the mic looks like an invitation to your colleagues. Ask them if they’d like to share their views, experiences, stories. Check yourself if they say no. And if they agree, it’s time to move to the next step.
- If you only do one thing for Black History Month let it be listening
As Celeste Hadlee shared during her Ted talk, we often listen to respond. What if we listened to understand instead? Your colleagues might share something that’s not happy and positive. Which is great, because that means that:
- Your company culture allows you to share your thoughts openly;
- You can now bring this information to your leaders to make room for improvement.
Black History Month is also a chance to check in with our organisation and make sure that values are aligned with the internal actions.
What to do next
I know you want to celebrate Black History Month in a way that is meaningful and inclusive. But the problem is you haven’t had time to plan, your organisation doesn’t have a strong Black legacy and you are afraid you are not going to get it right. I understand.
You deserve to celebrate Black History Month without the uncertainty and long planning.
Which is why I have spent the past months working on a solution that will help you to speedily, effectively and inclusively plan your Black History Month events.
Here is what you need to do:
- Complete this brief questionnaire to express your interest;
- Take part in one of our sessions;
- Run your Black History Month with ease.
Thank you Beatrice, I hope you found this article helpful if you’ve been thinking through what to communicate this month.
Don’t forget the Diversity in PR conference is taking place next week. See A Leader Like Me website for more information and don’t forget to use the code ATIC10 at the checkout to save 10%.
Can’t attend live? You’ll be able to watch a replay.
Further reading: Have we made progress on diversity in PR?
Further reading via the All Things IC blog
- Black History Month: a Comms and inclusion case study – by Lia Crooks
- Podcast: Being Candid about inclusion – featuring Amrit Nijjar
- How to start a conversation about racism and unconscious bias – by Gihan Hyde
- Guidance from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
Thank you for stopping by
Post author: Beatrice Kabutakapua.
First published on the All Things IC blog 7 October 2021.