Giving Props: Google Honors Zora Neale Hurston

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Today marks the 123rd birthday of writer, folklorist, anthropologist and one of my heroes, Zora Neale Hurston.

Needless to say, I was completely stoked about it. I decided to devote my Facebook timeline to quotes, facts and reflections on Zora.

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And to top it all off, Zora Neale Hurston was trending in the US:

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(Shout out to @ErickaSimone for the screenshot.)

Remember a few days ago when I was talking about using social media to reach a Black audience? This is an example of a job well done. While Google may not have been targeting African Americans specifically, it was highlight a famous African-American woman writer that sparked conversation about Zora on Black Twitter and beyond.

Excellent work, Google. Let’s hope other brands take note.

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When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong

There’s one thing I love to see on social media, and that’s when brands respond to each other’s memes, jokes, and trending topics on Twitter. It shows a knowledge of your audience, attention to what competitors are doing and how they’re using social media, and a sense of humor – three things that every social media manager should have.

So when Hamburger Helper, a popular brand on Twitter, started using slang terms and memes popular with Black Twitter, my interest was piqued. At least at first.

Enter Denny’s. Around the time Beyonce did a surprise release of her new album, they posted this:

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Yeah, that happened. I thought it was cute and timely.

Then, Hamburger Helper came back. First, this:

Then, this:

Most recently, IHOP wanted in on it. They tried, but I gotta say that it didn’t quite work:

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This was a reference to Mystikal’s Shake it Fast….and it felt flat, if not for any other reason than the fact that they didn’t even shorten “pancakes” to “cakes.”

On the surface it looks like a couple of brands having fun – which is totally okay. But the problem I have is that they are clearly attempting to speak to a specific audience – an audience they assume are patronizing (and maybe can only afford) their brand. And yes, I would dare say – a Black audience.

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Do I think multicultural marketing and outreach is important? Absolutely, and I wouldn’t be in this field if I didn’t. But I do think that when marketing to people of color, you must understand that not every Black person (in this case) is the same and we certainly do not talk the same. 

That’s the issue I have with it. Not with brands responding to each other or having fun in general, but having fun at the expense of Black people, and talking the way they think Black people talk.

Cultural competency isn’t about adopting rap lyrics and using Black slang or ebonics to reach a Black audience – it’s about recognizing and understanding that Black people are not a monolith, and that we are multifaceted, and then taking that understanding and crafting your messages based around how diverse communities of color are. I hope in the future, brands learn the difference between cultural competency and straight up appropriation and stereotyping.

It’s been a long time…I shouldn’t have left you…

without a dope blog to step to…

I know, I know.

I’ve been away for a while. Happy new year.

A lot of things have happened since my last post. First, I’ve transitioned out of my position at the NAACP and I am now the Digital Campaign Manager at Center for Community Change. I will be doing digital strategy and capacity building for their new Economic Justice Campaign. I’m really excited and the work is really fun – as are the people I work with.

Second, I’m also the Women of Color Network Chair for the Women’s Information Network, a professional org for democratic pro-choice women. I’ll be publicizing our events on this blog so stay tuned!

Third, I had an awesome, awesome time at Rootscamp 2013. Hung out with some of my fave digital organizers and even went to a really amazing panel about what organizers can learn from Beyonce. 

Other than that, I’m going to try and update this blog every week or so in 2014. Hope your holidays were fantastic.