It has been three years since what many media outlets described as “the racial reckoning of 2020.” This was a time when we saw global brands from Sephora to Yelp release social responsibility statements and pledges to commit more resources to diversity, equity and inclusion in all areas of their business.
In 2023, brands continue to be held accountable by their customers—but the bar is higher.
Fifty-three percent of consumers say brands that issue statements in support of racial equality need to follow it up with concrete action, according to an Edelman report. The same research found that 42% of consumers have started or stopped using a brand because of its response to protests against systemic racism and racial injustice.
With their most significant stakeholders keeping an eye on them, many brands have maintained their commitment to combat racial injustice. They have also focused on strengthening their relationship with the Black community by partnering with Black creators and influencers and investing in Black talent to incorporate into their marketing campaigns.
In the process, cultural moments like Black History Month and Juneteenth have become a time of high demand for Black creators. While these celebrations of Black culture are essential, Black creatives are challenging brands to think beyond these moments and collaborate with them year-round. Some brands are leading the charge by creating initiatives and campaigns centered around content creation, storytelling and featuring Black talent.
3 brands working with Black creators beyond Black History Month
Late last year, HOORAE—a media company led by Issa Rae—announced its partnership with Walmart: The Black & Unlimited Digital Development Program. Nine Black creators were selected to amplify their content creation efforts by providing them with resources, tools, courses, and access to a network of executives to learn from. Additionally, each creator was offered a $10,000 stipend “to offset pay inequities traditionally experienced by Black creators and help them focus on limitless discovery and creation,” according to the company’s press release.
Since Issa Rae owns the company, it’s not surprising that amplifying Black voices is at the center of her work. That’s always who Issa Rae has been. Remember when she infamously stated that she was “rooting for everybody Black”? She meant that.
While the program is in its early stages, HOORAE and Walmart plan to make Black & Unlimted an ongoing and evolving initiative that will continue to dedicate its resources to Black creators.
2. HBO Max
HBO Max—the streaming service that brings us fan faves like The White Lotus, Euphoria, and House Of The Dragon (also known by Black Twitter as “House of Dragons”) has been dedicated to sharing Black stories on and off their platform. In September 2021, they launched their social-first community initiative: Scene In Black. Like Netflix’s Strong Black Lead, Scene In Black focuses on highlighting the Black talent, creatives and fans from all HBO titles.
Scene In Black also announced their “More Than A Month” campaign with one goal in mind—showcasing why Black stories deserve to be seen and heard beyond Black History Month. Finally, HBO Max became the official sponsor of The Creative Collective NYC’s CultureCon, an annual conference in Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta that aims to help Black creatives elevate their social network and make a real mark on culture.
In November 2020, TikTok began encouraging its consumers to shop Black-owned through its initiative: Support Black Businesses. Building on efforts to relieve Black small-business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, TikTok invited its users to participate in a #ShopBlack challenge. They asked creators to make videos that spotlight their favorite Black-owned businesses or share their stories as entrepreneurs. On TikTok, the hashtag now has over 97.2 million views.
In January 2021, TikTok introduced its incubator program: TikTok for Black Creatives. According to the press release, this program was designed to “invest in and support emerging Black creators and music artists on TikTok. The three-month program focuses on nurturing and developing 100 talented Black creators and music artists, helping to open doors for them to reach new heights in their careers.” TikTok has previously had issues with Black creators on the platform. Many reported that the company was suppressing their video content, and others also reported not receiving proper credit for viral trends, sounds or dances made by Black creatives. In light of these concerns, creators have stated that this program is a step in the right direction to getting Black TikTok creators equity and visibility on the platform.
How brands can partner with Black creators
Whether you’re building out a creator development program like HOORAE, amplifying Black stories and creatives like HBO Max, or supporting Black-owned businesses like TikTok, the opportunities to collaborate with Black creators are endless.
- If you’re not sure where to start, look within. Your brand’s Black employees will likely recommend their favorite Black creators and influencers. The best part is that if your organization is committed to actual diversity, equity and inclusion, you’ll find that their recommendations will differ. Sure—everyone will be Black, but they’ll also have different niches, community bases, content types and an array of life experiences. Some Black people are queer. Some Black people have disabilities. Some Black people are immigrants. With this in mind, you’ll be sure to have the chance to collaborate with creators who represent the Black community and beyond.
- When sharing Black stories, consider the tone. Often, brands tend to go the route of focusing on Black people’s oppression or struggles. While that is a part of many Black creators’ narratives, that doesn’t necessarily define who we are. There is beauty in Black joy, and to celebrate it is to acknowledge and honor it.
- Prepare your purse. Depending on the ask, you may need to set aside $500 – $2,500 per content creator. Pay transparency is more important than ever, which means creators are talking. Trust me. You don’t want to be the brand that lowballs a well-known creator in their community. That said, many creators, especially Black ones, are often unsure how much they should charge brands. Not only should you set the budget aside, but you should also advocate for the creators you want to work with. If you know that a creator you want to partner with is undervaluing themselves, tell them. That allows for pay equity throughout the entire creator economy and further folds these creators into your community.
Black creativity is what moves culture. If you’re not tapped in, now would be the time to do it.
Want to dig deeper? Read more about why diversity in marketing and social media is non-negotiable.