PR Hacks

The Era of Accountability: Navigating the Impact of 'Woke' and 'Cancel' Culture with PR

Bryce North
Founder/CEO
6 minutes
May 15, 2024

You've probably heard people throwing around terms like "woke" and "cancel culture" over the years, right? But what's the real deal with them? How do they impact the folks and brands we know and love? And why is it that having a solid public relations game plan is so darn crucial for keeping your reputation intact when things start to f*cking spiral out of control?


But first things first..


What the hell does “woke” and "cancel culture" mean?


Well, being "woke" basically means being aware of social issues like injustice and inequality. And then there's "cancel culture," which is all about calling out folks or companies for saying or doing stuff that's considered offensive. It's like giving them the cold shoulder (but on a massive scale) with people publicly withdrawing their support and even boycotting them on social media.


We've seen some big names caught up in this whirlwind. Take J.K. Rowling, for example. Her comments on transgender issues caused quite a stir back in 2020. Heck even stars from the Harry Potter series had something to say about it.


In today's social media-dominated landscape, voices once overlooked are finally getting the chance to be heard loud and clear. And guess what? It's never been easier to shine a spotlight on important issues that were once swept under the rug. With information spreading like wildfire across social media platforms, there's no hiding from the truth anymore! So, whether it's social justice, environmental concerns, or other pressing matters, the conversation is happening, and it's time to listen up and take action! 


So, why on earth should we even bother and care about all this stuff? Here’s the thing: Gen Z and Millennials these days are all about putting their money where their morals are. And if someone messes up, they won't hesitate to call them out and move on to someone else. To stay ahead of the damn game, brands (whether personal or not) need to have that “woke” attitude and get to know what matters to their audience. An awesome way to start would be to jump in and support social or environmental movements. By doing so, your brand can really make a difference by speaking up and getting involved in important causes and conversations.


How not to be tone deaf (the PR way) 


But here's the tricky part: you've got to strike the right tone and message without coming off as tone-deaf or out of touch. So, how do you pull that off? 


Listening to your audience is key: As a brand, staying in the loop with what's happening is key. Keep your finger on the pulse by tuning into what your customers are chatting about on social media. Dive into their posts, see what's got them buzzing, and understand what matters to them. Plus, tools like Google Analytics can help with your audience targeting strategy and give you a lot of important data about what's trending/hot among your audience.


Be genuine: Next, be genuine. Your brand values should shine through in everything you do. Trying to fake being "woke" just won't cut it because people can see right through that BS (bullsh*t). Remember Zara's ad campaign from last year? It missed the mark big time, coming off as tone-deaf and insensitive, especially given the timing of its launch during the Gaza conflict. Even though it was planned months earlier, customers still felt the sting. So, remember this: take a lot of things into consideration before doing something because things can turn sour in the blink of an eye. If it doesn’t reflect your values then it’s a big NO NO!

Make a difference: Lastly, make a real difference. It's not enough to slap a hashtag on social media about supporting a couple of social or environmental causes and call it a day. Netizens want to see action. They're looking for brands that go beyond the surface and actually make a difference. Whether it's chipping in for a good cause, lending a hand to marginalized communities, or greening up their act for the environment. If you're gonna jump on a cause, you better be ready to ride it out! 


Take sustainability, for example. It's more than just slapping a green label on your products; it's about embodying those values every step of the way. After all, who wants to be called out for greenwashing, right?


Now, let's switch gears and talk about crisis management. When everything's going haywire, you can't just stick your head in the sand and hope for the best. You need a rock-solid crisis management strategy to weather the storm and come out as less scathed as much as possible. Here’s why:


PR goes beyond crisis communications


FYI: Crisis communications is just a fraction of what PR entails, and yes, it can be costly. Also, many tend to overlook the fact that PR is not a quick fix but a long-term asset for storytelling (and not just when facing online scrutiny). 


If you find yourself without a crisis communications plan in your PR strategy and suddenly need help from some of the best pr agencies, be prepared to invest in their digital pr services. It's not just about the immediate assistance; it's about investing in your long-term reputation. So, when the storm hits, make sure you're armed with a solid strategy and a trusted online pr partner who can help you weather it with finesse. This way, you can harness PR's full potential effectively.


Crises require thoughtful and tailored approaches


Thinking you can just Google your way out of a crisis or pay some agency for a quick fix? Hate to break it to you, but it's not that simple! There's no one-size-fits-all solution for dodging the cancel culture bullet. Each situation is unique and needs a tailored and thoughtful approach.


Here’s the truth: Even though it might seem overwhelming to prepare for every possible crisis, it's actually a good idea to do so. Brands should have a crisis plan ready to go, outlining potential issues and the steps to swiftly and effectively communicate depending on what kind of trouble they got themselves into. 


Believe it or not, it's not as daunting as it sounds! With a solid plan in place, brands can stay ahead of the curve and tackle problems head-on. Take Hasbro, for instance. When they spotted an issue with their community chest cards, they didn't wait around for the cancel culture mob to come knocking at their door. Nope, they took action and tackled issues before they snowballed out of control. 


Combining both short-term and long-term strategies is essential


When a crisis hits, the timing of apology is everything! A prompt apology shows your brand acknowledges the gravity of the situation and is committed to resolving it. But hey, hit that "sorry" button too soon, without all the facts? Yeah, that could just make things messier. It's all about finding that perfect timing sweet spot, baby!


Now when it comes to crafting an apology, the words you choose and how you say them really matter as well. Keep it simple and sincere, avoiding jargon or defensive tones. And for heaven’s sake, don't brush off the problem, downplay the situation, or point fingers elsewhere if you’re in the wrong. That's a surefire way to make your apology fall flat. Instead, own up to the mistake and take responsibility. But it still depends on the situation, though. Accountability might differ depending on who's at fault. 


And oh, don’t even dare to forget that apologies aren't enough on their own! You've got to back them up with actions by laying out clear plans for fixing the issue and making sure it doesn't happen again. Without follow-throughs, your apology might come across as empty and insincere. 


Crises require time for recovery


Recovering from being canceled isn't a sprint; it's a marathon. It could take weeks, months, or even years to bounce back, but what matters is staying the course and keeping your audience in the loop. Updating them on your progress from time to time while sticking to your long-term trust-building initiatives is vital. That's the stuff that really gets people nodding in approval. When they see your brand owning up, striving to do better, and putting in the work to rebuild trust, it earns major respect. It's like saying, "Hey, we messed up, but we're here to make it right, bit by bit."



There you have it! If you’re in need of a strategic pr agency to help you navigate the stormy waters of cancel culture, look no further than Don’t Be A Little Pitch. We're here to be your trusted partners, guiding you through the choppy waters of public scrutiny. Whether it's crafting the perfect message or timing your response just right, we’ve got the expertise to handle it all. So, reach out to us today and let us put our PR prowess to work for you. Because when it comes to navigating rough seas, having seasoned PR pros by your side can truly make all the difference!

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