• Never Grow Up

Employer Branding or Performative Activism? Here's The Difference


The last few years have seen a rise of movements for social change and justice, and many brands have tried to become a part of this in some way. With increasing social awareness amongst suppliers and consumers alike, it is no surprise that many companies have decided to take this step, and to visibilise their support on social media. This can, however, be counterproductive when it is not backed with genuine concrete action behind the scenes as well.


Before we get into how performative activism may have an adverse impact on your company’s reputation, let us understand what it really means. This term is used to mean activism that is “performed” or done to increase one’s social capital, notwithstanding the brand’s actual investment (monetary or otherwise) in the cause. Usually, it's meant to denote that the vocalisation of support for a cause is not followed up with any form of action, awareness dissemination or outreach initiative from within the company. The Asia-Pacific region has been witness to numerous cases of racism and sexism especially at the workplace itself. Whether it is underreported sexual harassment cases in Singapore, or racial insensitivity on the basis of skin colour, these issues are still widely prevalent and must be tackled with tact and a deep awareness. Diversity and inclusion strategies for any organisation are not just limited to aspects of race, gender, ableism, and sexuality, but need to also account for environmental and social inequities globally to ultimately make your employer brand well-rounded and authentic.


Surely, you’ve heard of the phrase “once online, it is on the internet forever.” With the availability of fast-paced tech facilities and the pervasive nature of social media, content now reaches your audience across state and national boundaries faster than ever. Combined with the ability to take screenshots or save images that can be traced back to your company’s official account, the digital realm holds employers accountable more than ever before. While accountability in and of itself isn’t a negative entity, when it is accompanied by inaction or inadequate action to improve the situation at hand, it can put your company in a vulnerable position, leading to a loss of customer faith, employee loyalty and overall credibility around the world. A sure-shot way of avoiding the heat is to make sure that your company practices what it preaches, or quite simply does not preach more than it practices.


Here are some ways you can make sure you put your best foot forward socially, whilst ensuring your brand remains unaffected:

  1. The most important thing to remember is that employees want to work for someone who genuinely cares about such issues. This works as an indicator for how considerate they would be as employers. The right kind of employer branding/talent branding can work wonders in capturing the interests of, and retaining high performing employees in your workforce.

  2. Making huge claims and promises without following up on them leads to reduced trust from employees. While it is important to aspire bigger and set future ideals for your company, it is also imperative to make them actionable, that is to create a set of short and long term goals to achieve the position you aim for.

  3. Another great way to engage and include your employees, and to make sure that they have a sense of being part of a positive movement for change, is to incorporate CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) into the engagement plan for your company. A comprehensive CSR strategy that involves your employees fosters a belief that you genuinely care for the causes you speak about, and that you are aligned with your people’s causes as well.

While activism and doing better for society is important, it’s imperative to make only those promises and statements that your brand can keep, and to set achievable goals for your company in the near future. This will help you stay on top of customer and employee expectations, whilst marking you as a relevant and responsible company. For a better, brighter future, it is important that organisations do as they say, while also remembering to say only what they truly do.