Q5: Beyond the hashtag with Ingrid Lotze & Gavin Moffat [interview]
by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Ingrid Lotze (@ingridlotze) and Gavin Moffat (@gavinmoffat) — the co-founders of communication training, reputation management and brand development agency, join.the.dots Academy, and who are also behind transformation and gender diversity and inclusion agency, Hers&His — weigh in on the way we talk about social justice, and what brands can do to help.
Q5: You’ve said we need to think about the use of hashtags in communication around gender-based violence. Could you explain?
Ingrid Lotze: From a branding and marketing campaign perspective, hashtags are a great idea because they’re easy to understand, can be a driving force for a cause or idea and can gain great momentum and traction. The challenge is that there needs to be action and progress behind the hashtag. Many a social activist posts comments and hashtags from the comfort of their home without actually making a real contribution to the cause they support.
When we drill down into specific hashtags, the invitation is to think twice about concepts and ideas that are being promoted with a hashtag. #MenAreTrash is a good example. Words matter, and they can hurt. This hashtag is hurtful to men and blames the man, not the behaviour. If we keep blaming and “othering”, we’re not going to find solutions to the diversity and inclusion challenges the world is facing, let alone the issues related to gender-based violence in South Africa. When we communicate in any form, on any platform, I would encourage everyone to think about their intention and the potential impact.
If the intention is to build gender equality, then #MenAreTrash will not have the desired impact. All it will do is bring up defensiveness and shut down co-operation between genders.
Q5: Would it be accurate to say you encourage “talk-out” rather than “call-out” culture, ie conversations, rather than accusations, when it comes to working through certain societal issues?
Gavin Moffat: Yes, we encourage a “talk-out” rather than “call-out” culture, and I’m tempted to create the hashtag #TalkOutNotCallOut — but we’ll stick to the argument that hashtags are a tiny part of the big pie.
The most-common way of telling someone you don’t like what they are doing is referred to as Calling OUT. The call-to-action to people is to Call IN. When we call people IN, we come from a place of curiosity and openness with an intention of listening and talking with an open heart and mind.
Calling someone IN (or Talk-Out) starts with a genuine question that checks on the facts about the other person’s actions/words rather than jumping to our own biased conclusion. When we call in, we listen to hear, not listen to respond with your next good retort. With the aid of genuine curiosity and calm and considered communication, we invite the person into our perspective and explore if there is a different way to see things for both of us — knowing that consensus may not happen.
Calling IN allows for connection through dialogue and exploration rather than disconnection through blaming and shaming, which is what calling OUT does. That being said, we do find that occasionally calling OUT is needed as a response to something said or done.
Q5: When it comes to issues of social justice, do you think it’s possible for brands to be neutral?
IL: There is always an argument for and against standing for social justice, and research tells us that corporates/brands who take a stand against injustice, in the right way, with purposeful and carefully thought-through actions and communication, can:
- Build trust
- Increase exposure
- Build loyalty by associating the brand with a purpose
It is important to remember the words of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Having said that, if you are not an authentic brand, you’re not going to engage with your customers. If you don’t walk the talk, you’re going to lose customers.
If you do not take a stand for the things that are important to your customers, you [run] the risk of them believing that you are only in it for the cash. If you are building a sustainable brand, your intention should be to walk the journey with the people who do business with you.
Q5: What can brands actually do to help make society a more-positive, -progressive place?
GM: It is not actually a brand’s job to change the world; it is their job to do the business, and yet this doesn’t mean that they must do nothing. It means that they must ensure that they are making an impact on society in a positive and progressive way that makes the space for all other stakeholders, including each individual, to make a positive difference in society. Everyone can contribute.
To start, brands can:
- Look at the customers
- See what they are struggling with and the issues they are facing
- Stand for what they need — or part of what they need
- Stand for social justice
- Run corporate initiatives internally and externally
- Continually ask: “How can I make a difference?”
Q5: What is one thing adland on the whole can do to help the gender equality cause today?
IL: There isn’t just one thing, but there are many easy, small things that can make a big impact on gender equality.
- Remain curious. Your unconscious bias is just that — unconscious — and it is a blind spot, so check and recheck your intention with everything you’re planning on doing and vigorously test the possible impact with various parts of your target audience.
- Dismantle biased and stereotypical representations that perpetuate harmful gender norms.
- Use gender-neutral language in all documentation and communication — always.
- Did we mention #BeCurious? It is through curiosity that we explore, learn and shift behaviour.
- The change can’t be achieved overnight but every brand and individual can contribute to gender equality and the data is clear — empowered women transform societies. There is no reason not to do the work.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with over decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her regular column “Q5” hones in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with inspiring professionals in diversive fields.