Brands That Went for Substance Over Stunts Won International Women’s Day

by Belfort Group | Launch PR
March 14, 2018


The Internet dragged companies that celebrated International Women’s Day with PR stunts instead of solid corporate policy

The Internet isn’t perfect but one virtue will always remain -social media users unmask disingenuous B.S. and call it out. Hard.
That was the case when companies the world over published content in recognition of International Women’s Day. Between #MeToo and #TimesUp, it’s no secret this year’s International Women’s Day was being watched more closely than ever. That’s something any brand putting out IWD content should have recognized and been prepared to handle.

Some companies like Nike, which aired a powerful spot featuring Serena Williams, and Ethiopian Airlines, which assembled an all-female flight crew for the company’s maiden voyage to Argentina, came through in the clutch. And the New York Times acknowledged its lackluster track record of featuring prominent female obituaries in favor of droves of white men, and announced the creation of “Overlooked” – a section devoted to chronicling the achievements of accomplished women.
But while these brands performed admirably, others dropped the ball in spectacular fashion – and paid the price for it on social media.

McDonald’s made a splash when more than 100 locations turned the brand’s signature golden arches upside down to form a “W.” But the Internet was quick to point out female McDonald’s workers take home poverty level wages, and the company has historically ignored complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The result? Tweets like these:

But the fast food giant wasn’t the only one who found themselves in hot water on Twitter. In fact, Twitter itself was the focus substantial criticism.

While the social media platform created a stirring video accompanied by the hashtag #HereWeAre that featured strong women speaking out, Twitter has long been plagued by prominent women being verbally abused with little to no consequences or ideas for making it a safer space. Many women received so much online vitriol and harassment that they left the platform altogether – a fact which was not forgotten by its users.

And then there’s President Donald Trump – a man who tweeted about International Women’s Day despite being a self-professed grabber of women who has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual harassment. You can imagine how Trump’s “Happy #InternationalWomensDay tweet went over with some of his detractors.

The main point here is authenticity matters.

If you’ve got a terrible track record when it comes to dealing with sexual harassment or failing to pay women a living wage, it’s not going to help your brand when you try to cast yourself as an ally to women on International Women’s Day. In fact, it’s going to backfire spectacularly and earn you some well-deserved ridicule for paying cursory lip service for the day instead of taking actions that actually matter.

So how did our agency, a woman-owned business, pay tribute to International Women’s Day? Simple – we made our client’s channels all about women instead of about the brand.

In our work with the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Admissions Department, we identified accomplished female students, faculty, and alumnae and coordinated cross-promotion of their Women’s Week content. Then we created graphics and videos for the Admissions social channels featuring Sloan women, and amplified their messages for a full 24 hours.

The result was a true community effort with students, faculty, alumni, and student groups and organizations creating and sharing content solely focused on the women of MIT Sloan. The goal is for prospective students to see the school’s concerted effort to recruit more women, while showcasing all the great people and opportunities that await them should they apply.

Authenticity matters. Always.

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