I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the state of the world recently, as I’m sure many of us are in light of the events of 2020 and (now) 2021. Misinformation. Mass illness. Continued systemic racism and misogyny. Insurrection. Debates on the limits of free speech. There’s so much going on, but for the first time in several months, I finally feel like I’m able to start to process my thoughts and feelings on these topics. I’m moving beyond my initial phase of, “Okay, is this real life?” to put my thoughts and perspectives on all these things in some sort of order. The thought that has kept me going more than any other has been that I really want to “make a difference,” naïve as this may sound. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur about the scale of this difference – but I think that if I can do something that leaves a positive, lasting effect on my family, friends and the communities that I’m a part of, that would bring me the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve done something small to make the world a slightly more livable place right now.
The big question, though, is how to do that. And the answer I’ve come up with is that I feel it is extremely important to take a stand for what I believe in, and take this stand across all areas of my life. I’m fortunate enough that I have a business and team that I can immediately start that process with, not only to make a small difference in the communities my business is a part of, but to also inspire the people I work with- clients, team members and partners- to consider their responses to this moment (and beyond).
Careful Feet Digital is a digital marketing agency and on the face of it, what we do probably isn’t so different from what thousands of other agencies and freelancers do every day. We assist businesses, mostly small ones, with all sorts of digital marketing needs. Our intention, however, is unique. What we’re doing is helping people find and share their voice online, which is not only super empowering, but directly connected with the livelihoods of business owners and employees of these businesses. Whether the business is a side hustle, one man band, scaling startup or established company, we give these organizations and their employees a way to share their brand voice and message online. This helps them grow their businesses, their incomes, their dreams, their families, their very livelihoods. That means something.
It also raises questions about our responsibility in light of ongoing debates about the use of digital technologies to spread information, as well as the discussions around whether big tech is actually limiting freedom of speech, or simply enacting its user policies. We assist clients with paid advertising on platforms where a few people, with the click of a few buttons, can shut down an account forever. We help people put together strategies to share and spread their messages, and while we are proud to say we only work with people and businesses that align with our values – transparency, honesty and integrity being a few of them – these same strategies have been used for insidious purposes by others.
As a result, since we work in this arena, we are in some way or another responsible at the very least for the proliferation of information around the internet. As digital experts, we also know how to best position content to be consumed by the most people; we don’t wield this power for nefarious purposes, but it’s something we should acknowledge more than we do. We also rely just as heavily on big tech for our jobs. Given that our services are inextricably linked with these platforms, this makes any full-throated condemnation of it a little hypocritical.
So, I believe we have a responsibility to share what we are doing to ensure that we are part of the solution, not the problem. That said, it is a complex and complicated situation that still deserves a lot of thinking and perspective. If you have any feedback or thoughts, I think I can speak for the whole team when we say: we are all ears!
Here’s what I’ve considered so far:
- We are committed to building an international team. Careful Feet Digital is made up of 14 team members, spread out across 4 continents, with 9 nationalities represented. It is very important to us to invite a multiplicity of viewpoints and perspectives to every decision and conversation in our company – and in our client work. Further, we empower each team member, which has their own networks, to use their own voices to stand up for what they believe in through donation matching, paid volunteerism and group meetings where we share details about the causes that matter most to us.
- Being an expert is a big deal. We live in an age where expertise has been denigrated and cheapened, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Our team has over 100 combined years of marketing experience, and that’s a lot. The skills that we bring to the table make us great at what we do, but we also have the perspective of how what we do can change perceptions, decisions, lives and, ultimately, the direction of the world. Perhaps this sounds grandiose, but just look at the number of people who believe QAnon (the US-based conspiracy theory that Donald Trump is single handedly facing a cabal of evil that rules the world) is true, and tell me this can’t be the case with a well thought out digital campaign. This is why we take what we do extremely seriously. For those who have much, much is expected.
- We stand up for what we believe in, even when it’s really hard. Transparency, honesty and integrity are at the core of our company values, which means that we share our views even if we’re worried about the backlash. This doesn’t make us “political” or even “activist.” We are simply aligned with what we are about. We can still be professional and work with clients across markets and industries, but that doesn’t mean we won’t stand up to what we believe in and speak out if we feel that something isn’t aligned with that.
While this reads a bit like a manifesto, that’s not the intention. It is intended to get you to ask yourself: What do I stand for? Where can I spread my light, my voice and my values, either personally or through my business? And how can that, even in some small way, change someone’s hour, day, month, year or life? Like anything, any kind of change starts small, and it starts with the intentional planting of a seed: your intentions and your values. I’m planting my seed by sharing this and allowing myself to be open to being held accountable for following my own words (and to feedback if you feel anything here is missing, off or could be improved).
We wish for you a safer, healthier 2021: may you find your voice and feel empowered to share it. We need a collective rising of voices right now to stand up for what they believe in, and we’ll be right next to you sharing ours.