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Pinterest pinned for gender discrimination: What you can learn from it

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) The latest settlement from Pinterest in a gender discrimination suit reminds business owners everywhere, no matter the size, to beware of creating or maintaining a hostile work environment.

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Women in a meeting around table, inclusion as a part of stopping gender discrimination.

Talk about a Pinterest fail! Only this time it’s not some artistic baker’s confection dream that ends up looking phallic, scatological, or like a melty nightmare. This is a $22.5 million settlement of a gender discrimination suit by former COO Francoise Brougher.

In the suit, Francoise Brougher alleges gender discrimination and a toxic workplace. She discovered she made less than her male colleagues and had a different, less favorable vesting schedule. In addition, Brougher charges, she was left out of meetings with other executives. When she spoke up about concerns with the way Pinterest was being run and about these differences, Brougher alleges, they fired her.

With the settlement, Pinterest admits no wrongdoing. Pinterest and Brougher agreed to jointly donate $2.5 million of the settlement to programs supporting women and underrepresented communities in tech. The remaining $20 million goes to Brougher and her attorneys. It’s a costly lesson, even for such a large tech company. Let’s consider the lessons here for smaller businesses.

Paying women less and excluding them from meetings they would normally attend are two examples of gender discrimination. In this particular case, Bougher states that the executive team held several meetings without her, meetings similar to those she’d previously attended and should, as COO of the company. Retaliation for reporting such discrimination is also illegal. Brougher claims Pinterest did both.

Gender discrimination can take many forms, and it may not always be intentional. Other times, it may be entrenched in a company’s culture, and will be more difficult to address. It is essential, however, for businesses to examine their own culture and pay attention to any red—or even yellow—flags they see through comments, complaints, and HR reports. Based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, companies employing 15 or more people, employers must not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, or national origin.

Employers, take note! In 2020, people are fed up and tired of accepting unequal opportunities and mistreatment. Check your culture, talk to your employees, examine your own behavior—especially anything resembling a pattern. Besides being a total jerk move and illegal, gender (and all other) types of discrimination is really bad for your business. Let’s look at how.

Who wants to work in a hostile work environment? Nobody! When discrimination occurs, it affects the targeted employee’s mental health and stress level, which alone is bad, but this can also lead to poorer physical health, meaning more sick days. If the offending person treats all members of a group (say, women) less respectfully or negatively, then that can lead to low employee morale. If the problem is culture-wide, expect morale and productivity to take a hit. People don’t do their best work or become content, loyal, productive employees in an environment of mistrust, inequality, and/or actual aggression.

Additionally, if word gets out, as it did in this case, both in Brougher’s lawsuit and her scathing article, “The Pinterest Paradox: Cupcakes and Toxicity,” the company’s reputation suffers. Current employees may feel shame, anger, or embarrassment. Something like this lawsuit may encourage others with grievances to come forward, and the company may be looking at more legal action.

Other employees may see this as a warning, and may start looking for work elsewhere, for a better work environment, more opportunity and equality, at a company with a better reputation. Additionally, a company with discrimination complaints and lawsuits against it will likely have a more difficult time recruiting quality talent, and may even make it onto a union or other black list of sorts.

Employers do not want that! And people don’t want to work where they aren’t valued! Valuing employees means so much more than what you pay them.

Employers, it’s worth investing the time to thoroughly examine your company for overt or unintentional discrimination. Brush up on the law, either by asking your HR team to provide a training, or by reading up on gender discrimination. Equalrights.org has put together this excellent Gender Discrimination at Work Guide that provides definitions, examples, the laws, employees’ rights, legal advice, and more. Employers and employees alike should read it and take note.

Pin this, Pinterest.

Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

Business Marketing

Marketing amidst uncertainty: 3 considerations

(BUSINESS MARKETING) As the end of the COVID tunnel begins to brighten, marketing strategies may shift yet again – here are three thoughts to ponder going into the future.

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Open business sign being held by business owner for marketing purposes.

The past year has been challenging for businesses, as operations of all sizes and types and around the country have had to modify their marketing practices in order to address the sales barriers created by the pandemic. That being said, things are beginning to look up again and cities are reopening to business as usual.

As a result, companies are looking ahead to Q3 with the awareness they need to pivot their marketing practices yet again. The only question is, how?

Pandemic Pivot 1.0: Q3 2020

When the pandemic disrupted global markets a year ago, companies looked for new ways to reach their clients where they were: At home, even in the case of B2B sales. This was the first major pivot, back when store shelves were empty care of panic shopping, and everyone still thought they would only be home for a few weeks.

How did this transition work? By building out more extensive websites, taking phone orders, and crafting targeted advertising, most companies actually survived the crisis. Some even came out ahead. With this second pivot, however, these companies will have to use what they knew before the pandemic, while making savvy predictions about how a year-long crisis may have changed customer behavior.

Think Brick And Mortar

As much as online businesses played a key role in the pandemic sales landscape, as the months wore on, people became increasingly loyal to local, brick and mortar businesses. As people return to their neighborhood for longer in-person adventures, brands should work on marketing strategies to further increase foot traffic. That may mean continuing to promote in-store safety measures, building a welcoming online presence, and developing community partnerships to benefit from other stores’ customer engagement efforts.

Reach Customers With PPC

Obviously brick and mortar marketing campaigns won’t go far for all-online businesses, but with people staying at home less, online shops may have a harder time driving sales. Luckily, they have other tools at their disposal. That includes PPC marketing, one of the most effective, trackable advertising strategies.

While almost every business already uses some degree of PPC marketing because of its overall value, but one reason it’s such a valuable tool for businesses trying to navigate the changing marketplace is how easy it is to modify. In fact, best practice is to adjust your PPC campaign weekly based on various indicators, which is what made it a powerful tool during the pandemic as well. Now, instead of using a COVID dashboard to track the impact of regulations on ad-driven sales, however, companies can use PPC marketing to see how their advertising efforts are holding up to customers’ rapidly changing shopping habits.

It’s All About The Platforms

When planning an ad campaign, what you say is often not as important as where you say it – a modern twist on “the medium is the message.” Right now, that means paying attention to the many newer platforms carrying innovative ad content, so experiment with placing ads on platforms like TikTok, Reddit, and NextDoor and see what happens.

One advantage of marketing via smaller platforms is that they tend to be less expensive than hubs like Facebook. That being said, they are all seeing substantial traffic, and most saw significant growth during the pandemic. If they don’t yield much in the way of results, losses will be minimal, but given the topical and local targeting various platforms allow for, above and beyond standard PPC targeting, they could be just what your brand needs as it navigates the next set of marketplace transitions.

The last year has been unpredictable for businesses, but Q3 2021 may be the most uncertain yet as everyone attempts to make sense of what normal means now. The phrase “new normal,” overused and awkward as it is, gets to the heart of it: we can pretend we’re returning to our pre-pandemic lives, but very little about the world before us is familiar, so marketing needs a “new normal,” too.

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Business Marketing

Advertising overload: Let’s break it down

(BUSINESS MARKETING) A new study finds that frequent ads are actually more detrimental to a brand’s image than that same brand advertising near offensive content.

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Advertising spread across many billboards in a city square.

If you haven’t noticed, ads are becoming extremely common in places that are extremely hard to ignore—your Instagram feed, for example. Advertising has certainly undergone some scrutiny for things like inappropriate placement and messaging over the years, but it turns out that sheer ad exhaustion is actually more likely to turn people off of associated brands than the aforementioned offensive content.

Marketing Dive published a report on the phenomenon last Tuesday. The report claims that, of all people surveyed, 32% of consumers said that they viewed current social media advertising to be “excessive”; only 10% said that they found advertisements to be “memorable”.

In that same group, 52% of consumers said that excessive ads were likely to affect negatively their perception of a brand, while only 32% said the same of ads appearing next to offensive or inappropriate content.

“Brand safety has become a hot item for many companies as they look to avoid associations with harmful content, but that’s not as significant a concern for consumers, who show an aversion to ad overload in larger numbers,” writes Peter Adams, author of the Marketing Dive report.

This reaction speaks to the sheer pervasiveness of ads in the current market. Certainly, many people are spending more time on their phones—specifically on social media—as a result of the pandemic. However, with 31% and 27% of surveyed people saying they found website ads either “distracting” or “intrusive”, respectively, the “why” doesn’t matter as much as the reaction itself.

It’s worth pointing out that solid ad blockers do exist for desktop website traffic, and most major browsers offer a “reader mode” feature (or add-on) that allows users to read through things like articles and the like without having to worry about dynamic ads distracting them or slowing down their page. This becomes a much more significant issue on mobile devices, especially when ads are so persistent that they impact one’s ability to read content.

Like most industries, advertisers have faced unique challenges during the pandemic. If there’s one major takeaway from the report, it’s this: Ads have to change—largely in terms of their frequency—if brands want to maintain customer retention and loyalty.

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Business Marketing

7 simple tips to boost your customer loyalty online

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Without a brick-and-mortar store, building rapport and customer loyalty can be a challenge, but you can still build customer loyalty online.

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Man and woman at kitchen table online shopping on laptop together, boosting customer loyalty.

With many businesses – both big and small – operating online, there are less opportunities for building those face-to-face relationships that exist in brick and mortar stores. According to smallbizgenius, 65% of the company’s revenue comes from existing customers.

It’s important to keep in mind the different tactics at your disposal for increasing customer loyalty. Noupe recently released a list of actionable tips for increasing this loyalty. Let’s examine these ideas and expand on the best.

  1. Keep your promises – Stay true to what you’ve agreed to, obviously contractually, but stay true to your company values as well. Even if you feel you’ve built a good loyalty where there is room to take a step back, don’t rest on your laurels and be sure to remain consistent. If you’ve provided a good experience, keep that going. The only change that should happen is in it getting better.
  2. Stay in communication – In addition to the ever-so-vital social media platforms, consider creating an email newsletter to stay in touch with your customers. Finding ways to have them keep you in mind should be at the front of your mind. By reaching out and being friendly, this will help retain their business.
  3. Be flexible with payments – No, don’t sell yourself short, but consider installment plans for pricier items or services. This will help customers feel more at ease when their wallet’s health is at stake.
  4. Reward programs – Consider allowing customers to accrue loyalty points in exchange for a freebie. The old punch card method is still an incredibly popular concept, and is a great way to keep people coming back. The cost associated with giving something away for free will be minimal in comparison to loyalty you receive in order for the customer to get to that point. Make sure that what a customer is putting in is about equal to what they’re getting out of it (i.e. don’t have a customer spend $100 in order to get $1 off their next purchase). If all of this proves successful, this can eventually be expanded by creating VIP levels.
  5. Prioritize customer service – A first impression is everything. By prioritizing customer service, you can help shape the narrative of the customer and how they view your business. This splinters off into them giving good word of mouth recommendations to friends and family. Be sure to keep positive customer service as the forefront of your mind, as giving a bad review is just as easy – or even easier – as giving a good review.
  6. Value feedback – Allow customers a space to provide their feedback, either on your website or on social media. Find out what brought them to you and gage how their experience was. Be sure to thank them for their feedback and take it into consideration. Feedback – both good and bad – can be vital in helping shape a business.
  7. Avoid laziness – Stay sharp at all times. Don’t treat all customers as nothing but currency. Include personalized touches wherever you can. This will make all of the difference.

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