20 May 2024

Brands beware: awareness weeks and managing corporate reputation

Bold Thinking Series

Leah Fullalove, Account Director

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and this year’s campaign theme was “Movement: Moving more for our mental health”. I am a firm believer in the power and importance of regular movement to help protect our mental health – from the extreme to the more leisurely activity. And I strongly believe businesses should do more to enable employees to move more throughout the working week to encourage positive mental health.  

So, it was great last week to take part in open conversations and activities with the Boldspace team around the importance of good mental health and encouraging a more transparent environment at work. While we did host movement sessions, discussions, and wore green to help raise money for the Mental Health Foundation, supporting mental health is something that Boldspace takes seriously all year round. 

Awareness days/months like this, and wider cultural moments, are good opportunities to help raise greater understanding and positive recognition for important causes. It’s during these times that we see brands increase their voice on these topics, launching marketing campaigns and new initiatives/products internally and externally. However, often these communications can be seen as inauthentic and as a tick box exercise, if they are not backed with genuine action, which carries with it reputational risk.  

Research in October 2023 by MHR found that eight in 10 employees do not believe their workplace when they promote their wellbeing initiatives. I suspect part of the reason why this figure is so high is because their employers push hard on such initiatives during a key moment, such as Mental Health Awareness Week, but don’t create an always-on culture of support. This has the potential to breed resentment and mistrust amongst employees if the company doesn’t have the policies year-round to match what they’re claiming or saying externally.  

With awareness weeks like this happening throughout the year, a brand that wants to engage must do so with genuine action, rooted in purpose and should not approach it as a one-off opportunity to create a good-looking headline. People can see through fake claims and if brands are not thoughtful in their approach, they could soon be making headlines for all the wrong reasons.  

This shouldn’t prevent businesses in joining the conversation and showing support during awareness moments – but they must ensure they are aware of their duty to provide tangible action and be aware of the risks if not done properly. 

The challenge is set. When the dust settles on moments like Mental Health Awareness Week, it should not and must not be the end. Quite the opposite. The support brands claim to offer during these moments now needs to be delivered and visible all year round.