sea of diverse faces

#SSU2020 Speaker Q&A: Okayplayer’s Alanna Bass on Communicating in a Charged Climate

By: Sophie Maerowitz

September 28, 2020

With The Social Shake-Up virtual show on the horizon, we’re giving readers and soon-to-be attendees a chance to know this year’s speaker roster. The Social Shake-Up cast is composed of marketing and communication professionals who manage social media messaging at top brands and nonprofits, from AAA to UPPAbaby.

Alanna Bass, Social Media Director, Okayplayer

In this interview, we introduce Alanna Bass, social media director at Okayplayer, a music and entertainment website with a focus on Black storytelling. Bass will speak to communicating with diverse audiences in the current political and social climate as part of our exclusive on-demand speaker series.

For a deep dive into social media content creation, strategy and measurement, register today for The Social Shake-Up, which runs Sept. 29-Oct. 1 (sessions and keynotes), with video presentations available on-demand following the conference.

Social Shake-Up: Okayplayer recently rebranded. How do you relaunch a brand in such a tumultuous year? How did your plans change mid-stream?

Our relaunch was planned way before 2020 began to spiral out of control and our first pivot was based upon COVID-19. Live events, parties, and produced videos are a major part of our brand so we had to find creative ways to reach our audience online. We took small steps like quietly rolling out new branding on socials and switching to digitally based solutions for the larger relaunch plans we had.

We also revamped older programming so it would work on our social media channels. A produced video series called “Moments With” became “Chill n Chat”: A conversation on Instagram Live between a member of the OKP team and a special guest. Since the beginning of COVID, we’ve hosted musicians, producers, actors, and industry changemakers. “Okay Acoustic” became “Okay at Home Acoustic”.

This also gave us an opportunity to try new programming like “Artist to Artist” and special programming available to a smaller audience on Zoom.

However, once the world learned of George Floyd amidst the murders of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, we had to take a bigger step that protected both the victims and our audience.

Under the leadership of our Editor in Chief Rachel Hilsop, Okayplayer no longer distributes images of brutality on any of our platforms. Too often social media is flooded with graphic images of Black bodies in their final moments or in pain. At OKP, we are honoring these victims with positive images. In addition to that shift, we make sure to keep our audience updated on any new information that comes out about these various cases.

These decisions are a manifestation of our dedication to our culture and community.

Social Shake-Up: How do you balance retaining your core audience and attracting new ones while staying true to your brand mission?

Okayplayer’s first love will always be music, but music is just one portion of “the culture.” Our social platforms have tapped into important and timely conversations about politics, social justice, gender and more while threading in a musical element when possible. We’ve covered the NBA/WBNA strikemusicians seen at protests around the countryunderrated women in the rap industryvoter registration and more.

Okayplayer is committed to defining and amplifying the voices of creators, contemporaries and the people they inspire so expanding our coverage to new and exciting topics directly aligns with our mission.

Social Shake-Up: How can brands that are not as specifically tied to one culture incorporate more diverse storytelling while remaining authentic to their brand?

If a brand wants to expand their audience to encompass a different culture it’s incredibly important that they work with someone from that culture. And it should be a part of their initial strategy and not an afterthought.

I think a perfect example is the sudden shift to working with Black creators immediately after the first wave of worldwide protests in June. It felt like an afterthought and many people called brands out for their performative gestures.

Diverse storytelling is incredibly important and is a great way to expand audiences and connect people. At the end of the day this push for diverse storytelling should align with your brand’s mission. However, brands should know when not to insert themselves into conversations that do not align with their mission. It can be a mistake for a brand to jump into a trending topic just because it’s trending.

If you are trying to decide whether your brand should attempt to reach out to a new audience or jump into a trending conversation, keep these things in mind:

  1. Have a long-term strategy in mind. Don’t just reach out to an audience because it’s trendy.
  2. Is there someone on your team that is a member of the audience you’re trying to reach? This person should either spearhead the plan or be a main stakeholder that can hold other team members accountable.
  3. Think before jumping into a trending conversation that doesn’t align with your overall brand mission or strategy. There are so many conversations happening on the internet at one time so find one that is authentic and makes sense for your brand, and make sure your goal is more thoughtful than simply trying to reach a larger audience.

At The Social Shake-Up