Picture of Martin Luther King Jr. with Quote

It's Time to Start Being Better

January 18, 2021
  • Marketing

Ok, Marketers and People-Doing-Marketing-But-Its-Not-Your-Actual-Job (I see you. I used to BE you.), can I get super-real right now?

Monday, January 18th, is recognized as the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service here in the US, and by now, many of us already have a nice photo and inspirational quote ready to go for the day.

It’s good, do that.

The Reverend Doctor King Jr. led a movement that still inspires people around the world, and his words are as true today as they ever were (IMO).

But here’s what Marketers sometimes do: “HEY! That’s a cool quote, and it makes me sound smart, and people like smart companies, so HERE YOU GO WORLD! We know smart things!” And then we move on to the next task without a thought about how words that were meant to encourage real humans in a very real struggle for their lives and livelihoods might sound when we use them.

And don’t get me wrong. I WANT you to celebrate the legacy of the Rev. Dr. King. We just shouldn’t reduce his legacy to a bullet point on our Content Plans.

Total Transparency? This is a blog I’m writing to myself.

This week I had an idea (which is later than I should have been ideating for anything I wanted to do well) to write a blog post about the Rev. Dr. King Jr. and Servant Leadership, then use some of his quotes to connect to leadership strategies and I asked Alex, one of our awesome designers, to get the image you see on this page ready for me. 

That’s a solid idea, right? But as I stared at my screen and typed, then deleted, then typed again for way too long, I had to get real about why I was struggling.

I had this list of great quotes (Don’t worry, I’ll still share them.), but every time I tried to do that thing people do and re-interpret the Rev. Dr. King’s words to fit the article, this little voice in the back of my head said: “That’s not what he meant, and you know it.”

Woooo. It took my breath away.

No matter how hard I worked to justify it, fitting those words that mean so much to so many into a glib little listicle felt wrong. At a certain point, I had to admit that advice I had given my 13-year-old daughter - “If something feels like the wrong thing to do, it probably is.” - was right on the money.

It’s not right to take words meant to inspire real change in an unfair world and twist them to make our own points. Words have weight, and, at the very least, we owe it to our audience to weigh ours carefully and be the best stewards we can be of history.

So, where does that leave me? Well, part of the way down the page of a blog that’s mostly me yelling at myself, which, strangely, seems like progress.

But you deserve to take something useful away from this, so let’s talk about what I plan to do from here, and maybe there’s some good advice in there for you too.

So that’s my To-Do list. Maybe there’s something of value in it for you. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so drop by our Facebook Page and leave your comments if you have them.

Now, I promised you quotes, right?

In honor of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and out of respect for the legacy as a true Servant Leader, I’m happy to share some of his wise words with you. I hope they mean something to you. They do to me.:

(And this is the main source I used to find those quotes.)

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About the Author: Suzanne Campbell is the Brand & Content Manager on the Exclamation Services Marketing team and the self-proclaimed evangelist for Brand Voice. She picked up a lot of smart ideas from a lot of amazing people in her more than 20 years of experience and you can hear them on the Awsomology podcast.