How to Talk About Derek Chauvin’s Sentencing

The result of Derek Chauvin’s sentencing Friday for the murder of George Floyd could range from probation to 40 years behind bars. 

Organizations contemplating communicating about the sentencing should consider the following guidelines:

  • Employee well-being comes first. In the event the sentence is widely criticized, anticipate intense emotions. Provide time away from work to allow individuals to focus on their mental health. Create space for dialogue.
  • Carefully weigh the benefits and risks of any communication. What are the goals? Who is the audience? Who is the messenger? What is the track record of communication and action on criminal justice since George Floyd’s murder last year, and how do they align with the organization’s purpose and values? If no track record exists, avoid commenting on the sentencing. 
  • Assess whether other social or political issues are trending and which the organization may be expected to speak out on. Consider the precedent and implications of reacting to one moment but not another. 

Organizations that decide to move forward with communication should:

  • Scenario plan for potential outcomes.
  • Convey respect for and sensitivity to the experiences of the people and communities most impacted by continuous acts of violence and injustice.
  • Avoid one-off statements lacking substantive commitment to lasting, positive change.
  • Involve the right teams in decision-making and engagement, including DEI officers, HR teams, legal, corporate social responsibility and employee affinity groups.

In statements, companies should:

  • AVOID criticizing the sentence, legal process, key players in the trial, Minneapolis, Minnesota or other municipalities.
  • AVOID sweeping statements about the sentence’s legal precedent.
  • AVOID partisan language without considering the implications of political engagement.
  • AVOID incendiary language that might be misconstrued as a call to arms or action.

Instead:

  • FOCUS on centering the feelings and experiences of affected individuals and communities.
  • FOCUS on clarifying the organization’s purpose, mission and values and including tangible examples of how it turned commitments into action.
  • FOCUS on building trust with stakeholders.