PR Insights From Nielsen’s ‘Black Consumers Report’

By: Cedric F. Brown, APR
Feb. 1, 2020
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Whether or not your organization directly serves black Americans, Black History Month in February is an excellent time to affirm (or reaffirm) your commitment to diversity and inclusion. 

If you’re unsure how to go about recognizing the contributions and importance of black Americans to your organization, many resources exist that provide insights into what we want, what we need and how we expect organizations to build relationships with us. 

In September 2019, Nielsen released "It’s in the Bag: Black Consumers’ Path to Purchase." Nielsen has published similar reports since 2011, as part of its “Diverse Intelligence Series.” Although the report looks specifically at data about how black Americans consume media and products, some insights can be gleaned from it for PR purposes.

To build mutually beneficial relationships with black publics, here are some things from the report to keep in mind:

Understand that representation matters.

Findings from the Nielsen report demonstrate the importance of representing black Americans in your brand messages. Featuring black celebrities in media campaigns can have a powerful effect on other black Americans, for example. In Nielsen’s survey, 55 percent of black respondents agreed with the statement that seeing celebrity faces makes them feel “really good.” 

Support one another.

Beyond the influence of celebrities, black Americans are gravitating toward opportunities to support black-owned businesses. Directory apps such as “Official Black Wall Street” and “I Am Black Business” are helping to facilitate this trend, and Nielsen’s research finds that black adults frequently use apps focused on finances and corporate information.

Nielsen also reported that when black Americans support organizations, 42 percent of them expect those organizations to champion social causes that have the greatest impact on their communities compared to just 16 percent of the overall U.S. population.

Use the most common social networks.

Instagram leads the way, according to Nielsen’s report. Black adults use the photo-sharing app, owned by Facebook, 20 percent more than the total U.S. population does. Eleven percent of black adults also use Twitter, a higher rate than the national average. While Facebook still has the highest usage rate of all social networks (66 percent of the overall population), black Americans use it 4 percent less than the overall population does.

Make black voices heard.

Historically speaking, black Americans have been one of the most marginalized racial/ethnic groups in the United States. But opportunities for black people to make their voices heard and appreciated have grown as societal changes have taken place in the United States. Nielsen’s report shows that they are taking advantage of these changes, such as actively embracing technological changes. Black adults were 37 percent more likely than the total population to be the first among their peers to try new technology products.

According to the research, the proportion of black Americans who like to share their opinions about products and services is 26 percent higher than that of the overall U.S. population. Such figures underscore the importance of ensuring that your organization offers these consumers a good experience.

In February, Black History Month is an opportunity for your organization to show its commitment to this key demographic. If you’ve already started building these relationships, then continue to improve these interactions throughout the year.

However, if you feel that you haven’t done enough to support black Americans as employees, customers or community constituents, then keep these findings in mind to help you improve your outreach. 


photo credit: digital vision