Should more creators have spoken out on Roe v. Wade?
Illustration by Garrett Golightly
How Should Creators Speak Out on Public Issues?
Do you remember where you were when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade? After the news broke in late June, the internet combusted with takes of all kinds—some angry, some mournful, some celebratory.
But as the dust settled, social media became fascinated less with women’s bodily autonomy and more with who was saying (or not saying) what. Phil DeFranco encouraged creators to speak up, while Emma Chamberlain fans who wanted to hear her take were left unsatisfied.
It’s become a pattern we’re used to—tragedy strikes, discourse begins, infographic activism spikes, and the public figures weigh their options: Should they chime in? If so, what should they say? When should they post? How can they be authentic? Is there a call to action? Does personal brand matter in activist posting? And how, in times of relative normalcy, do they prepare for when the next big news hits?
For those like me with less than 1k followers on any platform (hi, you’re in good company), reposting a tweet about gun safety might raise awareness for a person or two, but for someone with a social reach like Beyonce, with over 292 million followers, a post advocating for gun reform could really move the needle.
To understand the calculus of posting in times of strife, unrest, or national heartbreak, we spoke to two experts: Sophie Lev, who manages music artist Remi Wolf, and Jules Terpak, TikTok creator and WaPo columnist. Their strategies aren’t identical, but taken together, they paint a nuanced picture of the realities creators face when staring down the question: to post or not to post.
“For better or worse, having a political stance and opinions about public events is becoming a pillar of being in the public eye. I think for TikTokers like Charli and Addison coming up, that’s something that’s being drilled into them earlier in their life than similar rises to fame previously because of the world that we’re in,” Lev said. “If you’re not opinionated on those things, people write you off as uneducated.”
But the reality is that Addison Rae doesn’t have a PhD in global politics (we think). So what’s the move?
Consult a team if you’re unsure what to say. Here’s how Lev sees it:
“[Speaking on public issues] is going to be expected of you and it’s about having a team around you to help you learn and fill the gaps where you’re not as educated or as interested in being educated. And you don’t have to be educated on everything. You may buy plastic water bottles, but if you volunteer at your Planned Parenthood, it’s okay. No one can do everything.”
“I hope people have empathy for people in the spotlight because most are doing the best they can, especially people who get famous at a young age; they need to have time to form their own opinions,” Lev said.
But if you don’t feel convicted, don’t post it. Terpak explained:
“I don’t think it necessarily comes down to whether you want to or not. I think it comes down to whether you are well-versed in a topic or not. If so, I think there is a responsibility to add that point of view to the discourse online that is likely very reactive and not well thought-out.”
“Creators shouldn’t feel pressure to play into the news cycle. If they feel like they need time to process how to best communicate their desired messaging with their audience, that is okay. Insight tends to be far more meaningful when you’re discussing them outside of the mob mentality of it all and it comes from a genuine place,” Terpak said.
Lev’s advice? Read the room. “One of Remi’s music cycles was around the time of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and we had several conversations about what’s respectful and what’s insensitive around posting your own content and promotion,” Lev said.
“You can never go wrong telling people that you’re thinking about them and it’s a really sad day. I think she posted something like that and was off the internet for a second. It was a couple days later that she started posting content again of her own, while also posting about the current events. It’s tough, I really empathize with creators. Artists are a little different because they recognize the politics are part of what they set out to be. But for content creators who come through a different route, it’s crazy they’re expected to be the beacon of words,” Lev said.
But in most cases, something is better than nothing. “There’s a way of saying ‘I want to be there for you and want to provide resources,’ while still saying ‘I have a lot to learn and can’t necessarily take a stand or tell you what to do.’ Leading with transparency, honesty, and compassion is always better than standing by and not saying anything,” Lev said.
Admitting what you don’t know or feel comfortable speaking about is taking a stand, even though it’s not taking a side—it helps define clear boundaries for your audience. But what if you want to highlight a social cause, and anything you draft up feels contrived?
Lev recommends baking social causes into your brand.
“Having opinions, beliefs, and things that you stand for are so important to reach a certain level of superstardom. You see Ariana Grande passionate about getting people to vote, and Shawn Mendes who makes everything environmentally friendly and is outspoken on climate issues.”
“That gets woven into your brand as you reach a certain level, it’s just a matter of getting to a place where you need to decide ‘these are the organizations I want to partner with, and these are the foundations I want to start.’ It has become an expectation and I think it’s weird when people don’t do it at this point,” Lev said.
That being said, it’s okay if you don’t have a 10-slide deck on your top three social issues.
“Social causes certainly do not need to align with your brand—that’s quite dystopian,” Terpak said. “But sharing should come from a place of genuine care and curiosity.”
One creator who’s doing it right? HelloTefi on TikTok, who recently shared a personal story on how climate change affected her and a close friend.
For creators growing their brands, speaking out about public issues is a when, not an if. Developing a stance on major topics of discourse can build a thoughtful defense for what you say (or don’t say). And going a level deeper than lip service on the causes you care about—like volunteering in person or donating—can help you reach a place both you and your fans feel good about.
But be mindful of your motives—the second backing a cause feels obligatory, your audience will sense it and label it disingenuous slacktivism. Listen to your audience, not the masses—if the people who follow you closely crave your insight, it’s probably a good time to speak out.
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