The word “Dumpster Fire” has been awarded a whole new meaning in the last few years. Indeed, it has been a tough time for our country, with divisive (and explosive) politics, big time issues being brought to the surface, and many Americans wondering just how everything got so bad. So, when the s#!t hits the societal fan, what is a brand to do … do you express your support for one side, or do you keep your opinions to yourself?
The trouble with silence
Silence is good for many things: a Sunday morning, a walk in the woods, a moment of reflection. However, when it comes to hot button issues, studies show that silence may not be a brand’s best friend. Many consumers want to see the brands they love representing their values. However, if they think you are doing it just to sell more products, then you won’t be handsomely rewarded with loyal customers. Instead, you might find yourself caught in a whirlwind of scrutiny.
The best thing to do is to build your company’s brand on a solid foundation of core values. Then, when issues arise that affect your customer base, your employees or other things you value, you can speak up knowing that your reputation is consistent. In business jargon, it is called your company’s culture, and it matters especially when we are talking about speaking up for what you believe in.
For example, the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade left our country divided and many women, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, struggling to find basic reproductive care. Many companies came out with statements in opposition or support of this ban. Dick’s Sporting Goods took the cake, with a corporate statement of intent to financially help any employee seeking an abortion. For those who were saddened by this tragic backslide for women’s rights, Dick’s came through with support out of the gate.
The best part about this brand’s story is that they have been consistent in their political stance since Day One. For a large corporation to build consistent values and a company culture dedicated to equality, justice and safety is not an easy task, but one that is paying off greatly as more consumers are considering Dick’s for their sporting goods needs.
You aren’t for everyone
When you are considering speaking up for something you believe in and using your brand as a mouthpiece, it is important to remember that you can’t please everyone. Whether you speak up or not, there will be criticism. The best thing to do is to consider those who matter most: your employees and your customers (and potential customers). If you built a company with a strong culture, your employees already know your values and what to expect. Your target market probably has a similar understanding. By showing your support of something you believe in, you are just making honesty an important part of your business identity.
How to speak up
According to the Institute for Public Relations, there are some steps to follow before and after speaking out about an issue that matters to you, your employees, your brand and your consumers:
- Start from a solid foundation (aka your company’s culture and values)
- Get employee buy-in
- Demonstrate sustained commitment to the issues that matter most (meaning: don’t be wishy washy … if you speak up in support of something, make sure you continue to support it and do so by donating time or money to the effort)
- Build on your brand’s promise to your consumers
- Reassess every few months to see how you can best continue to support the issue at hand
There is nothing that irks today’s consumers more than a brand that falsely advertises support of a hot button issue. If you choose to speak up, which seems like an increasingly good idea given the opinions of consumers, make sure you are coming from a place of solid values and commit to continued support of that issue. Go forth and speak up.