Today’s businesses no longer have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines when it comes to taking a stance on politically charged issues. What once was a 24-hour news cycle has turned into 24 seconds, and the reputation of a business can be decimated within minutes of social media engagement. Building trust between employees, stakeholders and customers is more crucial today than ever, but how can a company achieve this while still meeting its business goals? In a CommPRO webinar Richard Levick detailed five pieces of advice for businesses when it comes to earning and maintaining trust in today’s hyperpolitical society:
No matter what your political stance is, most consumers are willing to look past personal differences as long as transparency is maintained. Richard used Chick-Fil-A as an example, explaining that consumers were willing to forgive their anti-LGBTQ point of view because they remained transparent and consistent about their beliefs.
Richard mentioned how important it is that businesses remain consistent in the opinions they are putting forth. He urges companies to only take a stance on issues that coincide with the core values and beliefs of the brand—and to stick to them. For example, Patagonia became an outspoken champion of Mount Zion and other national parks, but the positioning was consistent with their mission.
Does the message you are voicing coincide with the products and services you are selling? Richard explains that Airbnb was able to articulate opposition to the Brexit vote because it was seen as being material to their mission. Consumers will respect a company that stands up for issues that affect their markets and bottom line.
No longer can CEO’s disappear behind the scenes. Leaders need to step up and be brave in advocating for relevant issues that are pertinent to their brand. Maintaining silence or pushing issues to the side will no longer suffice in today’s information society. Lyft stepped up after the travel ban was announced in January and immediately made a $1 million donation to the ACLU, and was rewarded by the market for their leadership. By contrast, when President Trump’s Business Councils were dissolving, the normally bullish Uber said “We want to study the problem” while other companies resigned in substantial numbers. Uber’s lack of leadership is long remembered in the market. It is not your point of view, it is your consistency and integrity in exercising leadership.
Lastly, Richard explained that companies must be judicious in the times they raise their political voices. He explained that it’s not about fighting and voicing opinions on every issue, it’s about being highly selective and anticipating the future. WeWork took a position banning meat on its properties earlier this year but then said nothing when news broke about Saudi money being a significant source of their startup funds, in light of the Jamal Khashoggi murder in a Saudi Embassy in Turkey.
Richard discussed this topic and more alongside top communicators Andrew McCaskill, SVP, Global Communications & Multicultural Marketing, Nielsen; Sheryl Battles, VP, Global Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement, Pitney Bowes; Chris Manzani, Managing Director, Corporate & Public Affairs, Edelman at a CommPRO webinar hosted by Doug Simon, CEO, D S Simon Media. Watch the Webinar unfold here.