The 2016 presidential election proved to be one of the most polarizing elections in United States history. It seemed that every channel you flipped the television to or every time you checked your phone, it was Donald Trump this, Hillary Clinton that. Just like the everyday person could not escape this election, businesses could not either.
Popular examples of this can be seen with Under Armor, and Uber, who were under national media spotlight due to the public endorsement of a presidential candidate. Both these companies received very negative backlash to their political statements. Under Armour had sponsored athletes publicly speaking out against the CEO’s statements regarding then Republican candidate Trump. Uber CEOs acceptance of a position on Trump’s economic cabinet started the #DeleteUber campaign. A campaign that was successful enough to force the CEO to back out of the position.
So the smart idea would be for a company to stay neutral and not participate in Corporate Political Activism right? Corporate Political Activism is defined as when a company or corporation partakes in politics via statements, social media, or contribution.
Actually this would not be a smart decision. Research suggests that Generation Z actively seeks out and expects their favorite brands to make political statements. Companies who refrain from any political involvement could actually lose customers compared to companies who make the smart political statement. So I have provided 5 tips to ensuring that you don’t damage your company’s brand image when participating in Corporate Political Activism.
1. Keep employees in mind.
A political stance or statement typically comes from upper positions within a company as opposed to lower level employees. The lower level employees, however, are then ones typically in the most contact with the customer. So if upper level was to make a political statement that was not in line with lower level employees then those employees could feel alienated. Those alienated employees are less likely to interact with potential customers to the best of their ability. This ultimately will deter customers and negatively affect the brand.
2. Think before you post.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to post impulsively, especially in reaction to what one of the parties or candidates did. Everyone is human, so everyone is prone to making reactions to an event before actually processing the event. It sounds cliché but sleep on it and then try again in the morning. This will help limit any rash social media posts or comments not necessarily representative of the company.
3. Think about how you share your statement.
Sometimes where and how you participate in Corporate Political Activism can be the most important part. Remember it only takes one click to share a post via social media, which can be positive or negative.
4. Use a bipartisan focus group.
It can be easy to surround yourself with the classic “yes” man. Take your position up to a group of people with various perspectives. This will ensure that you get an idea of the type of reactions your statement will receive in the public realm. To help cover point number 1 I made earlier, include employees in this focus group.
5. Be subtle.
This may be one of the most difficult steps to follow. We live in a world where everything in the news or on social media is immediately available to millions of people. So to combat this it is smart to make a statement is in a subtle manner. Take Oreo for example, who posted a picture on Facebook with rainbow filling in support of LGBTQ rights. Sure negative backlash was received, but it did not blow out of proportion, and their statement was still heard in an efficient manner.
It is impossible to avoid negative feedback in its entirety. But these five steps should help your company stay politically active in a positive manner that will be most beneficial to all stakeholders involved.
Jacob Milchunk – Content Creator