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Politics and Business: Do They Mix? If So, When?

  •  Branding   •  Politics and Business: Do They Mix? If So, When?

Politics and Business: Do They Mix? If So, When?

One of the most talked about questions in B2B circles these days is this: Should brands take a political stand? If so, when?

As a public relations professional, it’s my job to look out for the best interest of my clients’ brand images. This requires me to look at a situation from multiple sides, present the options to them and let that business owner make the final call of what’s right for their brand. As a consultant, all I can do is make sure you know the potential fall out (good or bad) from any public speaking decision and then be there to handle it when the business owner makes their call.

So let’s evaluate the questions surrounding the above in a little more depth:

How can taking a political stand impact a company’s brand/business?

When deciding if they should make a political statement, the first thing any company is going to naturally think about is if things go wrong. And quite frankly, they should. A strong crisis communication plan is important for any business, whether it’s one person or 100,000, and that is at all times.

But instead of only focusing on the negative fall out, I pose this question:

What if everything goes right?

Yes, you may alienate some potential buyers/customers, but that is true anytime you post something on social media or email them. Political and social issues are dominating our lives these days and by making it clear where your company or brand stands, you could have one of two things (or both!) happen:

  • Secure those who were “casual clients/buyers” into lifelong customers
  • Attract those who hadn’t considered you before, or previously chose a competitor, align with your brand because of your stance.

What is the best way to go about taking a political stand?

First and foremost, let’s be clear that any stand you take should be a positive one, not a smear campaign for the view you oppose.

Example A:

Instead of saying “We will not endorse Joe Biden”, simply say “We stand with our President.”

Be default that says you don’t want Joe Biden as president without having to be negative.

Example B:

Instead of “We vehemently oppose racism of any kind.” Say “We fully support the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Even if you believe racism is horrible in every way (and it is..that shouldn’t be up for debate) a negative statement puts a negative taste in people’s mouths (and minds) even if the message is meant to be supporting. Righteous anger is still anger.

Make your stance clear but do so in the most supportive fashion of the cause you truly want to align ourselves with.

Real Life Case Study

The founder of Chik-Fil-A stood up and said he didn’t support gay marriage. As a company that had always been closed on Sunday, what’s seen as a religious day in the Christian faith, this wasn’t a huge surprise that he felt this way. However, he came out and said it and attached his brand of his statement.

The result?

On one side: uproar from the LGBTQ community and, for many, a lifetime boycott of the business and its franchises. On the other, he secured (what I can only conjecture to be) lifelong support from a conservative Christian base that shares those beliefs.

It’s too early to tell how public support/dissension of mask mandates, BLM, Trump/Biden will play out but it is clear that consumers are looking to support brands with the same values they have.

Read more of my thoughts and those of 114 other marketing and branding experts in this latest research report from GoodFirms.

Channing Muller is an award winning marketing & public relations consultant and the principal of DCM Communications. She works with event professionals and business owners to grow and scale their businesses with refined marketing strategies developed through one-on-one and group consulting, customized marketing programs and public relations. She has been named a "25 Young Event Pro to Watch" by Special Events magazine and "40 Under 40" by Connect Meetings. Channing is an avid runner, lover of labrador retrievers, good food, delicious drinks, and an advocate for the American Heart Association. Follow her on Instagram @ChanningMuller.