When to Speak Out or Stay Silent as a CEO
Everyday there are political and social issues being written about in the news. That is what we call “life.” Being a human in this thing called life, you naturally have an opinion about current affairs.
When you are CEO of a company though, sharing those thoughts publicly can have a direct effect on your business – for the good or the not-so-good.
Exhibit A: Elon Musk and the continued downward spiral of advertisers and users leaving X, formerly known as Twitter, after he told the former to “go f**k yourself.”
So, before you share your personal thoughts on current events publicly, here are some things to consider.
Speaking Out is Always A Risk
Anytime someone puts their thoughts out into the world, which the accessibility of technology enables and encourages us to do (as do marketing consultants who want you to write & record thoughout leadership) there is a risk.
Your message, whatever it is, could be amazingly well received or totally misconstrued resultign in a negative result from a positive intention.
As the CEO of a company of any size, everything you say has a larger risk because it’s not just your personal relationships at risk. It’s the livelihood of your business and that of your employees, if you have them.
When to Speak Out
If commenting on current events and political affairs is part of a company’s brand, then sharing your opinion as the owner is not only encouraged, but expected. Assuming your perspective is in line with the company’s brand, of course.
To NOT share would be what goes against the expected brand image and staying silent could hurt your loyal fans/customers/clients more than speaking out.
The same is true if the company’s target clientele is an outspoken bunch. If your customers are passionate about sharing their values and political positions online, then speaking to, and alongside, them is key to continuing that relationship.
However, if the company hasn’t built that brand image and you as the CEO say something publicly, it’s a totally different ball game. This opens the door to allowing a whole new narrative into play, potential backlash and hurt sales.
What you say may be worth a little dust flying to you, but if you have employees who count on your company sales for their livelihoods, then we’re not just talking about YOUR perspective anymore.
More on that in this article about whether or not to talk politics specifically from a brand platform.
The Bottom Line
The most important thing before saying anything publicly, even in Stories that disappear after 24 hours, is to talk with your PR consultants or legal council before making any statement online or in the press.
It’s not just your neck on the line. A negative hit to the brand directly affects its profitability and therefore the team it supports – whether that team is employees or your family.