15 Key Considerations For Businesses When Commenting On Political Or Social Matters

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15 Key Considerations For Businesses When Commenting On Political Or Social Matters

A few decades ago, the rule of thumb for businesses when it came to politics or social issues would be to ignore it. However, as the world has become more politically aware of the situations that infiltrate everyday life, businesses can no longer sit on the sidelines as history passes them by.

Politics and social issues can be thorny subjects, especially if a company doesn’t understand where its audience’s sentiments lie. A wrong step could mean a public relations disaster of epic proportions. Here, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council examine how a business can comment on social and political issues without finding themselves on the receiving end of “cancel culture.”

Forbes Agency Council

1. Walk The Talk

A tweet in support of an issue might feel like a good idea, but when you lend your brand’s support to a cause or issue, make sure it’s more than words on a screen. Woke consumers do their research. Be prepared to speak to what your company is doing with its policies, procedures and dollars if you choose to join the conversation on social issues. – Kate Weidner , SRW

2. Get Buy-In From All Levels

It has to be more than a public statement. When you stake a claim, be sure that the belief has buy-in across all aspects of your business. Your employees need to have buy-in and stand behind the belief, you need alignment with existing core clients and local support within the community. Each business decision should be held up to a litmus test to ensure it aligns with your belief (social or political). – Korena Keys, KeyMedia Solutions

3. Don’t Force It

Engaging in political or social issues may not be right for your brand. Before you go down this path, make sure that you take an honest look at your brand and your consumer to see if these issues fit your identity. If they don’t, it’s best not to force it. Today’s consumers can spot forced or disingenuous commentary a mile away. – JP Johl, AdTribute

4. Make It Defensible

If you have a fully-informed opinion that is based on more than emotion and you can articulate it well, then feel free to share it. If not, keep it quiet. Then, you can stand on your principles and the truth when there is dissension (and there always will be). – Christine Wetzler, Pietryla PR

5. Embrace Controversial Content

When you post about traditional “taboo” content, it will invite both sides of whatever issue to come forward no matter what, no matter how polite or how well-oiled your PR team is. Instead of trying to fight the inevitable, be open with your wording to encourage conversation. The more organic comments, the cheaper your CPC, the better your content performs on social media. – Kelly Samuel, Kelly Samuel

6. Define Your ‘Why’

Before you take a position on anything political or social, define your “why.” Make sure you live up to it with your actions. This is the hard part. Now, do not conduct market research to see how people respond to your “why.” Even if you do, never change it to please everyone. Own it as is. Now go ahead and be fearless in inspiring your brand followers with social commentary. – Kashif Zaman, Pivyt

7. Make Sure Your Stance And Values Align

Be authentic. When your words align with your brand, they will impact people. The popular choice is not the proper one if it goes against your values or does not connect with your brand. If you have no history or actions to back your statements, they will be poorly received; but if your messages are consistent over time and what you say matches what you do, your stance will draw people to you. – Fran Biderman-Gross, Advantages

8. Understand Consumer Perception

While authenticity has long been a marketing buzzword, it’s critical that brands understand who they are and how consumers perceive them when venturing into any political or social commentary. This ensures that if brands are entering taboo waters, they are doing so in a way that doesn’t appear to be opportunistic and will feel authentic to their followers. – Jessica Reznick, We’re Magnetic

9. Connect With Integrity

Connection with a brand should never come at the expense of integrity. Unless you represent an intentionally polarizing brand, there is no reason to create deliberately polarizing content or messaging. Even in that case, keep in mind that the internet is forever, and your messaging has the potential to haunt the brand, its stakeholders and you as the creator, for a long time. – Patrick Nycz, NewPoint Marketing

10. Be Politically Polite

Political issues should still be off the table unless someone invites the conversation — do not actively bring it up especially in such polarizing times. However, if someone does bring up a political subject and you don’t have the same views, politely listen to the content and then redirect the conversation to pertinent business topics instead of personal political feelings. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

11. Don’t Try To Satisfy Everyone

In sharing your views, you will appeal to many consumers, but not all. In fact, you may turn some consumers off such that you lose their business. But for those that share your beliefs, you will create a much more loyal customer and the increase in sales from them will offset any loss. Don’t be afraid of losing customers because the ones you gain will make up for it! – Lori Paikin, NaviStone®

12. Always Be Fair

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you have to be very fair. As a company, you need to remain fair and share information and perspectives that are balanced and inclusive of all viewpoints. – Jon James, Ignited Results

13. Research Your Sources

Sharing your opinions or values can be a great way to bring authenticity to your messaging, but use extreme caution when sharing other people’s content — if at all. Items like user-generated quotes and photos need to be vetted carefully before you stake your online reputation on them. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions

14. Be Mindful Of How You Say It

It’s not about what you say, it’s about how you say it. Today, there’s no longer one “media elite” but rather, endless conversations that are taking place on many different platforms. Listen to communities and hear what they have to say on the matter you wish to talk about and figure out what your added value is in the conversation or solution. – Hamutal Schieber

15. Support Causes That Resonate With Customers

Studies show consumers are apt to switch brands to those that share similar values to their own. The best way for a company to make social commentary to increase brand loyalty is to support causes that resonate with their customer base. For example, sponsoring arts and cultural organizations, or programs such as arts education, shows that the business is investing in their community and its people. – Henry Kurkowski, One WiFi

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