With the changing landscape of politics here in North America–and with the recent signing of the “freedom religious” bill in Indiana–many companies have been confronted with a very unique situation.
Our current political climate is changing the way people do business. Citizens, customers, and business competitors expect your company to have a voice within the political realm.
This is new-age PR at its finest.
The big question is this: how does a company go about engaging in political issues?
International companies will tell you that this can be challenging. Take for instance Christine Bader’s personal account of her time spent working for BP, in her book titled The Evolution of the Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil. She’ll tell you that getting the job done, while working within the confines of a corrupt government, can come with its fair share of challenges.
Companies here at home are increasingly focused on political issues in relation to their corporate responsibility strategies.
You may be asking yourself, how can my company engage in politics in a meaningful way?
Below I’ve provided some tips, questions and conversation-starters to help your company get the ball rolling:
1. Stick to your core values.
Your company’s core values define who you are. This point must be top of mind whenever your company engages in political debate. Be bold and defend what you believe in.
2. Pay attention to your triple bottom line.
It’s important to weigh all three bottom lines (people, planet and profit) when planning to engage in political debate.
3. Be aware of the risks associated with “playing it safe.”
Think long-term. It might be scary or intimidating to voice your stance as a company, but saying nothing could be worse. “Playing it safe” can damage your reputation, upset your employees and jeopardize your authenticity. And that’s not going to feel so good.
4. A plan is key.
Wherever and whenever possible, your company should be prepared for anything. Your company’s stance on politically contested and debated issues should be well defined. Prepare for whatever may come your way. Risk management is key: this is Public Relations 101.
5. Actions speak louder than words.
Social media is a great vehicle for engaging stakeholders and I encourage your company to share your message via digital media. However, actions can sometimes speak louder than words. Is your stance on an issue worthy of action? If so, your decision to boycott, limit business or increase business (dependant on the issue) may have a much larger impact than a tweet.
If your company plans on becoming more vocal within the political realm, consider implementing some of the tips mentioned above. Take the time to weigh your options, develop your message and create an action plan.
You’ll be glad you did.
Has your company ever engaged in political debate? Did you speak up? I encourage you to share your thoughts, opinions and experiences in the comments section below.
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