Current events are very politically and emotionally charged right now, and the way companies and people of influence are posting on social media is being dissected under a microscope. Brands are being asked to navigate a hyper-politicized environment like never before seen. It’s no longer enough to simply provide a quality product and good service as consumers increasingly expect to know where brands stand on these types of issues. How can brands know when they should speak out ¾ and what should they say?
The current climate
Customer expectations are growing and changing at a rapid pace. Consumers want to engage with brands that share their values and give back to society on a broader level. In a global survey, 63 percent of consumers noted they prefer to purchase from companies that reflect their values. In a society that has become more politically charged than ever, it seems to reason that shared values would include a company’s stance on certain current events. As brands jump into the fray, they need to know how to communicate appropriately, with grace and integrity.
Let authenticity be your guide
The best way to make sure your message is well received is to be authentic. Leadership may be hesitant to make a statement at the risk of alienating some consumers. On the other hand, silence on a matter could be viewed as complacency, and the condoning of certain views or actions, also placing the brand at risk. The bottom line is that all communication needs to be authentic, reflecting the pre-established values of the brand. That means that it needs to be in line with the brand voice, uphold the core ethics of the brand and communicate in an honest and open manner.
In order to communicate in the most authentic way, brands should know what drives their customers, how the company is viewed, and have strong insight into the brand’s reputation. Having the right background and research can help businesses identify what is important to their customer from a social responsibility standpoint. Brands can then determine if it’s appropriate and authentic for them to contribute to the conversation. Communication from a brand that seems out of place or inauthentic could result in backlash and a loss of brandy loyalty.
Any statement a brand makes must add value. It’s imperative that brands are not perceived as jumping on the bandwagon to gain PR points. If possible, the direction of all communication should highlight the brand’s policies or actions that contribute to the movement in which they are engaging. This could be an internal policy that benefits employees, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program or a donation to a nonprofit that addresses the political topic. Additionally, any statement should be made in a timely manner. If too much time passes from the start of the broader conversation, the brand could be scrutinized for not making a statement earlier or be accused of jumping on the bandwagon.
Consumers are looking to engage with brands that share their values and who are contributing to the overall benefit of society. In order to engage in these conversations and result in a positive outcome, it is absolutely vital that the communication be authentic and in line with the brand’s voice. Anything that feels patronizing or disingenuous will cause backlash and hurt the reputation of the brand.