Should my company take a political stance?
When you've just started a company, it can be difficult to distinguish your own personality from that of the brand. This isn't a problem because, after all, the company was founded and shaped by your values. However, be very careful where politics are concerned.
As companies are now discovering the benefit of having an increased presence on social media, they are finding they can use it to express their political feelings. Social media also allows companies to have an idea of the views of their followers and customers. This can allow them to tailor their political message.
This blog post was created in order to help you navigate the minefield of giving your company a political stance.
Why would a company take a political stance?
In simple terms, customers like to know the type of company they're buying from. In recent years customers have found that they want to buy from a company that has the same views as themselves. For example, customers may only want to buy organic, free range and cruelty free products to show that they are environmentally friendly and want what's best for the animals used to produce the products. If your company also takes this stance with everything that's produced, and market yourselves towards these goals, you may find that your consumer base is mainly people that believe in the same values.
This may be easy to see when using an example of being environmentally friendly, but it can be more subtle when looking at a political stance.
In terms of taking one political stance over another, you may find that some customers and fully on board with your views and are willing to buy from your company. However, you may also end up alienating potential customers if their beliefs are different from the company's.
There may be downsides when you take a political stance
Like anything in life, when you take one side or another during a debate, there will be some that oppose your views. If your company has a political view that is consistent with previously expressed opinions, then it's likely you won't alienate too many existing customers.
What you need to decide is if your company is strong enough to deal with the potential fallout of losing part of its customer base. According to a 2017 article by YouGov, 21% of consumers have boycotted a brand after they've gone through a scandal or negative press release. Also, of those that boycotted, 61% never returned to using that brand again.
If your company is making headlines by taking a strong political view it could mean that your actions will be scrutinised by customers and stakeholders in your company.
By having your target audience as mainly one sided on extreme political issues, such as immigration and civil rights, some people may start asking questions as to why you have those views. This can lead to journalists trying to investigate you and trying to dig up every piece of dirt they can find about you and your company.
Don't forget that your staff may have opposing views from you. This could make for a hostile work environment if you are telling them they have to take your view while being in work. So before you make any changes, take your staff to one side and explain what you're doing and why. But also listen to the feedback they give you and take on board any concerns that they may have about the changes.
I've heard the pros and cons about taking a political stance; But how do I actually do it?
One way a small company can begin to demonstrate a political stance is by backing a cause rather than a policy. This can be seen as less of a stance on a political issue but more of a stance on something physical that's actually happening. Like the earlier example of one selling cruelty free products showing that you don't agree with battery farming methods.
If you company is promoting causes for local problems then that can go majorly in your favour. For example, if you're running a restaurant in an area where there is a lot of homelessness, you could put up signage offering free meals or drinks to help homeless people. This is both beneficial to those that you are helping, but it also lets your wider audience know where your company morals lie.
Posting on social media is a good way to get your message out there and engage with a large audience. But be careful when using it. Not all the comments about what you post will be positive, and this can lead to a large backlash against your company. If you're unsure about the tone of what you're posting or whether it's tasteful, ask someone you trust and make sure their opinion is unbiased.
Sometimes you don't need to post new material, just liking and re-sharing a powerful article is enough to tell your followers what you believe in. This way you don't have to actually tell them your beliefs, let them work it out for themselves.
Finally, you can demonstrate your views everyday with no controversy in the way that you conduct your business. Making sure your supply chain is fair trade, employing a certain number of immigrants, and being tolerant of different religions in the workplace are all small ways in which you can back different political stances. These may not give you such a big reach, but they will allow your views to be seen in an organic way. This can be better than having big, bold headlines, or inciting a debate.
Taking a political stance with your company can be a risk, but it depends on how big the political issue is, how you back it, and what your customers think about it.
Some customers prefer to work with a company that takes a side on views such as this because it shows there's real people behind it. If your customers also think the same way about the issues, then it can solidify customer relations and ensure brand loyalty.
Don't forget though, you may also alienate some of your customers, target audience, investors or staff. So always be sure to communicate what you're doing and why you're doing it.
Also remember that how you go about supporting your views is important. Different ways can show different things to different people. Try to use this to your advantage.