It’s been about a year since my colleague Claire Papanastasiou broached the topic of politics and PR – and what a year it’s been. We’ve watched as companies and thought leaders took on the current administration to varying degrees of success and peril, and we’ve seen the relationship between PR and politics shift in a myriad of ways.
The question of whether or not to get involved is as complicated as it’s ever been. Some companies have knocked it out of the park – like Cards Against Humanity’s crowdfunding campaign to buy plots of land in front of the intended border wall; and Patagonia’s lawsuit to block reductions to national monuments.
On the flip side, more recently, we’ve seen businesses take stances with larger risks. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart released statements on gun control that included actual policy changes – a move that incited public praise, but also upset a good chunk of paying customers. And, to the protests of many consumers, a number of corporations recently chose to cut business ties with the NRA.
Splashy initiatives aside, there remains great opportunity for thought leaders to enter important conversations with helpful expertise and unique perspectives. People are seeking reason and explanations, and educated third-parties with a solid point of view are a welcome source.
When to Jump In
If the leaders of your organization are passionate, confident and pushing to weigh in on the topic of the day, the first question you need to ask them is: Do you actually have anything valuable to add to the conversation? There is a very thin line between ambulance chasing and newsjacking, so it’s important that your input be worthwhile and helpful.
Some questions to ask as you weigh the options include:
- How emotionally heated is the conversation surrounding the topic right now?
- Are you taking a personal political stance, or providing welcome, unbiased background?
- Will your input help anybody?
- Will your input hurt anybody?
- Will it affect sales? If yes, do you care?
- Are you ready?
That last one is a little loaded. What we mean is, have you taken time to craft careful and purposeful messaging that has been internally routed and approved? Have you researched relevant and responsible members of the media you want to share the news with? Have your social media and customer service teams prepared to respond to a potential onslaught of backlash?
While it’s true what they say – that it’s important to strike while the iron is hot – it’s far more important to be ready.
Need more advice on getting involved? Let us help.