When Business and Politics Collide: Key Takeaways from Our Fireside Chat
Businesses today are under a lot of pressure. In an increasingly polarized and contentious media environment, consumers are demanding to know where companies stand on the hot-button political issues dominating our discourse. To win consumer trust and protect your business, it’s time to toss aside the conventional wisdom that strategic silence is always the right course of action.
But how can companies successfully navigate the collision of business and politics? We explored this question in our recent Fireside Chat, Must This End Badly? When Business and Politics Collide. Here are the key points covered in the discussion.
Key takeaways from the event
Here are some of the top insights from the Fireside Chat.
1. What was once apolitical is now political.
The politicization of our discourse – both in media and in the physical world – means issues that were once seen as separate from politics have taken on political significance. Take COVID-related vaccine and mask mandates, for example. A key concern for businesses, these mandates have become politicized in a way that has surprised many observers.
“Issues that were once seen as separate from politics have taken on political significance.”
2. Businesses are being drawn into politics – whether you like it or not.
Although many companies strive to remain nonpartisan, the reality is that it might not be up to them. With more and more issues becoming politicized, it’s almost impossible for a business to make their values known without seeming partisan.
3. Every company has values.
Companies are led by people – and everyone has a set of principles and beliefs. These beliefs should help your company decide on which issues to weigh in. If your business’ values are too high-level, hold boardroom meetings to forge and pressure-test your values until they’re clear and specific.
4. Personal values increasingly determine buying behavior.
Year over year, more consumers are saying they’re more likely to buy from businesses that share their personal values. This trend is happening all over the world, but has been most pronounced in the United States.
5. Gen-Z is a major driver of this trend.
45% of Gen-Z consumers are interested in trying a company’s products after learning that that company shares their political values. More so than other groups, Gen-Z wants businesses to use their platforms and influence to make society better.
6. For many consumers, the CEO and the brand are one and the same.
47% of US adults consider what a CEO expresses on an issue to signify the position of the business. In the public eye, it can be extremely difficult to separate a business from the human face that represents it the most.
“In the public eye, it can be extremely difficult to separate a business from the human face that represents it.”
7. B2B companies aren’t immune from political pressure.
While B2B companies don’t directly serve consumers, they’re still staffed by members of the same public that want to know where businesses stand on hot-button issues. For these companies, taking a stance is a matter of employee loyalty, morale and, ultimately, productivity.
8. The best approach is often an employee-first approach.
Some companies that have spoken out on the Texas abortion law, for example, like Uber and Lyft, have done so in a way that protects their employees first and foremost. If your employees are on board with your company’s values, you’ll be a healthier company – and the benefits will trickle down to your consumers.
9. Authenticity and follow-through are key.
When a company’s behavior doesn’t align with their statements, those statements are dismissed as performative. A company that shares a rainbow flag on social media, for example, while financially supporting anti-LGBTQ+ causes, will likely face backlash.
10. You can’t be everything to everyone.
For every stance you take – or even the fact that you did or didn’t take a stance – there will be some people who don’t like it. Be prepared for this, but don’t try to fight it. Sticking to your stance in the face of those who don’t agree with you can improve your standing among those who do.
Taking a stand on a political issue? Remember these key steps.
Wading into the political fray can be extremely delicate, and businesses would do well to approach it with sensitivity and planning. Here’s how to start the process:
1. Consider your response
What position do you want to take on the issue? How does that align with your business’s established values?
2. Assess the risk
How could a misstep affect your stock price, profit, brand reputation, employee sentiment, partnerships, and sponsorships?
3. Determine the degree
Should you simply acknowledge the issue with a media pause? Or should you make tangible changes to your company, such as when Dick’s sporting goods stopped selling rifles in response to school shootings?
4. Make your motivations clear
As you plan to take a stance on an issue, make sure your audience knows why you’re doing it. When Major League Baseball, for example, protested Georgia’s voting law, they provided a clear explanation of why the law conflicted with their values.
For more key insights, watch the full Fireside Chat.