How To Take A Stand

How To Take A Stand

[ad_1]

Kyle Scott, PhD, is the Vice Chancellor of Strategic Priorities at Lone Star College, where he leads marketing and communications.

I’ve seen increasing demand for companies to take a stand on social and political issues. Companies often take a cautious approach to social advocacy because they do not want to alienate or offend employees, customers, politicians, investors or the general public. However, companies may suffer if they don’t lead in this space. Companies need to decide when to speak out and when to stay silent, which thrusts the communications team into a more significant role in the organization.

When companies treat the communications team as a strategic partner, they can help inform best practices that mitigate the need for a public statement but also provide a foundation of credibility for when a statement is necessary. As someone who has led communications and public affairs strategies in the public and private sectors, I have found that the best communications strategies precede public communication. In order to take a credible stance on divisive issues, a company should operate according to a set of values that it openly communicates and practices. By articulating and living core values consistently, a company can avoid the need to issue public statements on every newsworthy event.

Articulate And Live Core Values

There should be no distance between a company’s internal values and its external brand. For instance, a company should not treat employees poorly while outwardly advocating for a more humane world. Therefore, companies should decide on a set of core values and integrate those into their operations, communication tactics and financial decisions. It is also important that they hire and promote individuals who share and live those values.

It is the responsibility of the communications team to help shape how those values are framed, communicated to internal stakeholders and integrated into public affairs and branding efforts. By consistently integrating core values into their communications, the team can ensure that all stakeholders will have a general understanding of where a company stands on a particular issue while avoiding the need to issue a direct statement.

Provide Space For Stakeholder Agreement

Constituent to our beings is the need for voice and agency. Problems arise when people feel as though they have no voice or ability to act on their values. Many people desire to voice their opinions and act on their values. Therefore, any effort to deny voice or agency could have negative repercussions and reputational blowback.

Companies should create opportunities for employees to voice their concerns in a constructive way, like mediated small-group discussions, dedicated internal communication channels, training and education opportunities and bottom-up decision-making regarding culture and values. Likewise, there should be formal on-ramps for community leaders to have access to company leaders who they can engage in values-based discussions.

Large shareholders, politicians and business leaders likely already have direct lines of access to the organization’s leadership, but everyday citizens may not. For instance, if a state passes a controversial law restricting voter access, companies headquartered in that state might be expected to take a stand on the law. If everyday citizens do not have a way to express their opinions on what the company should do, their only recourse is to boycott or make public announcements in opposition to the company if the issue is important to them. Companies should form councils throughout the regions in which they operate, but particularly within the region where they’re headquartered, that can meet with members of the company’s leadership team to evaluate current practices and value alignment. They could also push this further by creating a shadow board comprised of community leaders and employees that provides feedback to the corporate board.

These recommendations may not seem like communications-related solutions, but strategic communications plans should include steps for preventing the need for a communications-related solution.

Be Authentic And Definitive

Many of us have grown tired of companies jumping on the bandwagon just so they can score cheap PR points. In instances like these, the company can come off as vague and disingenuous.

If a company finds itself in a position where it must issue a public pronouncement about a social or political issue, it should make that announcement early, definitively and consistently.

It’s important to be early. If an event happens in May, a company shouldn’t issue a statement at the end of June. Coming out late can sometimes be worse than not saying anything at all, as the company may look timid and unprincipled if its statement comes out too late. This doesn’t mean the company can’t do something positive; it just shouldn’t make a public spectacle of it.

When you’re issuing a timely statement, make sure it’s definitive. A statement with vague platitudes that’s devoid of action can be worse than no statement at all. Statements should be specific about the company’s stance, why it holds that stance and action steps the company will take in accordance with the message.

Consistency creates accountability. The public statement should be consistent with what the values of the company have been, or what they will be going forward, as specified in the action steps.

Companies are in a precarious position, as public advocacy is a new experience for many of them. Companies should not feel compelled to issue public statements but should instead live and articulate core values as a regular part of doing business. If the public doesn’t know where a company stands on an issue, it may not have done a good enough job of communicating and living its values in the regular course of business.


Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?


[ad_2]

Source link

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This