It can be uncomfortable sharing your opinion on controversial issues. What if the person across from you disagrees? What if it changes their opinion of you? What if your opposing views are enough to end your relationship forever?

The same fears stand for businesses. By going public with political opinions, you can risk alienating a portion of your audience. But by staying silent, you can risk looking like you lack integrity.

Traditionally, companies did everything they could to avoid controversy. But as more consumers begin to care about what brands stand for as much as what they’re selling, more companies are publicly joining social and political discussions.

Research undertaken for the 2017 Edelman Earned Brand study showed 57% of consumers buy or boycott a brand depending on that brand’s political or social beliefs. It also showed both rewards and risks of taking a stance can be high for brands.

So, what does your brand stand for? And should you be making your stance public?

57% of customers consider a brand's social or political stance when choosing or avoiding a brand.

 

Advantages of Taking a Public Stand on Political Issues

Customers look to a brand’s values and beliefs just as much as their products and services. Speaking out on social and political issues can benefit your business in a few ways, including:

  • You can morally engage your audience and reach them on a more personal, emotional level
  • Your brand appears to be a leader in your industry
  • Your brand appears authentic, honest, and trustworthy.

The key advantage of engaging in brand activism is that it can foster lifelong customer relationships based on shared values and beliefs. Your customers’ loyalty runs deeper than simply preferring your products over a competitor’s – your shared social stance nurtures an emotional connection.

 

Disadvantages of Taking a Public Stand on Political Issues

On the flipside, speaking out about your social and political opinions can pose several risks for your business, such as:

  • It can drive away the part of your audience that disagrees with your position
  • You may alienate your own employees if they don’t share your views
  • It can make you seem opportunistic, taking advantage of a relevant issue to make money.

It’s important to remember you don’t have to take a stance on every issue. One way to reduce the risk of receiving backlash and alienating your customers is to consider how the issue relates to your business and your audience.

Sometimes it’s best to stay quiet. The Washington Redskins are a great example of how not every brand will have credibility to speak out on every issue:

 

The Washington Redskins put their foot in their mouth with their Thanksgiving tweet, receiving backlash from the Twittersphere.

 

 

If you choose to go public with a social or political opinion, be sure to think carefully about how to communication your message. Be consistent with your position, and make sure your stance aligns with the values of your brand.

Above all, be authentic and keep it real; nothing turns customers off like inauthenticity and opportunism.

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