Yesterday, President Trump announced that the U.S. was going to pull out of the Paris Climate agreement. In short order, Elon Musk and Disney’s Bob Iger left Trump’s advisory council, and Apple’s Tim Cook slammed the decision saying it was “wrong for our planet” and asserting Apple’s commitment to fight climate change. These are the most recent examples of what we at InkHouse see as the age of businesses as the new battleground states (see our Boston Globe Op-Ed for more).
Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
Decision to withdraw from the #ParisAgreeement was wrong for our planet. Apple is committed to fight climate change and we will never waver.— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) June 2, 2017
The national narrative we’re accustomed to is one of government creating a level playing field and businesses trying to take advantage of it.Today’s political atmosphere has changed this dynamic. Now, we’re living in an unprecedented age in which businesses are taking on strong advocacy roles that extend far outside of political interests to those of equal rights and the future of our planet. But should they?
This is the primary question we’re answering for our clients these days. Many organizations are nervous, and they should be. While businesses can be heroes by standing up for what they believe in, they can also be villains. Recall the #GrabYourWallet and #DeleteUber campaigns.
When it comes to PR, before taking on any political issue in the media, business leaders today should ask themselves these questions:
There aren’t easy answers. Engaging in full-throttle political battle is almost always a losing exercise when it comes to PR goals. However, if you engage around policies versus politics, the conversation becomes one about business impacts instead, and these matter.
It’s also important to remember that choosing not to engage is certainly an option, but it is a quick route to irrelevance. Standing up for your core audiences and what matters to them is good for business. It fosters loyalty, and attracts the kind of customers you want to work with and the kind of employees who want to stand next to you building your business.
So think about your audiences. Are they predominantly immigrants? Are they primarily women? What are their personal concerns? And what does your business do? How do these global geopolitical issues affect you and your organization - not just today, but five, even 10 years from now? One great example of a business doing this the right way, which I love, is Eastern Bank’s “Join Us For Good” campaign.
These times that are rife with alternative facts, debates about the difference between “in” and “among” and what on earth “covfefe” means. Yet in between the chaos there are meaningful debates that can bring your audiences closer and create real loyalty that will pay dividends not only for the bottom line, but also for the world, if you enter into them with thoughtful preparation.
To learn more:
Beth is the CEO of InkHouse, which she co-founded in 2007, and has grown into one of the fastest-growing PR firms in the nation with 100+ employees and four offices. Named one of the “Top Women in PR” by PR News, Beth is working to reinvent the PR agency model to bend it toward the kind of culture that catapults great ideas and jettisons the rules that no longer work. At InkHouse, Beth focuses on inventing and implementing the new strategies that shape the agency’s work. In addition to changing the PR profession, Beth is working to change workplace culture as an advocate for equal opportunities. A frequent contributor to Forbes and Fortune, she is widely cited in outlets ranging from NPR, to Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Bloomberg and The Boston Globe. Beth was an appointee to Governor Patrick’s Women in the Workplace Task Force, and currently serves on two boards of directors as vice chair for the Alliance for Business Leadership and the vice president of the Massachusetts Women’s Forum. Beth spent six years learning the ropes in startup technology PR at Schwartz Communications and then moved on to venture capital firm Charles River Ventures before she went to The Castle Group, a generalist PR firm, for which she was a vice president. She studied PR, creative writing and journalism at Syracuse University and graduated from its SI Newhouse School of Public Communications.