There has been much debate lately about whether companies should be in the business of social awareness and advocacy.
We are truly living in unprecedented times. The world is awash with social consciousness and political activism, and many organizations have jumped into the fray. Over the past few years, we have witnessed the biggest name brands standing behind a range of well-known, hot-button issues, such as racial disparities, LGBTQ+ rights, and the preservation of our environment.
But should companies really be rushing to be more vocal about their values and stances on a tinderbox of social and political movements? Can championing a cause become a counter-productive act, doing damage to a brand’s image and profitability? Or, to paraphrase a saying that’s been making the rounds lately: If you go woke… will you go broke?
The Return on Risk
It’s true that taking a public stand on social issues can be a risky move for brands to make. The brands that dare to boldly stand up for controversial ideas risk losing those loyal customers and employees who disagree with them. That risk is irrespective of business size, industry or even a brand’s age. After all, diversity by nature means that where one group sees advancement and support, others may perceive regression and a challenge to their values.
But is the risk of social and political activism worth taking for your business?
In most cases, the answer is a resounding, yes!!! Success, however, requires sincerity and a balanced approach. In a practical sense this means three factors should be in place:
- Authenticity. There is no room for lip service. Your brand must ensure that its social stance is a genuine reflection of its core values, mission statement and corporate culture. This in turn should be condensed into a unified, branded message across all channels and aspects of your operations.
- Research. On one hand, company leadership should be invested in understanding the issues they are addressing as well as the core messages they want to convey. On the other hand, they must also understand their audience and be willing to engage in meaningful conversations. Receiving and acting on feedback will help to ensure that your messaging is truly in line with customer preferences.
- Measurement and Analysis. Regularly tracking and reporting on the impact of your brand’s social and political initiatives improves transparency and shows accountability to your stakeholders.
Why You Should Take a Stand
Now let’s consider the many benefits to business activism done right:
Increase your influence in the marketplace
Taking a position on controversial social issues generates buzz and helps your company stand out from the competition. These days, consumers and brand advocates are looking for more than just a product or service. They want to align themselves with brands that share their interests and values.
For instance, according to a 2022 Sprout Social survey, over 70 percent of U.S. customers agree, or strongly agree that it’s important for brands to take a stand on social issues. In another study by Accenture involving over 30,000 consumers across 35 countries, almost two-thirds of consumers say that they are more likely to buy from a brand that supports a cause they care about.
Achieve higher levels of employee engagement
When your company clearly and consistently communicates its values and culture, it can help you both attract talented employees and lower attrition rates. According to a recent Gartner survey, almost 70 percent of employees would consider leaving their current employer to work for a company with a stronger commitment to the social issues that matter the most. Furthermore, employees working for companies with a strong stance on important social issues are twice as likely to report high job satisfaction.
Build shareholder value
When business activism happens through the prism of authenticity, engagement, consistency, and the desire for feedback, then these forces have the space to work together in harmony to create value. Your customers are happy and more motivated to buy; your employees are more engaged; and your company enjoys a clear brand image with positive publicity. All of these factors can improve your bottom line and thus shareholder value.
In short, although there are risks involved, taking a public stance on social issues can be a powerful tool to develop your brand image, increase market share, and connect with both your audience and your employees. In the process, you can help make the world a better place, too.