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When Should Brands Take A Stand On Social Issues? (AND HOW?)

When should you, and when shouldn’t you comment on what’s happening in the world from a social justice standpoint? That’s a question a lot of brands are struggling with and that goes for both internal and external communications. Some people are really nervous and scared about not saying anything and the backlash that comes with that. And others are nervous about saying too much or always commenting and feeling like they’re getting distracted from their day to day business or promoting their products, services, and experiences. So today I’m here to give you some clear guidance on when you should speak up and when you should keep it moving.

Four Factors To Determine When Brands Should Take A Stand

I talked with a potential client a while back, and she told me that her company had gotten caught up commenting on every social justice issue that seemed to be popping up over the past 18 months or so. And they felt like they were in a spiral that they couldn’t get out of. And it was dominating so much of their communications from an internal company standpoint. We don’t want that to happen to you. So here are four tips that can help guide you along. So you can decide what feels right for your brand with regard to speaking up and when not to.

Determine Your Inclusive Brand Type

First up, decide what inclusive brand type you are. Every brand isn’t going to be like Ben & Jerry’s or Patagonia. These brands are social justice warriors. So whenever an issue pops up in the news around the world that is related to the causes that are important to them, they speak up, they speak on it.

Now, if you were to go to their websites or you know much of anything about their brand, you would clearly see, they are very specific about the issues that are important to them. They proactively educate and try to explain what’s happening so they can bring others along in support of their cause and making an impact and making a difference. Now because they are delivering those messages proactively and on an ongoing basis, it makes perfect sense for them to comment and engage on these issues whenever they pop up in whatever formats in the news. If your brand isn’t a social justice warrior, then it probably doesn’t makes sense for you to speak out in response to every different social justice issue that pops up. And if you’re not sure what inclusive brand type you are, if you fall into the category of social justice warrior or something else, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

I have a really fun and super short quiz that you can take that will help you identify what brand type you are. It’s called, what inclusive brand type are you. And here’s a quick link for you to access it.

What Issues Are Important To your Brand?

A second principle to guide you on when to speak out and when not to is to elevate the issues that are important to your business or your brand. And you know it’s important to your business and your brand whenever it impacts your customers or the people on your team. For instance, in 2021, whenever Texas issued a super restrictive ban on abortion, Lyft issued a statement because they felt that the abortion ban would have an impact, or it could potentially have implications for their drivers. They felt like if their drivers ended up needing to take someone to have an abortion, they could be sued.

It could put them in a precarious situation and they felt like they needed to protect their drivers. So they needed to speak out and find a way to create a policy that would support their drivers.

What Issues Violate Company Values?

A third way to identify whether or not you should be speaking up with regards to a particular issue is by identifying whether or not it is in violation of your company’s values. Why is this important? Because 71% of consumers say they want to buy from and engage with a brand that is aligned with their values. In 2021, the governor of Georgia signed into law, a bill that many felt severely restricted voting rights, and that would have a negative impact, particularly on people who were part of minority communities. Major League Baseball was scheduled to hold the All-Star Game in Atlanta that year, but they felt like restricting voting rights or doing anything that had any negative impact on people’s ability to vote was in direct violation to their values.

So how did they handle it? They didn’t just issue a statement. They decided they were going to move the All- Star Game and the Major League Baseball drafts out of Atlanta. They ended up moving it to Colorado because they felt that actions that were happening from a social justice standpoint in a place where they were doing business was in direct violation of their values. So not only did they speak out about it, they took swift action that they felt sent a clear signal, how they felt about it as well.

What Is The Emotional Impact On Your Clients And Customers?

And another way to tell on whether or not you need to address an issue, either internally or externally, as it relates to what’s happening in the world of social justice and the world around you is if it has a impact on the emotional state of the people that you serve, your customers or the people on your team.

After the murder of George Floyd, there were a number of companies who did a good job of holding space for their team members. And people were impacted quite a bit by the events that were happening, the protests, and just a number of things that showcased the racism that exists, that still exists, that we’re fighting against. As a result of that, those companies decided that they needed to say something, not only to establish how they felt about the situation, because it impacted so many of the people who they served as well as their team members, but they needed to be able to hold space for them to talk about, to process their feelings and to go through that. Holding space is very important and you can’t hold space for people properly if you don’t officially acknowledge what’s going on and how people on your team might be impacted.

A similar thing happened back in 2021 whenever things were stopped, Asian hate really buckled up and was dominating the news cycle. There were a series of events of violence against people who were part of the Asian community and it impacted people at a very deep level.

You do not have to speak up on everything. The guidelines that we just walked through will help you in your decision making of figuring out when you should say something and when you shouldn’t and when it should be internal versus when it should be both internal and external. That’s it for today. And if you want to find out what inclusive brand type you are, don’t forget to go and take the quiz.

Also in the comments below, I would love to know what your expectations are on when a brand should speak out on an issue from a social justice standpoint, when you feel like you need to see a brand that you are engaging with and buying from speak out, and when you feel it isn’t necessary. Drop it in the comments below, let’s have a good discussion about this.