In general, I’ve advised my business clients to leave politics out of their social media posts, comments, blogs, and business. I’ve tried to take my own advice with my own business too. That advice was based on the spirit of inclusion and avoiding alienation of part of a customer base.
Of course, my personal accounts and platforms are another story. Like most of my friends who haven’t taken a vacation from social media, these days we’re shouting our politics loud and clear.
But in light of the political strife going on in the U.S., you might have noticed more and more businesses taking a stand politically. Big companies like Uber have been sucked into the media storm. Businesses spend millions on Super Bowl ads with not-so-subtle political leanings. Even my Linked In feed, which is supposedly exclusively about businesses and professionalism, is dominated by articles about President Trump.
So what is a business to do? Stay out of the fray or dive in and inevitably reshape your customer base?
The answer to that question isn’t quite so clear. The truth is that consumers do use their dollars to support the brands they believe in. I myself have shopped for a new ‘health care professional’ after listening to them discuss their politics during my appointment. Movements to boycott specific brands based on political issues do effect revenues. That fact is the basis for a Washington State Bill introduced by State Senator Doug Ericksen that would impose steeper penalties for protests that impact legal business activity.
In light of all that’s going on, my advice has shifted to the less than satisfying, it depends.
First you must ask yourself, “Do I have all the business I want or can handle now? Can I afford to lose those customers that don’t agree with me?”
If your business or non-profit is already relevant to a political issue, the answer may be clearer to you. For example, my former client Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival is based on correcting the factual under-representation of female directors in the national and international film communities. For them, not mentioning where they stand on the Womxn’s Marches would undermine their credibility. But even for them, my advice is to be mindful about due diligence to ensure they’re sharing factual information that is not overly sensationalized. Even those who feel passionate about a cause might be put off by extremism that lacks professionalism.
If you answered yes to the above, you can jump in to the fray while exercising the same caution, good judgement, respect, and professionalism that you did before the Inauguration. If you answered no, you might be feeling a little frustrated. We’re all feeling like doing something to burn off this energy that is difficult to escape.
Here’s my advice on what you can do as a business without alienating customers who don’t share your personal, or company, politics:
- Partner with, and/or donate time and/or money to the organizations most relevant to your business that you believe in, then let the world know. I help businesses do this every day.
- Pledge to be positive. Kevin Coleman of WhatcomTalk.com developed #RippleofPositivity. Before you write, post, or share, ask yourself if what you’re about to put into the world would be perceived as positive by your customers? Get creative. Find the positives and make that the focus of your message. If you’re having trouble seeing the positives, then maybe you need to alter where your information is coming from. The positives are out there if you are looking for them.
- Focus on what’s really important. Its pretty easy to get sucked into the political spin vortex. But crisis also helps us see more clearly where our priorities lay. Instead of arguing with someone who just likes to argue, divert that anxious energy into what’s really important to your business and to your life. You probably already know what you care about. Do more of that. I’ve been investing my efforts into writing about the causes I care about, tackling business organizational tasks, and spending more time with my family.
What can your business do to navigate these unsettling times? What’s most important? I continue to write in support of the things I care about: the arts, the environment, and human rights. That’s a whole lot of productive, re-channeled energy. Each is positive, supportive of organizations I care about in a political way, and in-line with my political beliefs without being alienating to those who might disagree.
What will you do from here forward?