We live and work in a world where a single tweet can trigger significant reputational damage — to people and to brands. That’s partly because social media and other technology help information and ideas spread around the world faster now than at any other time in human history. The benefit of increasing the reach and speed of our interconnectivity is also resulting in an increasingly polarized and unforgiving landscape where media and public opinion are deeply divided by political extremes and social intolerance.
For businesses, today’s complex issues landscape creates challenges. But it also presents opportunities.
Companies are feeling pressure to take a stand on a wide range of divisive issues. Taking a stand can pose risks to business continuity, share price and corporate reputation. However, our research found that consumers don’t expect companies to act on and fix everything, but more specifically those issues most under their control. Three out of four consumers globally expect CEOs in particular to take a stand on issues that have an impact on the company’s customers (74%), products and services (72%), and employees (71%).
Companies that engage authentically on issues that are aligned with their business objectives can enhance their financial performance, strengthen their connections to consumers and make themselves more attractive to top talent. To get to that point — where corporate values and purpose guide policy and practice — takes time, careful thought and a fully integrated approach.
If silence is no longer golden and brands are expected to be part of the conversation and part of the solution: What issue(s) should you focus on? When and how should you respond? How do you decide?
Our approach is grounded in four principles that are essential to managing reputation today: 1) staying socially attuned, 2) being transparent and accountable, 3) ensuring alignment across relevant business and communications functions and 4) preparing for potential negative impacts. This leads to informed decisions and positions that are true to a company’s values.