Navigating Zero Gravity

October 8, 2018

By: Marjorie Benzkofer

How do companies speak out on issues, but not alienate their customers and employees? Explaining the motive matters.

You may not call it “zero gravity,” but you likely know what it feels like. Zero gravity is a place a lot of leaders and communications teams find themselves today – in a world that is tilting swiftly. Spinning quickly. Where gravity feels like it’s pulling in every direction. It’s the zone where every issue in the spotlight feels like a competing force, pulling us in equal and opposite directions, because the options are loaded with real business risk. Should your company take a stand? When, how and who should speak up?

In just the past year, we’ve seen unexpected issues capture mainstream attention, like tariffs, social media algorithms, and immigrant rights. Others like MeToo, gun safety and the national anthem protests are now full-fledged movements. Corporate leaders wonder about whether today’s issue is the issue they must weigh in on to offer a point of view important to their business and to satisfy their stakeholders. Increasingly those stakeholders are employee “activists” who want their companies to “do the right thing,” which is in the eye of the beholder.

Zero gravity. Your new reality.

As FleishmanHillard’s latest research (insert hyperlink) conducted by TRUE Global Intelligence™ shows consumers are setting up real tensions for companies:

OVER HALF the people who buy products WILL STOP if they disagree with what you say.

  • 66% of U.S. consumers say they have stopped using certain products or services because the company’s response to an issue does not support their personal views.

And OVER HALF will THINK LESS of you if you say nothing at all.

  • 61% said that even if they disagree with a company’s position, they still believe it is important for companies to express their views. If your customer base includes Millennials, we found there is even more expectation to speak out (75%).

A seemingly impossible dilemma for companies? It’s challenging, but it’s not impossible. Consumers do offer some advice on how to make it work.

THOUGH they are more likely to remain loyal if you can explain WHY.

  • 43% of consumers said that if a company explains WHY they have taken a position on an issue, they are extremely or very likely to continue to support them – even if they disagree.

Today, surviving and thriving depends on how well you know what all the “tribes” important to your business are feeling, thinking and doing.

FleishmanHillard Authentic Insights are a starting point for learning about consumer attitudes and their intended actions on the issues of our time. We surveyed more than 50 current issues, spanning cultural, economic, political and societal interests, inviting consumers from a variety of political, racial and sexual orientation backgrounds to participate.

Our findings show that, agree or disagree, consumers expect organizations to act. So we’re sharing insights into how companies can create the conditions for success.

We are here to help – find your footing with Authentic Insights.

Marjorie Benzkofer is Global Managing Director, Reputation Management at FleishmanHillard. To reach Marjorie by email, please use the contact form here.