Social awareness is evident everywhere thanks to the 24/7 news cycle and social media. I remember taking EFB (Environment and Functions of Business) during in my Commerce degree, and two points stick with me.
- the goal of a business is to remain in business
- every organization has some level of social responsibility
For both of these points an organization must remain consistent between what they say and what they actually do.
This point is important for individuals as well.
If an actress is going to say she won’t let her daughter watch Snow White because a strange man kisses the sleeping princess, then the actress should be careful about the types of movies that she stars in where she gets into a car with five strange men in a strange city. Or she needs to rethink her role in a drama series where she sleeps with a man and has a child out-of-wedlock.
What is the lesson you are trying to deliver?
If you are an international coffee company that touts itself as a great defender of social injustice, you need to be careful about how you claim your revenue in certain countries that results in less tax being paid in that country. You know, the taxes used to build roads, hospitals and schools.
Companies do not have a soul. The people within the companies have a soul. At least, I hope this is the case. And the soul of the people demonstrated during their interactions with all stakeholders is a major factor in the brand that is built. This is completely within the control of the leadership and employees of the company.
Many companies do great community work, with events such as fundraising for the United Way or health related charities or local arts groups. This is a wonderful way to keep a positive spirit in your community. Something that creates a real sense of pride in oneself, one’s company, and one’s city.
However, these companies do not get a pass if their business ethics are gone out the window.
Does anyone remember the US domestic car manufacturer CEOs that traveled by private jet to Washington to plead for government assistance in 2008?
Or how about the Sears Canada board still getting paid while the pension fund is being underfunded? The people who worked hard for their entire career and built a great brand are now getting punished because of weak leadership and board.
Why do these stories only get minimal play in the media when their impact is often far-reaching or very large?
Instead we get hollywood media darlings blasting fairy tales. I have not seen a reaction from Disney yet, and it will be interesting to see what they do.
Organizations must be mindful of what is said in the court of public opinion. If you are founded and operate on strong principles and values you should be able to have a reasonable response and maintain your position.
Or you might have to leverage those strong principles and values and make a course correction or adjustment. Do not adjust or minimize your values and principles if they are indeed strong and have been used all the time.
Marketing should play an important role in the organization’s understanding of these types of issues. I have written in the past about Marketing Muscle and PESTLE and keeping abreast of other customer related issues that are brought to the attention of the organization. Skilled communicators should be used to craft appropriate statements and responses. Not weasely “I am not going to answer your question” remarks. Most normal people can smell a rat when a spokesperson continually dodges an issue.
Grow a backbone and own up when appropriate and defend as needed. That is, if you can have a great defense.
Remember the recent situation in an US city with police being called to arrest someone who was trying to use the restroom when they hadn’t made a purchase? I am not going to get into all the details, except what made me angry was the way the store manager was thrown under the bus “for following company policy” at that time. And he threw the manager under the bus by blaming her. The effective point of accountability in that organization is the CEO and he endorsed that policy.
Until the incident.
And then he had to backtrack, adjust, change and do all sorts of dancing. Some people were disappointed that the chain was no longer an elite and expensive place to meet. Others heralded the inclusivity of opening the bathroom doors for everyone. You can make you own decision about which argument you like.
People in organizations that want to have a high-profile need to make sure they are squeaky clean before they trot out their high and mighty positions. Poor positioning and poor execution of messaging can cause you a lot of long-term problems. Good customers won’t buy from you and good employees will leave your organization.
I am going to have an apple. If I fall asleep maybe Trappar will lick the apple juice off my face and wake me up.