5 Factors To Consider When Taking A Stand On Social Issues

A version of this post originally appeared on our sister agency Padilla’s blog and was written by Brian Ellis.

60% of consumers say, when it comes to responding to social issues, brands “should take action.” This expectation is even higher for ages 18-34 at 65%. At the same time, 53% of consumers have started or stopped interacting with a brand because of a social statement they’ve made that they did or did not agree with. This is all according to SHIFT’s “2021 Brand Equity & Growth Shifts Report.”

Never before in our history has corporate America faced such dramatic change. Not only has the pandemic turned the business landscape upside down. Now, corporate leaders find themselves wrestling with a host of high-profile social issues that have divided the nation. Senior leaders are discovering just how difficult it can be to navigate the complexities of social justice. The Black Lives Matter movement, voting rights legislation as well as health equity have been leading the headlines lately, but below the surface rest a host of other issues that are capturing the attention of the new generation of socially active employees. Advocacy groups are also pressuring CEOs to take stances on issues that were once considered taboo by business leaders. What to do is now the talk of many board rooms across the nation.

On the surface, engaging in social issues may seem like a logical step for a company given the shifts in society. However, before stepping into those waters, it would be wise to take a closer look at the issues involved. The landscape is riddled with companies that thought they were standing up for the right cause, only to be sliced to pieces by critics who claimed their actions did not match their words of concern. Below are five factors that can help you navigate those challenges.

  1. Resist jumping to conclusions too quickly. Take the time to educate your team about the details of the issue. This type of decision should be made after careful consultation with leaders in the organization that touch the different audiences you serve.
  2. Start with the end in mind. What is the ultimate objective you are looking to achieve?
  3. Transparency, authenticity and humility are key. These are difficult issues, and it’s okay not to have clear-cut answers.
  4. Consider the long-term effects. What you say today needs to be something you can commit to in the future.
  5. Marry words with actions. “Support” should include tangible ways in which the company and brand is responding. 

If interested in exploring how to weigh these decisions for your brands, contact your account team or SHIFT at [email protected]. Gaining outsider perspective can help ensure that internal politics don’t shortcut a thorough and thoughtful process.    

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