You spend years building your brand. Over time that brand becomes the identity of your products and services. You build an audience, a loyal client portfolio, and certain visibility for your business. All of this is extremely hard work whether you are a small business owner or a large corporation. It costs time, money, and invaluable human resources.
But then the world happens. Social injustice, racism, wars, hunger, pandemics, environmental crises, and countless other events that demand local or global attention from anyone and everyone who holds any kind of power call for your attention. What do you do? Do you use your brand's platforms to speak up and take action? Or do you simply keep your head down and go on about your business to protect all that you've built from naysayers?
You do. You definitely speak up. If you have a business, you have responsibilities that go beyond your personal stance and even that of your company. It's the year 2022, Gen-Z is ruling the world, and nobody wants to be associated with a brand that doesn't use its voice. "Cancel culture" is here to stay for a while and it is easier to get canceled for lack of action than for making a mistake.
Immediately. You have to let your audience know where you stand on important matters, be honest and vocal about what matters in your local community or the larger landscape, depending on whichever is more relevant for your business. But you make it clear what you think sooner than later because speaking up too late will make you look like you are using the opportunity to gain free publicity. And there is nothing less likable than a brand scraping for attention desperately using current events.
Social media is the easiest way of getting your message across or showcasing what is important to you as a brand. Other means of communicating to your audience include press coverage, using your advertising campaigns to make a point, or simply making a public announcement about your POV. But the means you choose to deliver your message is as important as the message itself. Make sure you choose the appropriate platform for the occasion. Have consistent messaging across all your platforms (i.e. Don't be promoting your genuine leather product on your social media whilst announcing your concern for the environment in a press article).
Don’t attack any person, company, or brand while you are speaking up. Speak of the events, the ideology behind them, or the incident at hand, and explain why it matters to your brand. You don’t want your social action to come off like you are picking a fight. A brand should always look at the bigger picture.
Expressing your brand’s values and standpoint shouldn’t overshadow your business. After all, you are out there to sell a service or product. Unless your business is an NGO, your main purpose is not activism. So be sure to keep the frequency and the tone of your message balanced.
Finally, here are a few recent examples I particularly appreciated of companies who responded to the surrounding world. They made it clear where they stand, exhibited what kind of action they are taking around the matter at hand, and kept it well balanced.
The online graphic design company shared their concern over the war in Ukraine with a well-scripted news release that was published through a link on top of their homepage. The text made it clear that Canva is against the war and stressed out their concern about both the Ukrainian and the Russian people. They went on to list the actions they take to help the situation and invited their community to join them. The message was peaceful, impartial towards the people, and inclusive all at the same time.
The famous “Forbes 30 Under 30” designer recently took a clear stand against homophobia on his Instagram page. After the designer, Simon Porte Jacquemus, posted an image of him kissing his boyfriend, a client commented featuring emojis of disgust and claimed she doesn’t like the brand anymore. The designer was quick to react and shared a screenshot of the comment as a new post, saying he doesn’t want or need homophobic clients anyways as his team includes several gay people. Support from the online community poured instantly for the designer and the brand and several others went on to share their agreement on their own platforms. The incident was a clear display of where the brand and its owner stand, and the action they took was quick and to the point.
Another great corporate example of solidarity with Ukraine came recently from the writing support app Grammarly which used a small pop-up message for their users that can be seen as they type using the app. The pop-up message links to a longer announcement on the company’s website where they clearly state their stance, share the actions they are taking, and even offer links to trustworthy organizations that need support.
According to a PWC survey in 2021, 73% of businesses believe “trust” builds customer loyalty more than anything else. And displaying your values transparently to your consumers is likely to get you just that. So in short, don't be afraid to speak up for what you believe in as a business or brand owner. Your honesty may cost you a few followers or clients in the short run but in the long run, you gain much-needed trust from your larger audience for your transparency and frankness.