One the often suggested best practices in blogging is to frequently review old posts for performance and optimization opportunities. In doing so, I came across a post from 2012, "Like Church & State, So Goes Business Marketing & Politics. Never the Two Shall Meet." Even after reading the posts I had no recollection of even writing it. However, given the current climate I wanted to see, what insight might be applicable today given how fast technology and social media has progressed. I thought I would revisit the post and explore if Social Media Marketing and politics are still Church and State. I have long contended that there should be no "business brand" that is separate from your personal persona. It breeds an environment for being disingenuous. Whenever you're selling to someone, the most important quality you can project is authenticity. Especially when making big purchases (real estate, automobiles, marketing campaigns, etc.) We want to feel like we know the person we're doing business with. By hiding behind a protective veil, sellers can alienate themselves from prospective buyers.
However, in the age of President Trump, the country, actually more accurately the world, unfortunately has become more polarized. People's politics are being worn on their sleeves, if not emblazoned on their chest. Everyone from athletes during the SuperBowl and All-Star Game to musicians and actors during the awards season have volunteered their two cents. When its comes to business however, people are treading the waters very carefully. On one hand they might have some very strong opinions on a given topic, however sharing those opinions in a public forum has caused tens of thousands of people to delete ridesharing apps and tank athletic gear stock. So what is the right approach? In short, it depends. It all boils down to your target market. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind.
This is perhaps the biggest difference I think I have noticed in the past 5 years. In the past I would have said avoid any and all talks about politics. POLITICS. However, social issues that matter to you are and should be fair game. If you're a Green Certified business that believes in sustainability and a healthy environment, its safe to say your customers believe in your mission as much as your products. In this case, its important to speak out and be a thought leader on the subject. Think about sharing content about protests and petitions that your customers can support. There will be a natural alignment with certain pieces of legislation and topics and you should be ok with that.
In most instances, your business interest will align with your persona. However, In more than one occasion over the past dozen years of being in business, there have been instances when my personal agenda and business interests are in conflict. In those instances, its important to tread lightly. Businesses that are mission driven attract customers that believe in that mission. Consider stating that mission very conspicuously on your website and marketing material. When creating content online, lead with opinions that have a natural tie to your professional mission. When you're communicating opinions that are clearly motivated by your personal interest and run contrary to your businesses mission, you run the risk of alienating readers and subsequently valuable customers, who don't share your views. It would be a shame to lose a customer this way. Stay away from purely personal rhetoric when possible.
This goes in-line with the first suggestions. Ambiguity is your friend when discussing any political issues. Politicians themselves, use the technique to their advantage a great deal. Try not to address any one politician by name, instead focus on the issues that are important to you. Try to take a broad approach to the subject and take a general stance on the subject. Its ok to use current events and examples within your industry as case studies to illustrate your point but try not to draw lines in the sand.
Its easy to become angry by those things we become passionate about. But how we channel that energy, especially in a blog post or on social media is important and you need to be strategic. If the increasing cost of healthcare is placing a drain on your business, avoid attacking those politicians responsible for the rising costs. Instead, consider being supportive of legislation or causes aimed at fixing the problem. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative works online as well.
Daniel, our company President always uses the expression "heavy is the head that wears the crown." What he means by that is, the larger you grow, the more detractors will be exposed to you. Its the rule of the Ying and Yang really. But most CEOs don't consider or expect that as they grow towards the top. As a leader, you should anticipate that your messaging won't be accepted by everyone and prepare appropriately. Once you start to see haters trolling the comment section of your blog posts, be prepared to moderate them. Like you have answers to FAQs, consider creating common responses to frequently spit hate, venom and bile.
When marketing your business or brand its important to express your personality. People buy from people and buy from people they know. If you hide behind a logo, that logo better have a lot of character if you want it to sell for you. More and more, today's political landscape has become unavoidable online. Conversely, businesses and their missions have become more tied to social issues and thus part of the political discussion. When there's another side, you have controversy. While controversy is great for marketing an opinion blog or a reality show, its an easy way to slice your consumer pool in half. Tread lightly!