Merging politics and public relatons can be risky.
First of all, you’re alienating if not eliminating some of your followers or customers by taking a side on certain political issues. You’re also creating opportunities for people to criticize your motives — and authenticity.
Simultaneously, it could be a great way to get publicity and also engage in a cause aligned with your company's values.
Nike definitely got political with it’s recent controversial campaign, featuring a black and white close-up of football player Colin Kaepernick with the tagline "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
Kaepernick previously made headlines around the U.S. and the world by kneeling during the national anthem at football games as a form of protest. Nike’s campaign made global waves, resulting in two U.S. colleges suspending their business with the company.
It also sparked an anti-Nike trend on social media — #JustBurnIt was trending with people opposing the brand while setting fire to their Nike apparel.
Critics argue brands tend to piggyback on social movements to garner consumer appeal.
Although there are many risks involved, such as the backlash and negative coverage from some forms of media. However, in Nike’s case, it definitely worked out in their favor.
Sales increased by 31 percent following the Kaepernick ad.
This is just one example of the long line of brands getting on board with political or social issues. The world is increasingly connected with issues faced at one end of the globe, affecting another end.
Increasngly, global challenges and corporate social responsibility have become a top agenda items. This means, companies are aligning themselves with social movements —ranging from environemtnal concerns to women’s issues.
Another example is Nissan’s #SheDrives campaign. In this instance, women in Saudi Arabia were giving men lessons in driving following the lift of a female driving ban in the country.
People are increasingly basing their identities on what they buy or don’t buy.
A study by Edelman Earned Brand suggested 57 percent of consumers buy or boycott a product based on their social or political positons alone.
Given this statistic, it would seem brands will have to engage with political and social issues based on their target audience.
This shift in consumer identity will have a big effect on brand behavior.
Corporations have never really been regarded as moral guardians. Their ultimate goal is increasing market share and profits. So, political action and social activism shouldn’t be outsourced to companies and multinationals.
Social activism should originate from the people and those organizations structured for encouraging social change.
That said, brands engaged with social issues they care about or consider important isn’t entirely objectionable — as long as such engagement is genuine and not occurring solely due to the seeking of profits. Accountability should be paramount when it comes to brands standing up for a moral issue. Nike’s critics were quick to point out issues within the production and supply chain in Nike products, referring to alleged use of sweatshops in Asian countries.
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent public relations Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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