Right now even brands with messaging documents longer than most PhD dissertations are struggling to decide if and how to respond to current events. From COVID-19 to widespread protests tied to inequality, we’re seeing brands issue commentary on unexpected topics. Virtually all of my clients have asked about it, and it’s likely to keep coming up over time, so let’s answer the big question of the season — should we put out a statement?
The answer is not so easy. Yes, and maybe. It just depends who you’re talking to.
Addressing Issues Internally Is a Must
To build and maintain brand trust, employees have to be briefed. The internal audience always needs a statement. If you don’t know where to start, it’s absolutely acceptable to say that you don’t know what to say. Whoever delivers the message can also speak from their heart, referencing their own experiences or even talking about a personal commitment to examine biases.
What’s most important is that the message lets employees know their work environment is supportive. They need to know that if they’re experiencing anything — from instances of racism, to mental health concerns — they have options. Remind them who they can bring concerns to, and assure them that procedures are in place to protect and support them. One CEO I worked with recently even invited employees to share their concerns directly with her.
Sometimes these statements feel uncomfortable, but keeping silent internally is not an option. When it comes to making a public statement, it’s less cut and dried.
You Are Not Required to Make Public Statements
Scrolling through my inbox and social media feeds, it can look like every company is issuing a public statement. But of course you’re not seeing a list of everyone abstaining. Yes, the pressure is higher than usual, but there’s no need to rush.
Here’s the question I ask clients first: Is this in your DNA?
For some brands, a statement will feel like a regular extension of the brand. But if there’s no approach in place already, or it’s beyond the company’s comfort level, it’s better to say nothing than to say something and appear insincere.
If the decision is to keep quiet, now is a good time to consider if the approach will change in the future. Maybe you need or want to do a little genetic engineering to bring brand DNA into line with modern demands.
And finally, don’t forget that any content you do put out is going to be viewed in the context of recent events, which could mean it’s ignored or misinterpreted. I encourage my clients to trust their guts. If your gut tells you it’s just not the right time to put out certain content, pull it.