Crisis Communications: Tips for standing with, against, or staying silent in these times
Israel and Palestine. Black Lives Matter and systemic racism. Trump. The vaccine. Megan Markle!
There are a lot of controversial ideas, topics, individuals, and triggering topics out there these days. Just mentioning any of the above may set someone off, and equally, not mentioning it may just do the same. It makes sense that many high-powered executives at law firms and marketing agencies—along with these companies as a whole—remain unsure of when and how to take a stand for what, and for whom, they believe in.
I’m sharing my tips and tricks, along with helpful examples from those who have gone through it, in order to help you and your business to know how and when to take a stand.
- Individuals at companies should always understand their company’s policies before speaking out publicly, especially in written/social media form, regarding a controversial topic. One news associate at the Associated Press should really have done the same, as she was terminated from her pro-Palestine social media post which violated the company’s social media policy. The policy states that “AP employees must refrain from declaring their views on contentious public issues in any public forum and must not take part in organized action in support of causes or movements.” To wit, this is a news organization, and the woman in question is a journalist (and also interestingly, Jewish); it is her job not to show bias. However, this still represents an important lesson for all of us in navigating these turbulent waters. Now is a really good time for companies, if they have not done so already, to draw up an exhaustive list of social media protocols for the brand itself as well as for all employees to follow.
- Remember what you stand for.
What are the values of your organization? Just like in meditation when we say, “return to the breath,” you should always return to your corporate values when deciding whether or not to weigh in on a controversial topic. Is it in alignment with your corporate values to weigh in on the topic at hand? Regarding the vaccine, specifically, I felt it was important to take a public stand in support of vaccinations, and I (also, publicly) incentivized our employees to get vaccinated by offering them extra paid time off, among other perks. One of our corporate values at BoardroomPR is to treat all of our employees like family. With this in mind, speaking out about the vaccine, and my desire for all of our employees to get one, felt like a no-brainer because it is deeply connected with my corporate values as a CEO. I was glad to have my name, face, and business associated with this topic, and I would do it again!
- Be mindful of your audience.
Are you working in/with communities directly impacted by this topic?
Always remember your audience – your clients, your community, those in your orbit, when deciding whether or not to weigh in on a controversial issue. Never lose sight of who you are speaking to; this should be the second line of thinking (after your own brand and company values) when it comes to taking a stand.
- Consider your point of view.
How is your voice or point of view productively contributing to the conversation?
Will people want to hear from you? Are you directly related to the topic at hand or just a passionate bystander? Consider your involvement and impact, and how your voice contributes to the conversation.
- Use your intuition.
Ultimately, speaking out will either feel right to you, or it won’t. Let your intuition guide you through deciding whether or not to speak up and out. If you thought about your corporate values, your audience, and the relevance of your point of view and yet, you’re getting a conflicting feeling inside, that is okay and that is normal! Listen to it. You may thank that little voice later!
So next time you find yourself fired up about a controversial topic, I hope you’ll walk yourself through these five steps: remember what you stand for, be mindful of your audience, consider your point of view, and use your intuition. With a little bit of thoughtfulness and attention, you’ll know exactly what to do!