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Politics In the age of wokeness, silence really is golden

20:45  30 november  2021
20:45  30 november  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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In baseball, you don’t have to swing at every pitch. But in the era of social media, some feel you have to have an opinion about everything. At least, that’s how some companies and brands seem to feel, ever increasing their forays into social activism and political speech. And in an era when younger consumers really are looking to use their dollars to make a statement about their values, what’s the downside of speaking up about social and political issues as a corporation or big brand?

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Turns out there’s plenty of downside. During the Donald Trump presidency, politics seemed inescapable, following people into every nook and cranny of their lives. Finally, people are saying they have had enough. And as a new report from Brunswick Group finds, corporate leaders that think they’re helping their bottom line while speaking out on political issues may have fallen into what Brunswick calls “the talking trap.”

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The report asked voters and corporate leaders alike to weigh in on whether they think companies should speak out on social issues. While two-thirds of corporate leaders said unequivocally, “yes”, two-thirds of voters took the opposite view.

What’s driving the disconnect? To begin with, corporate leaders tend to overestimate their own effectiveness. Brunswick’s study found that nearly three-quarters of corporate executives think their communication on social issues is effective, while only 39% of voters say they generally think companies are good at weighing in.

Some voters, particularly conservatives, may simply not like the position the company is taking. But as my research has found, conservatives are also less likely to punish a brand for taking a different view than they do. More often, it is younger and more liberal consumers who vote with their wallets, so to speak, so the incentive for a company is more often to cater to the politics of that group.

UCLA vs. Cal College Football Odds, Plays and Insights

  UCLA vs. Cal College Football Odds, Plays and Insights Check out odds, insights and more in our betting preview for the UCLA Bruins vs. California Golden Bears college football matchup on November 27, 2021. © Provided by Sports Illustrated Nov 20, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) scores a touchdown past Southern California Trojans linebacker Ralen Goforth (10) in the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The irony, of course, is that for much of the 2000s, political hand-wringing about corporations engaging in political speech came from the Left. But even for those younger or more liberal consumers who do expect companies to match their values, brands can still miss the mark when they stray out of their lane or seem insincere. The Brunswick report notes that oftentimes, corporate “messages are too reflexive, not particularly relevant to that organization’s core mission, constituencies, and stakeholders, and, often, simply too random or superficial to create meaningful connection with audiences and demonstrate action.”

It is one thing if you are an automaker and you come out taking a stance that climate change matters and your company is making concrete efforts to reduce the environmental impact of your manufacturing and the emissions from your vehicles. It is quite another if you are an automaker and you come out with a stance on what U.S. foreign policy ought to be toward Syria. (Laugh all you want at this hypothetical, but the American Federation of Teachers did in fact put out a statement about Trump-era military action in Syria.)

UCLA vs. Cal College Football Odds, Plays and Insights

  UCLA vs. Cal College Football Odds, Plays and Insights Check out odds, insights and more in our betting preview for the UCLA Bruins vs. California Golden Bears college football matchup on November 27, 2021. © Provided by Sports Illustrated Nov 20, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) scores a touchdown past Southern California Trojans linebacker Ralen Goforth (10) in the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

And yet, time and again, companies nowadays think that because they have a microphone, they simply must use it on whatever hot topic is in the news. And if they don’t, they risk being tarred as complicit, as “silence is compliance.”

But the issues corporate executives think voters want to hear about most aren’t necessarily the ones voters care about most. While issues like racism and climate change rated highly as things corporate executives think they should speak out about, those issues were much further down the list for voters, with matters such as mental health and homelessness rising up higher for people versus executives.

And then, even if you have the right issue, there’s the matter of sincerity. While two-thirds of executives said that they think issuing statements and using hashtags like #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter conveys authentic commitment to a cause, less than three in 10 voters agreed. Corporate social speak all sounds the same: totally disconnected from how actual people talk or think about these issues.

Of all people (or things?), frozen meats brand Steak-umm nailed this when it tweeted: “Most brands on twitter sound more or less the same these days because the blueprint to being Extremely Online is widely accessible due to its popularity so even marketers who aren’t as Online can now mimic the style…steak-umm bless”.

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What does get people’s attention? Doing, not just talking. In the Brunswick study, people were much more likely to view a company’s actual investments in things ranging from community development to disaster relief efforts to be authentic action. These sorts of actions, as well as efforts such as employee tuition reimbursement and community service opportunities, were also among the least polarizing and most widely viewed as genuine.

Speaking authentically and effectively is an important skill companies need. But perhaps even more important is the discernment to know when it might be better simply to not speak at all.

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Tags: Op-Eds, Opinion, Corporations, Social Justice, Youth

Original Author: Kristen Soltis Anderson

Original Location: In the age of wokeness, silence really is golden

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