January 5, 2022

When Should Your Company Speak Out on Social Issues?

3 Questions Every Purpose-Driven Business Should Ask Itself

Should your purpose-driven business speak out on social impact issues, or should you quietly stay on the sidelines? In the past, marketers would often stay out of the fray of social issues and stick to their product and service messaging. However, events in recent years have changed the playing field, and brands are expected to use their voices for good. 

According to a 2019 Gartner study, 87% of employees want their employer to take a stand on issues relevant to their business. And here’s another interesting statistic from Harvard professor, Gerald Zaltman: 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious. Finally, according to the Markstein Report, 70% of consumers want to know what the brands they support are doing to effect good in the world. I personally believe that number is increasing every day.

Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

These three statistics indicate that employees and consumers expect brands to take a stand. And when that stand aligns with your audience, it is ultimately going to impact their purchasing decisions. I understand that it can be terrifying to speak out on social issues. We’ve all seen it done well, and we’ve all seen it done badly. Historically, organizations tend to be quiet in order to stay away from controversy. But I will tell you that in today’s world, we’re seeing more and more indications that your silence often speaks louder than words, and it’s time for marketers to get off the sidelines. If you’re wondering when that right time is for your business, here are three questions that can help you determine when to speak out.

1. Does the issue align with your purpose? 

First, you should ask yourself: does this issue align with our purpose? Ideally, any issue you decide to speak out on should relate to your company’s mission and values. If it doesn’t, your audience may not view your statement as genuine, and it could do more harm than good.

2. Can we add to the conversation in a meaningful way? 

If you want to speak, but you don’t have accurate information or meaningful talking points, it’s not the right time for you. You should also consider whether your business has the time and money to demonstrate your continued commitment to the issue in the future.

3. Will our audience generally agree? 

While you’ll never get 100% agreement, if the majority of your audience will agree with your stance, and your answer to the first two questions is yes, you should begin to craft your message plan. 

Final Thoughts

As you get more practice in this arena, you’ll be able to look ahead to decide when and how you’ll speak out on certain social issues, making it easier and more effective. If you were unable to answer yes to all three questions, carefully consider how to move forward. While you may not be comfortable speaking out on a particular issue now, there may be a situation that is more relevant to your business in the future.

Want more information? Visit our purpose-driven business hub to find a variety of case studies, helpful blog posts and Agency for Change podcast episodes featuring other purpose-driven business leaders.

KidGlov is a boutique, full-service, advertising, branding and content marketing agency and certified B Corp, with offices in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, specializing in nonprofit marketing, healthcare marketing, financial marketing, social impact marketing, and purpose-driven businesses.