As Kamala Harris and Joe Biden were respectively sworn in as the 46th Vice President and President of the United States, social media was flooded with responses to the historic inauguration. In a moment that saw the global community take a sigh of relief, an age-old PR conundrum resurfaced: how can brands express their political affiliations without alienating customers?
Across social media platforms, a range of approaches were employed to tackle this PR challenge. United Airlines expressed their commitment to working effectively with the new administration, in a straightforward and professional manner. Whilst Ben & Jerry's took a celebratory tone in using the moment to advocate social causes that are integral to their company’s ethos. Meanwhile Aer Lingus took a much more informal and humorous approach in comparing Dr Biden’s outfit to that of their flight attendants’ uniforms.
All of these communication approaches felt consistent with each brand’s online identity, but here at Roland Dransfield we wanted to investigate a little further into just how these companies managed to express their political affiliations in a brand-consistent way, and highlight how to speak out politically in a relevant, appropriate and professional manner.
Knowing Your Audience
As with so many features of any successful PR and marketing strategy, it is about knowing your audience: what is the demographic of your clients and what information can you gleam from that?
Consider whether certain political pressure points could alienate and polarise your audience, or whether transparency and activism might be something they’d respect and engage well with. The tone utilised is essential in ensuring your audience come away from your political content still feeling positive about your brand - maybe that’s providing a jovial mockery of the political climate, or it could be providing factual information expressed in a formal and neutral tone.
Whatever way you plan to address a political opinion, make sure it is appropriate for your audience.
Relevant To Your Business
Try and make it relevant to your brand. Spouting out about gun reform, when you are a business that sells dairy free yoghurts to a UK market, might seem a little odd. Finding a way to link your brand with the political stance at hand is useful in conveying authenticity.
The team at Patagonia excel in this regard. They pour a huge amount of resources into campaigning for climate change, therefore congratulating President Biden, who ran on a platform of green values, made perfect sense.
You’ve got to Walk the Walk
Marketing and PR play into a wider vision of CSR and a businesses values, so it’s important that if you choose to express a political stance or speak out on a social issue, that your company is doing more than just sharing a message across social media platforms.
Are you donating to a charity that champions your cause or supporting a programme relevant to the cause? Deliver actions that back up your political stance and prove your brand to be loyal and authentic.
Are you obligated?
This also raises the question of whether your brand might be obligated to speak out politically; if you’re connected to the issues at play, will your silence be critiqued?
Many brands may prefer to keep quiet on controversial topics that can polarise their audience, and it is up to each branding team to work out whether a response is necessary or whether it is safer to remain quiet. Being bold might just pay off though, as Nike can testify. When they ran their campaign with Colin Kaepernick, after his courageous and polarizing activism, it saw the sneaker maker’s sales spike by 10%, bringing in revenue of $847 million.
And that’s it
So there you have a few considerations for your business when you’re contemplating how to showcase your political affiliations. Here at Roland Dransfield we can aid with brand strategy and execution so if you would like to discuss your own PR and marketing activity and find a way to grow your brand presence effectively, get in touch with us at Roland Dransfield and we’ll be able to help you out.
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