My public relations career harkens back to a time when businesspeople and companies rarely publicly commented on political matters, especially highly charged, crisis-level communications like the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The potential was and is always there to impact sales, your ability to hire, your stock price and your corporate reputation. Responsible public relations professionals usually counseled most clients to leave politics and various hot button issues alone. Walk away.
This was before the rise of the “responsible brand”—companies sharing the concerns and the values of their customers. Before consumers demonstrated their interest in and ability to make purchase decisions based on the values-based actions of any brand.
The rise of social media, and the ability to loudly proclaim our consumer preferences, may have played a role in this. No delay. No survey or poll necessary. Suddenly we could immediately and directly tell companies what we wanted and how we wanted them to behave.
Behave like us. Have feelings. Share those feelings. Be human. Or, rather, behave like a group of humans.
But don’t overstep. During any crisis, don’t attempt to exploit the issue at hand. Don’t steal the spotlight. Support the oppressed or the devastated. Use your access to the stage and to influencers to draw attention where it is needed without it being about you and your marketing efforts. Join the conversation only where your voice is relevant.
Considerations on speaking out as a business leader on Roe v. Wade:
- Does the issue directly impact your customers, your partners or your employees?
- Do you or your brand have specific expertise in the issue?
- Can you add valuable perspective to the conversation?
- Can you stand up for your point of view over the long term?
- Are you willing and able to commit dollars to the cause or effort? (Or, are you able to weather the storm if your participation costs sales?)
- Do your corporate practices support or conflict with the issue?
- Do you have other options instead of making a public statement? (I.e., sending a letter to employees, customers or partners?) Just know that these statements have the potential to become public statements if they get shared.)
Like many of you, I feel that the tearing apart of the protections offered by Roe v. Wade IS relevant to us all. It feels like only the beginning of the attacks on women, especially the most vulnerable of us, those not able to muster the means to travel for healthcare denied to them locally. By criminalizing abortion, we are criminalizing female healthcare, condemning some women to death and trapping others in lives they never wished for themselves. As the publisher and editor-in-chief of a magazine for women entrepreneurs, I felt compelled to issue a statement.