In today’s explosive political environment, when should businesses risk taking a stance?

by | Jan 18, 2021 | Public Relations

In just its first couple of weeks, 2021 has already seen enormous political chaos, as the divisiveness and partisanship that has been plaguing the country for years continues to foment. Most consumers seem inclined to jump on one side or the other of every issue with increasing vehemence.

Remember when White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was refused service at a restaurant in Virginia due to her political involvement with President Trump? Or when a Colorado baker refused to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, and the issue made it all the way to the Supreme Court? These types of stories are becoming commonplace, and public reactions are typically on extreme ends of the spectrum.

Amid this volatile environment, consumers have called for brands and businesses to step into societal debates and voice their opinions—often at their own peril. This therefore begs the question: Should businesses—especially small businesses, which tend to build their customer bases more organically—take political stances? Such a move can produce a groundswell of support or just as easily cripple a company by alienating too many heretofore loyal customers.

Online software solutions provider Skynova recently surveyed over 430 business owners to uncover how they feel about the state of business and politics, and how (if ever) the two should mix.

In today’s explosive political environment, when should businesses risk taking a stance?

Key findings of the research:

2 in 3 small business owners feel there’s too much pressure to take political stances

The study found that one in 4 small businesses surveyed said they had taken an overt political stance (29 percent of conservatives and 23 percent of liberals). Their actions were generally rooted in different reasons, though: Conservatives were more likely to take a stance for publicity’s sake, while liberals felt more pressure to do so either from their employees or the public.

Half of conservative business owners and 2 in 5 liberal regularly feel pressured to hide their political beliefs

The research also reveals that, no matter their political affiliation, business owners were most likely to express themselves because they felt a responsibility to do so (56 percent), because they felt it was their right to do so (44 percent), and because their employees encouraged it (43 percent). On the flip side, businesses were most likely to abstain due to fear of alienation (49 percent) and not wanting to foster division (40 percent).

In today’s explosive political environment, when should businesses risk taking a stance?

Business owners have taken overt political stances using social media posts, company policies, and selling products that advocate a viewpoint

According to the study, three-quarters of businesses that took a stance had taken to social media and made specific statements to express their views, 53 percent incorporated their views into company policies and initiatives, 44 percent sold products that advocated a specific viewpoint, 37 percent made financial contributions to relevant causes, and 22 percent provided goods and services related to upholding their beliefs.

Black Lives Matter is the most common political topic expressed by small business owners

Among the topics provided in our survey, business owners were most likely to discuss Black Lives Matter above all others (34 percent), though liberals did account for a large portion of that percentage (51 percent versus 21 percent of conservatives). LGBTQ issues came in second, at 30 percent, followed by free speech at 27 percent.

In today’s explosive political environment, when should businesses risk taking a stance?

View the full report here.

The firm surveyed 434 business owners using Prolific and Amazon MTurk. Respondents were selected based on their status as entrepreneurs and small business owners. 194 respondents reported their political beliefs as conservative, 167 as liberal, and 73 as moderate. 194 respondents were female, 238 respondents were male, and two respondents did not identify as male or female. The average respondent was approximately 38 years old.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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