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When businesses should be talking about social issues—and how best to do it

by | Nov 15, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

These days, companies of all shapes and sizes are under increasing pressure from the public as well as their own employees to speak out on various social issues. According to some researchers, over 80 percent of the public expects CEOs to speak out publicly on social issues, while nearly 70 percent of them also believe that the CEOs should be stepping in to fix societal problems where governments aren’t able to help.

While there’s no question that plenty of CEOs and other people in leadership positions feel compelled to talk about social and political issues, they still have to back their comments with actions and measurable performance

Since we’re living in an era of accountability, CEOs should only talk about issues that they can take specific actions on. Then they’ll be rewarded by creating stronger relationships with customers, employees, and investors. However, if those statements are just empty words and aren’t followed by actions, it’s both the CEOs and the companies that end up facing consequences, because this ends up degrading the trust between the business and the rest of the world.

A great example of this is the popular ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s

The brand has been speaking out about various political and social issues for the past four decades. While customers are increasingly looking towards companies that are willing to address societal challenges, they are also looking for companies that are willing to help solve some of those challenges too. While plenty of companies have always been able to weigh in on various governmental policies, it was generally done by lobbyists and only benefitted the company. These days, consumers are looking for transparency and companies that act in the common good, which means companies have to back up their statements with actions and decisions.

One great way to see whether a company should be making a statement about a social issue or keep quiet about it is to note whether staying silent is going to say more than making a statement

For companies that have never made such public statements, they’ll also have to explain why they’re taking a stance now. If the words are empty and not followed by actions, it’s going to be seen as an attempt to market the company, and will put the business in a bad light. Taking some time and formulating the right statement is a lot better than just putting out a simple statement and not following up on any promises.

Finally, there are plenty of times when a company’s silence is seen as the company not caring about the injustice enough to talk about it to the public

Although responses to certain issues might not align with all of the segments of a company’s target audience, a part of the responsibility that brands have is to serve as the conscience of their communities. That means taking note of any current events, and providing a statement on what the company is going to be doing to help alleviate a situation or solve a problem when necessary.

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Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations: 5WPR is one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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