Last week was quite a week. In a single day, the United States Senate held a controversial vote to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice, and a jury found a Chicago police officer guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in the case of a teenager he shot and killed in 2014.
To categorize the two events as polarizing and emotional is an understatement. Both were heavily scrutinized with much anticipation leading up to the decisions. In the end, there were very different outcomes for the parties involved. Still, each prompts bigger questions: So what? Now what?
Clearly there are deep-rooted, systemic matters to be addressed beyond what I can cover here. But I would like to explore the implications for public relations and communications professionals, as people with the ability not only to shape messages but to employ viable solutions that play a much-needed role in finding and promoting common ground.
I recently came across two consumer insights that stood out for me. The first detailed how consumers now buy and make choices according to their beliefs rather than just on the quality and cache of a product or service.
The other was an assessment of brand value based on values. I noticed there were several iconic brands that carried tremendous credibility 10 years ago, but today aren’t even on the radar for consumers in terms of brand affinity.
If you believe your role is to make your client happy and do whatever senior leadership asks of you, I can’t argue with that. I can, however, strongly nudge you to reassess your perspective and think about your seat at the table.
What trends and issues do you see bubbling up in the marketplace that you can possibly get in front of and support – matters important to the hearts and minds of the people most important to your brand or organization?
Maybe women’s issues aren’t your company’s thing. Or perhaps your clients don’t have the resources or credibility to tackle social injustice. I’m not suggesting everyone advocate for everything. Still, something has to move you. There must be at least one issue beyond your bottom line that can help shape the way you do business. Find that issue and stand for it.
In the realm of business transformation, it’s not enough to push out press releases, write clever social media messages or commit to "telling your story." Consumers want to be a part of those stories and know that brands are committed to being part of theirs. This is evident in the recent decision by Nike and their 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign.
As strategic practitioners, we have the power to influence, initiate and pursue game-changing actions and narratives. Although everyone may not agree, the boldness to take a different approach helps to shift norms and hopefully inspires others to do the same.
Discord between political parties, one-upping of competitive brands, and confrontation between those who stand on opposing sides of issues will never cease. But we have the ability to step outside of the petty back-and-forth exchange with thoughts and actions that redraw the skyline of conversation and outcomes.
Start asking yourselves so what and now what. Don’t just talk about it, be about it. Don’t just transact, transform.
Rashada Whitehead is a business transformation leader who helps companies consciously navigate big changes.