We’ve all read the headlines: U.S. corporations clumsily navigating a new cultural landscape dominated by social and political issues, often with damaging consequences. Stakeholders demand companies go beyond "window dressing" purpose statements and CSR commitments, and instead use social responsibility as the compass for setting business strategy and delivering outcomes that benefit more than just investors and executives.
Study after study validate this shifting sentiment—summarized succinctly in a recent Accenture report: "consumers in the United States are… assessing what a brand says, what it does and what it stands for. They support companies whose brand purpose aligns with their beliefs." The tide has turned so quickly that the very nature of a corporation is being challenged. In August, with much fanfare, the CEO-member Business Roundtable (BRT) altered its position that American corporations should, for the first time, place people and communities above profit.
It’s clear that expectations for businesses are changing. The yardstick for measuring leadership is no longer just about making great products or delivering superior service, and doing it all profitably. The bar’s been set higher. Corporations unwilling to evolve face tarnished reputations, disengaged stakeholders, and lost sales. If the mission of a corporation is to truly do more than maximize profits, but authentically contribute to the broader good, then they must participate actively and productively in social and political conversations. Knowing how and when to do so is new territory for most.
By and large, corporations have comprehensive crisis plans focused on damage control. How many are prepared to navigate these socially and politically charged waters with an eye toward benefit, not just risk mitigation? With the right partners and planning, forward-thinking corporations have a unique opportunity to validate that they’re purpose-driven businesses capable of satisfying stakeholder needs while contributing to societal good—all the while generating goodwill, reputational capital, and quite likely benefiting their bottom lines.
At Precision, our roots are in politics, where years of campaign-honed experience taught us the best ways to prepare for polarizing issues and engage in meaningful conversations around them. By approaching corporate strategy through this lens, companies can reimagine their role in our shared world—how they think about and respond to the biggest challenges of our time. With the 2020 primary cycle underway — and no end to our country’s political polarization in sight — businesses will be thrust into the spotlight, forcing them to articulate where they stand on issues. Now is the time for corporations to push the reset button and think strategically about how to act, engage, respond…and lead.
Like the corporate world, the sports world is increasingly intertwined with issue advocacy. Athletes and fans have taken vocal stances, demanding action against social injustice. Over 5 years ago, a major sports team's corporate office made a choice to take action and defined social good as one of the organization's key pillars. Focused on developing initiatives that would positively impact the community around it, Precision has helped the team communicate this commitment year after year. The result has been positive, as fans, media, and community, state, and national leaders continue to praise the team for its commitment and authenticity.
Precision is an integrated strategy and marketing agency working with companies, causes, and candidates to changes people's minds and move them to action. Learn more at www.precisionstrategies.com.