The vast majority of SMEs believe that they should not be involved in discussions around important social issues affecting the community, according to a My Business poll.
Readers were asked the question: “Given Qantas’ public support for marriage equality, do you think businesses should add their voice to social debates?”
Despite a great many SMEs playing up their role in supporting their local community, more than two-thirds of respondents (67.6 per cent) answered no.
Just over a quarter (27.8 per cent) felt that as business leaders they had responsibility to add their voice to community debates, while the remaining 4.6 per cent admitted to being undecided on the issue.
Catriona Pollard, owner of PR firm CP Communications, previously touched on the issue while outlining five wrong ways to manage social media.
She told My Business that advocating for issues that are important to both your workforce and your customer base can be very empowering, provided it is done carefully.
“As a brand or a business, you have to do the work to make it effective for your audience. You have to be very strategic,” she said.
Catriona says it is possible for a business to add its voice to social issues without damaging its brand. Doing so requires you, as the business leader, to genuinely believe in that message, and not alienate customers and employees who may have a different view.
“If it seems your brand is just jumping on the bandwagon, it can spectacularly backfire – you don’t look authentic, but come across as disingenuous,” said Catriona.
In fact, she said it can actually help your business stand out from the crowd by taking a stand on popular social issues.
“You need to factor into your strategy that some people may not support that same view or event, so you don’t want to offend particular customers. But you also need to stand by your convictions,” she said.
“If you offend some people [despite your best efforts not to], so be it, they’re not going to be part of your target audience – just don’t go out to actively offend anybody.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.