With the March for Our Lives set for Saturday at venues around the country, what should brands be doing, if anything, to prepare? We asked Barie Carmichael , a senior counselor at APCO Worldwide and a former communicator at iconic brands. In sum, it’s a delicate dance and one size does not fit all.
Not long ago, companies were counseled to stay out of politics and social causes. ‘Stick to business and you won’t offend customers or potential customers,’ was thought to be the best route. Things have changed. Radically. In a collaboration with 3BL Media, a CSR news distribution and content marketing firm, PR News convened a roundtable to discuss CSR best practices.
At the Oscars, celebrity influences spoke out as conscious, mindful advocates instead of talking heads. Some of the most significant moments include the snubbing of Ryan Seacrest, a passionate advocation for dreamers and the suggestion of a rider that would make inclusion in productions a requirement. These tactics have implications that reverberate for beyond the Hollywood Hills.
When Delta joined a growing list of companies rescinding discounts for NRA members, it did so by proclaiming its neutrality. And when FedEx decided to keep its NRA discount in place, the brand also attempted to stay neutral. But both quickly found that when it comes to an issue as controversial as gun control, brands can’t have it both ways.
With more than 48,000 tweets and counting, the #BoycottNRA hashtag is trending and brands are listening. In response to the outcry following the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla. school shooting, several national brands have rescinded their NRA membership discounts in support of gun control, including Best Western, Wyndham Hotels, Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and First National Bank of Omaha, among others.
Unilever is threatening to pull ads from the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google—but the way the consumer goods giant conveyed that message has been as powerful as the message itself. The company’s CMO Keith Weed planned to use his keynote at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting today to call for improved transparency, accountability and consumer trust in digital platforms. But in a masterstroke of messaging, the company managed to humanize itself and score earned media, while also positioning Unilever as a thought leader, by releasing the speech strategically.
In an effort to combat harmful advertising in the beauty industry, CVS has made a commitment to keep it real. The retail chain has unveiled its Beauty Mark campaign, promising that it will no longer “digitally alter or change a person’s shape, size, proportion, skin or eye color or enhance or alter lines, wrinkles or other individual characteristics” in the imagery it creates for its stores and marketing.
An area where data has influenced communicators heavily is in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Instead of addressing social issues based on what communicators felt the public was thinking about, savvy PR pros are using data to assess needs prior to mounting a CSR effort. Here’s how one health organization used data and research before beginning its CSR initiative.
Over the weekend, four brands announced they would not advertise on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program, but none felt the backlash quite like Keurig, as videos of people smashing its machines lit up Twitter. The violent response underscores the tricky situation brands are in when caught in the crossfire of a politically charged controversy. Keurig first faced backlash for its inaction. When it took a stand, it faced another angry wave of protests.
Reports that Facebook’s self-service ad-buying tool may have been used by Russian agents during the 2016 election—as well as allowed anti-Semitic groups to target like-minded individuals—has damaged the brand’s reputation and raised questions about federal regulation of social media ads. The revelations have also raised questions about transparency, integrity and crisis management. When should a company withhold information it knows will damage its brand, and for how long?