Well, the game has changed…again. Following the shocking, violent events at the Capitol last week, we are once again walking into a new reality. (I refuse to accept the current state of the union as a new normal.) And the implications of that reality extend to what we do as leaders and communications professionals – doesn’t everything?
What’s changed this time is that we are suddenly thrust into a new era of more accountability, more transparency, and frankly, more mainstream reckoning for corporate behavior and political affiliations. In the wake of a putsch inspired by a false narrative of a stolen election, many businesses are moving quickly and decisively to distance themselves from outgoing President Trump and his political allies.
Per The New York Times earlier this week, “More than a dozen big businesses vowed to withhold certain political donations. Coca-Cola said it would pause donations from its political action committee, saying in a statement that ‘these events will long be remembered and will factor into our future contribution decisions.’ Marriott, the giant hotel chain, said it would pause donations from its political action committee ‘to those who voted against certification of the election,’ a reference to the congressional Republicans who joined Mr. Trump’s false claims of election fraud. Morgan Stanley and AT&T said they, too, would suspend contributions to those lawmakers.” And yesterday HallPac, Hallmark’s political action committee, suggested two Senators return contributions. These companies know that they must correct or face correction – in the form of social media backlash, lost customers, diminished revenue, significantly decreased efficiency, distracted employees, and brand erosion.
While your company may not have a PAC, engage in lobbying, or make significant contributions, your actions should be as soul-searching and swift as the aforementioned brands. Your customers, employees, and partners are watching, and now more than ever, they want to know who you are and what you stand for. Now is the time to get clear on your company’s values and how they are carried through in all that you do. Everything speaks.
The vendors you work with, the suppliers you pay, the actions your leadership team – in and out of work – take, the influencers you partner with — they all reflect on your brand. The country is a scary place right now. Managing a business may feel scary too. But we can all do things to help us lead and manage with informed conviction, even when we don’t have all the answers.
Control what you can control. Audit your policies and practices. Do they cover the situation we find ourselves in now? Given everything happening, they need to. Are they clear? Now’s the time for radical clarity — not just for now, but for the future so that your employees, your partners, your customers, and your leadership know where you stand, and how you will uphold your values to forge your path forward.
I believe we transcend this moment; that people of all political ideologies can find common ground for good. However, the need to be clear, to stand up and stand for something and to be known for what your company values will never go away; the horse is galloping away from that barn at breakneck speed.
Strong, values-based communication help you navigate with intention, integrity, and alacrity.