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CEOs Should Get Political, But Only Authentically

CEOs Should Get Political, But Only Authentically

“Republicans buy shoes too.” The controversial quote, attributed to basketball legend Michael Jordan when he refused to endorse Harvey Gantt over avowed racist Jesse Helms in a 1990 Senate race, had dogged him ever since, despite doubts over the statement’s authenticity. Nonetheless, it reflected a longstanding brick wall between business and politics. After all, who wants to put off potential customers?

But there is a limit to this mindset, even for the biggest corporations. When President Trump equated both sides in the Charlottesville protests, his CEO-led business advisory councils disbanded – just one example of how his behavior and rhetoric have compelled companies to ignore the historic wall between corporations and issue activism. Recent Super Bowl commercials confirm this trend, hawking beer with touching (albeit often ham-handed) immigrant stories, and car ads calling out racial and gender bias. As corporate activism surges under this administration, it seems that companies are rushing to appeal to today’s consumers by standing with DREAMers, proclaiming environmental bona fides or dropping sponsorships with the National Rifle Association (NRA) after horrific school shootings.

How did taking a political stand shift from public relations suicide to business necessity, and how can we know when companies are acting authentically or with solely financial motives?

When our company, CREDO Mobile, was started more than 30 years ago, the founders wanted to show that a company could have a true moral compass as well as a strong political voice. Our goal was not to function as a tool of political candidates or parties. Rather, we sought to do the right thing and see if we could achieve our business goals as well as our vision for a more progressive future while inspiring the public to take action.

We pursued these two ends authentically, acting on our values, not from pressure to adapt to consumer whims. It worked because our customers liked the quality of products and also appreciated the ability to put their monthly bills to work for causes they care about, like funding Planned Parenthood, Doctors Without Borders, Friends of the Earth, the American Civil Liberties Union and dozens of others. CEOs just now wading into the political fray shouldn’t do so to woo customers — they should do it because it’s the right and necessary thing to do.

The evidence supports this approach. A company’s reputation can hinge on its response (or lack thereof) to developments in politics and broader society. As a Global Strategy Group (GSG) survey found, 81% of consumers believe CEOs should play a leadership role in bringing about change on social and political issues, and they are actively trying to understand where the companies stand on certain issues — a marked increase over previous years. In fact, the study shows that consumers are willing to go beyond simply tolerating a company’s activism and now actually embrace it, suggesting that all else being equal, a huge swath of the market will be loyal to a company that fights for their values.

There is an important caveat, bringing us back to the importance of authenticity: While it’s crucial to take a stand on critical issues, companies must do so quickly. GSG found that following a current event, half of Americans now expect a response from a corporation within 24 hours. This separates the authentically political from bandwagon jumpers-on because this timeframe is just too short for poll-testing, focus-grouping and hand-wringing over risking the bottom line. Companies that act from their long-held values can continue doing so with confidence, knowing their customers will remain loyal.

Article reposted with permission from Forbes Technology Council. Read the original article here.

8 Comments on “CEOs Should Get Political, But Only Authentically

  1. I agree ! I can’t wait till I’m finished paying off my phones so that I can switch to credo mobile. I’ve been with AT&T since before the beginning. I’ve watched it descend into a power for evil, and virtual “slave” drivers globally. I believe if our representatives in the United States Congress ignore the will of the people over the financial interests of the powerful oligarchs that support anti democractic and authoritarian ideology, encouraging Nazism to flourish in what was once a great nation of hope, a guiding light for the world and millions of immigrants landing in our shores that escaped fascism and authoritarian governments since the industrial revolution…seeing that guiding light of Democracy and a better life for themselves and their loved ones. This is what made this country great. Like the song says, “I’m glad there is you”.

  2. This is a good article. It uplifts my heart, in these troubled times, to know that somewhere there are corporations who are thinking in this all-important humanitarian way. I feel a breathe of fresh air reading this…like maybe all the horrible things goin on to destroy our environment and our American commitment to the welfare of our people, regardless of their race, religion, and upbringing…. may be saved. Maybe that, bringing out all the horribleness in such a transparent way…will allow those of us who care about life and love of humanity and our planet to be seen and heard. And if we all stand and work together keeping the highest in our sights, to love and care for each other, our selves, and our planet, then I feel some hope for the future!

    Thank you. I stand by your comments here, and applaud you!

  3. I think just the opposite. Critical issues and responses must be fully considered with a comprehensive, thoughtful, and long-term approach. Moreover, in politics and business, as in life, circumstances change. And once strongly held views and policies must be judiciously reexamined and modified as situations and zeitgeist’s change.

    That being said, often we hear the term,” get in front of the issue.” That may not always be prudent or helpful overall, and, consequently, might prove harmful to myriad groups and individuals.” Ultimately, it is my view, that corporations that succumb to political and ideological coercion are sliding down a slippery slope. We do not need the politicalization of all aspects of American life. We have too much as it is now. Will the day come when I have to have the “correct” politics in order to get hired? (Unfortunately, that day is already here and we don’t need that type of predjudice to escalate.) It is too detrimental to our social fabric and culture. In reacting too hastily, corporations, consumers, and still undetermined effects on our culture could facilitate greater social strife.

  4. I commend the stand of chariter! If we don’t stand for righteousness, we’ll fall for anything ❗️

  5. Well stated, I have been making the same observation as I look at billboards, even in watching TV and movies, the representations are all types of people working, playing, living together, an atmosphere of understanding.
    thank you

  6. In this day and age discrimination does not belong. We cannot prevent what people teach their children but we can influence government and the private sector, which I do and will continue to do.
    We cannot see what is in a person heart regardless of their color, creed, national origin, temperament or personal pain. But, we can change the business and political worlds…one dollar and one vote at a time.

  7. Thank you for this article. I believe public comments that encourage action taken for common good rather than for an individual’s benefit which will cost the common good are so valuable to a civilized society today. Especially now while we are constantly barraged with news clips of the highest executive and so many others speaking for what benefits their own pocketbook in spite of the harm it does to the earth, the poor and an environment of relationship, truth and respect..

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