RESEARCH: Brands Aren’t Taking Stands, Know Audiences Want Them To

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Brands aren’t taking stands, know audiences want them to

Peppercomm and Ragan share the first Corporate Character Barometer, which shows a gap between corporate readiness and stakeholder expectations.

Matthew Purdue, SVP, Content Strategy, Peppercomm

Corporate communicators are constantly faced with decisions on whether their brand should speak out on important social issues. Abortion rights, gun control, climate change, voting rights, the war in Ukraine, diversity and inclusion … the list goes on and on.

They are inundated with data showing their stakeholders demand to hear these points of view. In fact, 70% of consumers believe it’s important for brands to take a stand on social issues, according to SproutSocial. That number rises to 75% for Gen Z and 80% for Millennials.

As we approach one of the most divisive (and decisive) election days in recent memory, many communicators seem to be searching for a consistent, coherent strategy for determining when and why to speak out on these topics. That’s the bottom-line conclusion of a recent Peppercomm/Ragan study. The inaugural Corporate Character Barometer (CCB) surveyed nearly 400 communications professionals as the midterm elections quickly approach.

The survey set out to measure the willingness and readiness of brands to take a stand on the societal issues of the day, as well as their experiences when they do speak out. The survey also examined their work to articulate and activate their corporate purpose.

Despite the 24/7 discussions around these topics among external stakeholders and employees, more than half (55%) of communicators said their brands are not likely or are somewhat unlikely to take a stand in the coming quarter.

These numbers stand in stark contrast to another key statistic: 66% of survey respondents said it is important to their employees that the CEO communicates a point of view on controversial issues. This indicates a gap in brand behavior versus stakeholder expectations that could cause serious problems for some brands, especially considering that the No. 3 reason workers quit a job in 2021 was because they felt disrespected at work.

Peppercomm and Ragan are using this data to establish the Corporate Character Barometer (CCB), which stands at 18 out of 100. This indicates that only 18% of organizations are very likely to speak out on societal issues in the next quarter. The CCB will be updated on a regular basis with real-time data to serve as a guidepost on brands and their willingness to engage with stakeholders on matters trending in the overall zeitgeist

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