When Looking to Speak Up on Social Issues, Start at the Core

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Bob Osmond, president of Racepoint Global, gets into the decision tree behind how businesses should evaluate if they should address a hot topic.

Ted Kitterman, Ragan Communications

When should your organization speak up on a social issue?

It’s a question that many communicators are asking themselves in 2021 as a divided country tries to find common ground and chart a path back from the darkest days of COVID-19. The short answer: You should be prepared to address the issues your stakeholders care about.

However, that’s a simplistic view that fails to account for the complicated power brands hold in our society in 2021.

“What makes it so complicated now is that brands can set culture,” explained Bob Osmond, president for Racepoint Global on a recent call for Ragan’s Crisis Leadership Network. When something like the transgender bathroom bill in North Carolina in 2016 stirred up activists against the measure that forced trans kids in school to use the bathroom of their gender assigned at birth, brands moved to condemn the state’s action.

Sports and entertainment companies pushed back on the law, not because of their employees’ beliefs or identities, but because they saw a values-based play, Osmond said. And with that brand power comes great responsibility.

Change comes slowly.

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