Don’t mess with people’s politics. If you do, you’d better have a good reason for it and a strong response plan.
The drama surrounding the Susan G. Komen fiasco is yet another example of how seriously the public takes its politics. The organization that gave special meaning to the color pink, came crashing down when it became known that it had pulled its $700,000 contribution to Planned Parenthood.
Without taking sides on the political issue, one is safe in saying the loss in future contributions and damage to Komen’s reputation will total much more than $700,000.
It’s a good lesson, particularly now that the political season is in full throttle, to review our clients’ political stances and contributions. Clearly, having a heads-up that the CEO is making a contribution to a particular candidate can help in issues-management planning. Here are some tips to help clients get through the season without becoming too much of a target.
Research: Find out whom and which issues your clients support. Even if those stances are not popular, knowing about them before they blow up on a client’s Facebook page can help.
Bigger Picture: Using Komen as an example, there should be a discussion with clients about whether supporting or discontinuing support for a hot-button cause or candidate might do more harm than good. Even if the clients disagree, as PR pros we’ve done our job offering them the likeliest fallout scenarios.
Strategy: Have in place a plan for responding to the media and on social media before a political firestorm hits. Part of the reason Komen had a hard time was the silence on its Facebook page as the deluge of negative comments was posted. A quick, thoughtful response can help.
Grow a thick skin: Politics is nasty business, and facts often get lost in emotions and longstanding beliefs. Even the most robust response plan can get sabotaged. Clients who are aware of the risks of playing politics can better weather the storm, stick to their convictions, and offer measured responses.
(This post also appears on Ragan’s PRDaily.com)