Brand Activism: Should You Take a Side or Stand Aside?

Brand activism is when companies use their influence to push a belief or viewpoint on an important issue. Even small businesses can employ their social visibility — whether on their websites or in the community — to influence change.

But whether or not you partake in brand activism is a personal decision. Only you can determine if taking a stand is the right choice for your company and brand.

Some businesses are taking a stand

Historically, businesses bolstered their images by improving some of the world’s woes. Today, it’s becoming more and more common, according to The Marketing Journal.

Businesses are being thrust into the spotlight more than ever, making them the ideal vehicles for relaying important messages. These messages are often tactfully folded into advertisements, social media posts, or press releases. Handled thoughtfully, brand activism encourages consumers — and competitors — to ponder causes, get involved, and offer support.

When is it better to stand aside?

If you’re considering taking a stance on a sensitive issue, such as a political matter, Entrepreneur suggests that you consider the backlash or scrutiny that may arise not just from your social media or blog followers, but also from competitors, supporters, and possibly the press. If there’s a chance that your target audience won’t agree with you, being outspoken about a cause through your brand may not be the right choice.

Issues aside, it’s no secret that running a business is laborious work. If you don’t have time to become an activist, don’t feel guilty — the health of your business is your first priority.

How to effectively practice brand activism

If you do decide that activism is the right choice for your business, here are some tips for doing it tastefully.

1. Practice what you preach

People see through greedy intentions and want businesses to make honest efforts to improve a poor situation, not just to pad their bottom lines. So, whatever cause you choose to support, make sure your support is more than just a PR move. Making tangible commitments, like organizing a fundraiser or donating some of your products, will impress your customers more than making a statement without putting any work behind it.

2. Stick to one thing

If you’re eager to jump into the activism arena or start a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, take time to choose one suitable cause. It’s common for entrepreneurs to be overzealous about issues that affect their communities or their businesses; however, it’s much easier to focus your attention on just one issue at a time — at least when you’re first starting out.

3. Do your research

Wait for a slower season to roll around, or for bustling holiday promotions to end before making any type of comment on a social issue. Take time to research your chosen issue, then compose a statement to be shared in a blog post or with a media outlet.

Make sure you’re knowledgeable enough to address an issue properly, and sensitive enough that you don’t risk upsetting people with different points of view.

4. Pick a cause that aligns with your mission

A brand’s mission statement outlines its purpose, aims, and values beyond products and profit. Your mission statement can be an ideal starting point for choosing a cause to support.

For example, imagine that a deli only uses organic meats and produce from ranchers and farmers within a 100-mile radius. In this scenario, the deli’s mission statement vows to support environmentally conscious farming practices. Finding a cause that’s an extension of its original mission — such as raising awareness about the dangers of pesticide overuse — would be fitting for this deli.

Get ready to make a difference

Carefully considering these tips will help you decide how — and if — you should get involved in brand activism. There’s a lot to consider when deciding how to make a difference with your business, but if activism is the right choice for you, it can be extremely rewarding.


Lorna Hordos

Lorna Hordos is a home-flipping business owner and freelance writer.

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