Taking a Stand

As an organization or individual professional, when should you take a public political stand? What are the risks and benefits? Who will you alienate or support by your statements?

If you haven’t done clear branding work, these questions will be tough to answer. Branding is not simply developing a logo. (That’s just an outcome.) Branding means defining who you are as an organization, figuring out who you serve, and understanding why you do what you do.  Your brand should support your mission–it’s your organizational promise.

Taking a strong stand on a controversial political topic is risky, but depending on who you are as a business, it can be one worth taking.

In response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day 2018, Dick’s Sporting Goods took a stand on gun control that helped define who, exactly, the retailer wants to serve. They banned assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, and they increased the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21. Then they publicly urged elected officials to raise the minimum age for gun purchases; ban assault-style firearms, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks; require universal background checks that include relevant mental-health data and previous interactions with the law (requiring a database of prohibited buyers); and close the private-sale and gun show loophole.

They drew a line in the sand. Dick’s decided who their target audience should be: athletes and outdoors people (young and old), including responsible adult gun owners who use their guns for hunting or sport. No doubt, some customers will decide to stop shopping at Dick’s to show their support for the National Rifle Association’s stance on gun control; however, my bet is that more customers will decide to shop at Dick’s to show their support for stronger gun control laws that safeguard innocents.

Personally, I never really thought much about the difference between Dick’s and their competitors like Big 5 Sporting Goods, Pacific Outfitters, REI, and others, but now, I would go out of my way to shop at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Taking a strong stand on a controversial political topic is risky, but depending on who you are as a business, it can be one worth taking. When it comes to sharing your organization’s position, be sure to consider all your audiences, both internal and external. Talking to your internal audiences before you make a public announcement allows you to do two things: 1. assure that you have consensus within the organization, and 2. provide employees and other internal stakeholders (e.g., board members, community partners, etc.) with the information they need to support and magnify your position.

If you’d like help developing your branding or deciding how to share your message, give us a shout.