In this highly charged U.S. political climate, we see many brands staying away from the PR & politics fray and many diving in.
So the question becomes: in PR & politics, do you tie your brand to a political side or not. Is there an advantage to choosing that outweighs the risk?
We are going so say a resounding “yes!” It is important that you pick a political side. We also believe that picking a political side has become more important not only because of the current political climate, but also due to the rise of millennial generation buying habits.
PR & Politics is (now) good marketing
So why do we advocate this choice to pick a side? Because it dovetails with our belief that when you market to everyone, you market to no one. But also, because at the end of the day, if you own, run and value your business and its impact on the world, you have to live with yourself.
Luckily, the millennial generation has called companies who take a stand on social responsibility and political values to the attention of all age groups. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a much larger factor in buying choices since companies supported at first by millennials (Toms shoes being the quintessential example) have found outstanding success by embracing social marketing. Now you may say “Well, Toms is apolitical — who wouldn’t support sending a free pair of shoes to the needy.” But Toms is no exception to controversy.
Want to talk political choices? Then take a look at Penzey’s spices. Penzey’s has often taken a stance in politics, with stories supporting values they believe in and encouraging cooks to vote! But Penzey’s bold and repeated condemnation of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency solidified their position “bigly.” Penzey’s even posted a little about the immediate results. We’ve reached out to Bill Penzey for further comment, but their receptionist assured us that from HER seat, the call volume is way up. And they’ve gone on to support the women’s marches in ways that can only be called huuuuuuge.
So, what did controversy do for Toms and for Penzey’s? Controversy created a conversation. And as long as you have a well-thought out principle-based public relations strategy for managing controversy, you not only win the marketing game, but you get to stand on the principles and values of your company while you do so!
What about those who disagree with us?
One answer: f**k em. (Okay — the team won’t let me just leave it at that, ADK).
The longer explanation is the same one we tell you when building a brand. “If you market to everyone you market to no one!” And that in itself may seem an oversimplification. But it truly is that simple. You have a targeted audience and, believe it or not, it has leanings. And you should know what they are. And, if you are very lucky, they will be leaning the way your personal value system leans.
And yes, that works in B2B marketing. Selling new energy products? You know that there will be a clear uphill battle to move purchasers who love the GOP your way. Selling a cloud-connected two-ton fleet truck? You’re not going to convince a logistics guy wearing Birkenstocks who moves granola to even test drive it (unless he goes all Greenpeace on you and decides to run it into a wall — and by saying that, we are not advocating it, okay?).
So don’t worry about the sales (or lack of) to those who disagree. Stir the hell outta’ the pot of people who already believe the way you do — or that your company culture does. Your corporate values really should align with what your product does for the world anyway (if not, we fear for your soul and encourage you to seek a new job, start a new start up or find a home in a country where you can start a blog and live largely on a few hundred bucks a year).
Bottom line — there are plenty of customers in your pot, believe me. Don’t worry about those who don’t agree with your politics.
The strategy of the PR & Politics message
This is the place where all of your “but, but, buts…” can be asked about using PR & Politics. Choosing a political side doesn’t mean that you must pick “Hi, we’re XtraBotics Turbo Drones and we vote Right!” as your corporate tagline because well, first of all, it would really s*ck as a corporate tagline. But second, you don’t have to be in everyone’s face about your political leanings. What you have to do is decide when you’re going to not shy away from it.
There are a few places you do that. Think about your organizational values when you decide what charity your employees will support at Christmas, what fun run you all decide to participate in over the summer, any donations you may give for certain levels of sales or for referrals. And also, keep it in mind when you fill out your boards of directors, reach out to others for third party endorsements, even selecting your bloggers and influencer outreach partners. And, it probably goes without saying that social engagement is a place you can choose to showcase your political values — let us help you decide if you want to.
What’s that exception you mentioned?
We have many clients who are GSA certified and have to satisfy requirements to maintain their ability to compete effectively for federal contracts. You, dear clients, and any others who are currently selling exclusively to government are allowed to be an exception to PR & Politics, though we would say if your entire business development plan is about government contracts, you may want to ask us about your biz dev plans! But for that type of marketing, we know those rules and can help you out. But you are the exception (hey, kind cool being the exception, no?)
Putting our money where our mouth is: SparkLeft
So we have to say, we’re testing this PR & Politics theory ourselves. Partly because of passion. Partly because we truly believe that there are start-up technology firms that believe in the values that drive Spark Rocket Marketing’s love of technology. Those firms are concerned about job creation and really helpful training for job seekers in a world less dependent on blue-collar laborers. The firms we love believe that they can create jobs by developing not only new software tech, but also manufacturing products that will change how we use our home appliances, how we access doors, how we shore up crumbling infrastructure, how we save precious resources like water and clean air and how we move, heat and cool the world’s inhabitants.
We believe they will respect our choice to dive into PR & Politics with the launch of our new platform in support of a division of our company committed to creating winning messaging for liberal candidates. We also believe that we’re going to teach candidates to be more passionate about their messaging and reaching out to their base, just like we teach our tech clients to do! So we’re introducing Spark Rocket Marketing readers to “SparkLeft…a launchpad for liberal women.”
(P.S., We also believe that really smart companies like to be challenged by those who may not agree with them. Just because we lean left, doesn’t mean we can’t be incredibly valuable as a fresh messaging eye to those who disagree with our politics. And if they can’t, well I’m sure you know our thoughts on that…)
(P.P.S., No F***s Left Friday is our semi-regular series of in your face marketing posts. Because we believe marketing has to be a little in your face. We usually write them before we all head out for martinis — so come join us (check out other NFLF posts for other places we frequent) Because if we are going to claim to be audacious in what we do for our clients, we have to be audacious ourselves! You may not agree with us so we encourage respectful comments)