According to Business 2 Community, one of the priorities for PR firms in 2020 will be for brands to take a stand on a social issue. The role of a PR campaign, it says, is no longer limited to creating awareness and generating sales of a brand. For companies to speak out on an issue that affects it customers is vital as it can help them to connect with their customer base, enhance customer loyalty and win respect.
More importantly, a credible brand taking a stand on a consequential issue can act as a powerful persuasive force to drive change and induce action by engaging with thousands of its followers and fans.

According to a survey conducted by Sprout Social in 2018, 66 percent of consumers said it is important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues.
An Accenture Strategy survey of 30,000 consumers in the same year, found that two-thirds believe social media-led protests and boycott campaigns have far-reaching influence.

Indeed, in this day and age brands cannot afford to be left out of important conversations that impact their consumers.

However, brands taking a stand can be a tricky thing as every social issue has two sides to it and how and which side to take is the question. Therefore, it is important that a company’s position on an issue and all its communications reflect its corporate values, and the act of taking a stand per se is seen as part of its corporate social responsibility to the community it operates in. A thorough research into the issue should be conducted first to understand it and then accordingly act upon it.

A downside, however, for brands taking a stand is a potential backlash from those on the other side of the issue, in case it is a controversial one. It can also drive away potential customers or investors. Hence, brands are better off avoiding any provocative or contentious issues.

Last year in an advertisement, American shaving company Gillette took on toxic masculinity in the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, calling on men to “be better.” The ad received both praise and abuse, but more importantly it went viral, generating multiple social media conversations and news articles around it and the brand.

The most critical step for the PR company in planning a brand’s social policy is to identify a cause that matters to the company’s customers and is in line with the corporate ideals because once the brand takes a stand, the company is inevitably going to be scrutinized in dozens of ways to ensure it is practicing what it is preaching. Next, PR firms should help companies lay out a long-term plan to support the position they have taken, analyzing progress made and engaging customers with ongoing conversations. After all, one social media post done and forgotten can leave companies susceptible to being called out by their followers for being just a gimmick or abandoning the cause.

If done right, taking a stand can help companies to make a real impact and win life-long customers.