The current marriage equality campaign has seen unprecedented levels of company involvement. Everyone from individuals to small businesses to city councils are throwing their two cents into the debate. Which raises the question: when is it okay for companies to support campaigns?
As an individual, it’s easy to choose which campaigns to support, but as a company, it becomes slightly more complicated. For example, everyone associated with Civic Web Media is in favour of marriage equality, but does that mean our company is?
Why should your company support a campaign?
Campaigns come and go. Some spread awareness and raise funds like the ALS ice bucket challenge; others arise from tragic events like the 2015 Paris attacks. Others still like the marriage equality postal vote can cause controversy and division.
There are plenty of positive reasons to support a campaign as a company:
Spread awareness: you can use your company’s profile to spread awareness about an issue that’s important to you such as breast cancer, domestic violence or the plight of refugees.
Portray your company in a positive light: supporting charitable campaigns helps build a positive public image.
Show solidarity: you can stand by survivors of natural disasters or terrorist attacks by getting involved in social media campaigns.
Raise funds: you can help raise money for medical research or other worthy projects.
However, it’s important to remember that bandwagon jumping on popular campaigns can seem exploitative. Campaigns should always be supported in the right spirit and never as a grab for extra exposure.
Who are you representing?
One person’s choice, whether it be the CEO or marketing manager, or even a committee of people, must ultimately represent the company as a whole. When supporting a campaign as a company you are presenting one set of views as that of all your employees: this becomes problematic when not everyone shares the same views.
To take the current marriage equality debate as an example, while you and ninety per cent of your workforce may support the ‘yes’ vote, is it okay to represent that ten percent who do not support it as being pro marriage equality?
Before throwing your support behind any campaign take a moment to consider whether it accurately represents the views of your staff and even those of your customers.
When is it okay support a campaign?
Choosing which causes to support as a company can be fraught with difficulty.
Returning to the marriage equality debate, if you show your support for the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote, you risk raising the ire of a percentage of your customers. However, if you remain neutral you equally run the risk of upsetting customers who may wonder why you are unwilling to show your support for either side.
In the case of a universally popular campaign like the ALS ice bucket challenge, there was never a risk of offending anyone – everybody wants to cure Motor Neurone Disease – but even participating in popular campaigns can be interpreted as tokenistic.
And when is it appropriate to put a filter on your Facebook profile picture or to add a banner to your website? When the Paris terror attacks occurred, Facebook was awash with French flag filters. When atrocities occurred in Pakistan no such mass support was shown. Is it okay to pick and choose or should you support every campaign equally?
Before you support a campaign ask yourself:
1. Why am I supporting this campaign?
A good rule of thumb is to support campaigns that you have a connection to as a company. Maybe you have offices in an affected city or work in an industry associated with a cause. If you can come up with no better reason to support a campaign than ‘everyone else was doing it’, then perhaps it’s best to stay out of it.
2. How will my customers or audience react?
You can’t please everyone, but it is important to at least try and please some of them. Will your customers agree with your stance on Cause X? Will you lose customers if they don’t? How will your support be perceived by others?
At the end of the day, you will risk criticism whichever campaigns you support. If you firmly believe in a cause and it is something you’re willing to fight for then it is probably worth supporting.
How should you show your support?
Support for a campaign should be more than skin deep and always conducted in a spirit of generosity and community-mindedness.
Some positive ways to support a campaign include:
- Donating a percentage of takings to a campaign, either anonymously or publicly
- Providing pro-bono work to a cause
- Using tasteful social media to promote or support a campaign
In a world where supporting a campaign is as easy as a few clicks it’s important to look deeper and give real support to the causes you believe in. Remember, actions speak louder than words – or Facebook filters.