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To Speak or Not to Speak — When Should Your Company Take a Stand?

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Our current political climate is a little scary, so going public around controversial issues can be terrifying. When does it make sense to use your business as a platform?

Often speaking up can drive business and foster customer loyalty. If you choose to remain silent, that’s your prerogative, but you’re more than likely going to get called out by your customer base at some point — and you should be prepared to respond.

Forrester did a study on it, and they found “when choosing between two brands with similar products, 43% of US adults will favor the company that takes a stand on like-minded social, environmental, or political values.” For Gen Zers, it’s even higher because, of course, it is. I love that activist generation.

If you’re still on the fence about whether to speak up or not, here are instances when you should.

Related: Should Your Brand Take a Stand? Here Are 5 Critical Steps For Getting It Right.

When your customers care

Go back and read that quote again — “43% of US adults will favor the company that takes a stand on like-minded social, environmental, or political values.” The determining factor here is whether or not your customer base agrees with the stance you take.

For example, if I’m selling fashion accessories aimed at Gen Zers, I’m going to want to take a political stance that matters to the majority of that generation. Zoomers have a tendency to be pretty darn progressive — in fact, Gen Zers have even been called the most progressive generation to date.

Pew Research Center shows 74% of Zoomers support legalizing abortion in some or all cases, so making a statement as a brand that caters to this audience about Roe v. Wade is probably a good idea. Will there be pushback? Of course. However, in the long run, you’ll build customer loyalty from your target audience. Ditto global warming, LGBTQIA+ rights, etc., etc.

When it’s local

When something happens on a local level, it isn’t always wise to stay quiet, and you should always pay attention.

It’s important to consider how the current event/situation/happening might impact your employees, clients, customers or community. If the issue could directly affect any of the four, speak up. If somebody’s (or a group of somebodies) livelihood or human rights are at stake, you cannot sit idly by.

Recently, in my community, a local event venue came under fire for refusing to welcome the LGBTQIA+ community. They released a statement, really poorly written — clearly, they did not consult a PR firm about staying true to their Christian values. When pressed about where that line is drawn, they couldn’t articulate their reasoning. Again, if you are going to take a public stance, be prepared to defend your position, and have talking points ready to go.

In a time where so much is at stake, being apolitical can be a bad strategy.

Related: 5 Lessons on Taking a Stand You Can Learn From Patagonia

When it’s the right thing to do

Sometimes, things happen that are objectively bad — a local child gets abducted, or there’s another school shooting, for example. Those are black-and-white issues when it comes to sympathy and supporting victims. It should be easy for brands to get behind. Who in their right mind would be upset about a company showing support for a community going through a tragedy?

But that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I mean are the times when the going gets tough. At the end of the day, someone has to be the first to stand up for what’s right, even if it doesn’t seem popular. There has to be someone to speak up for the underdog or to utilize their platform to elevate the voices of those without an outlet.

Is it scary to do? Absolutely. Risky? You betcha. Will people be mad and drop your services? Definitely … and then they’ll be replaced by the people who’ve seen what you did and want to support your business. Remember: 43% of people will back a business with similar views. You’ll be shocked at just how many supporters show up when you’re willing to take the risk and speak up.

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