Ah, election season. Not only does it provide fantastic content for late-night television shows, it also turns sweet grandma into an impassioned debater at the family dinner table. Personal opinions, emotionally charged conversations and patriotic spirits are the markings of a solid election year. And, we’re right in the thick of it.
As a business owner and public relations consultant, perhaps I see elections through a different lens than some. To me, debates and pointed reporter questions reveal a candidate’s level of media training and crisis communications expertise. You’ll never catch them saying “no comment” or getting pinned into a corner, because they have been taught how to control a conversation, insert messaging points and allow for awkward silences when necessary.
No matter how you view election season, it’s an exciting time for business owners – especially mompreneurs! We make our voices known at the ballot box, and we pay tribute to the women who came before us ensuring that our vote counts. So, as we ponder who will win in November, there’s a heavy burden felt by many-a-mompreneur to positively impact their businesses, employees, and communities. In fact, I was recently asked, “As a business owner, should I leverage my business to endorse a presidential candidate?”
Well, that’s a doozy of a question…and the answer is not black and white. On one hand, it is a great privilege to live in a country where we are allowed to voice political opinions, speak freely, and directly impact our business results through an election process. As such, we feel compelled to use any and all available resources to communicate political preferences. On the other hand, standing firm for one candidate or another has great potential to immediately affect business in positive or negative ways. For example, if your business endorses Candidate A but your client base does not, how does that play out?
As a public relations consultant, I provide corporate reputation management recommendations to clients on a daily basis. Often, those recommendations are derived from an understanding of the business’ core values, goals and relationships. So, without knowing each reader’s business inside and out, my best recommendation for mompreneurs everywhere is this: Before you put a political sign in your business window, thoroughly evaluate the business risks and rewards. Generally speaking, I would recommend separating personal political convictions from daily business practices if the risk of endorsement outweighs the benefit to the business.
That said, here is some food for thought to guide your decision-making process on this important topic:
1. Will endorsing a candidate benefit the business? If so, how?
2. Will my business endorsement make positive progress for my preferred candidate?
3. Will endorsing a candidate incite an unnecessary business risk?
4. What is the business’ tolerance for risks associated with endorsement?
5. Can my business withstand the potential critique associated with candidate endorsement?
6. Does the business client base agree or disagree with my personal political opinions? How might that affect the business?
7. If an endorsement causes a latent risk to shift into an active crisis, what is the communications plan to defend the business? (Hint: Do not wait until a crisis happens to create a crisis plan!!)
In short, if the perceived reward outweighs the potential risks, confidently support your candidate publicly. If you conclude that the perceived risks could or would be detrimental to attaining established business goals and running a successful company, choose to stick with personal endorsement for now. Not to worry, we’ll be right back in the thick of things in another four years and your business will have yet another opportunity to evaluate political alignment.
Best wishes, and happy voting!
- Presidential Election: Good for Your Small Business? - August 23, 2016