Last year, some corporate communications experts predicted that public relations would intersect more with politics in 2019. It's impossible to quantify -- or even define what constitutes political PR. What one audience deems political, another might call values-based, which is why if you choose to go that route, you have to so with caution. You have to know what you stand for and know your audience.
There were plenty of brands that mixed politics or values and PR -- and I'd say with mixed results. You have to be prepared for the backlash -- and be quick with an apology or be confidenct and stand your ground, whichever is the right thing to do.
Here are three instances of PR getting political and what entrepreneurs can learn for their own messaging and PR efforts.
Know what you stand for.
Hallmark Channel made headlines last week after it announced it was pulling a commercial by wedding planning website Zola that featured two brides kissing at the altar. The move came after a conservative Christian group took to the Internet, proclaiming the ad anti family. A few days and some backlash later, Hallmark Channel said it was reinstating the ad, apologized to the LGBT community and vowed to be more inclusive in its programming.
Hallmark Channel momentarily lost its way, and had to backtrack, while Zola knew its audience and its values and stuck to them. That's how you will communicate effectively with your audience. That's also how you can be confident that you made the right decision even if some folks are angry and don't agree with you. And if you get something wrong -- as in you go against your values, don't wait to apologize; do it right away.
Remember actions speak louder than words.
After years of criticism from the LGBT groups and allies, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain announced in November it would change the charities it supports.
Chick-fil-A said it is no longer giving money to the Salvation Army, the Fellowship for Christian Athletes and the Paul Anderson Youth Home, because of the organizations' views on homosexuality. It said it would focus its charitable giving in three areas: hunger, homelessness and education. Some have questioned that commitment and urged Chick-fil-A to be transparent about its funding of organizations.
Indeed, after the company faced criticism for its stance on homosexuality, it stopped funding many -- but not all -- groups with similar anti-gay views.
The lesson here is that changing what you are known for takes time -- and perhaps a concerted campaign. If you are, for example, trying to be more inclusive, you might consider attending and sponsoring a diverse slate of organizations and events. You might strive for more inclusive language in all of your media. Chick-fil-A, for example, might start turning up at gay pride festivals and parades.
Just do it -- be consistent.
Nike this summer followed its series of 2018 "Dream Crazy" ads, including one controversial one with football star Colin Kaepernick, with an ad featuring the U.S. Women's World Cup Champions. In "Never Stop Winning," the voice encourages women and girls to never stop standing up for themselves and to break every glass ceiling.
The thing here is to be consistent. Nike has been building on its simple "Just do it." message for years. When you find what resonates with your audience and communicates your values, it doesn't matter what year it is, because that kind of PR is always on point and in season.