How to Speak on a Divisive Topic Without Killing Your Brand

by Infinity Concepts | Feb 13, 2018 | Leadership, Public Relations

I’m sure you’ve noticed that brands are speaking out on controversial topics at an elevated rate lately. And, while some have earned the ardent backing of their supporters or customers through the controversy, others have fallen flat, or even turned their supporters against them.

With the rise of Millennials as consumers, their voice and their buying power gets stronger every day. Understanding this increasingly powerful consumer group is becoming imperative to the success of businesses. And, for organizations that like to speak to current topics, they have a distinct advantage – Millennials value and reward organizations who sincerely speak their minds.

Something to consider, however, is that not everyone views transparency as a positive thing. Many will expect you to “stay in your lane” and stick to what it is that your organization is best known for or is best at doing.

There is no way to make everyone happy, especially when speaking out on a controversial topic. But there are ways to win over your current base and bring some new supporters into the fold. As long as you carefully, thoughtfully and prayerfully develop your position and statement.

Questions you should ask before speaking out:

Why am I doing this?

Maybe you are at a speaking engagement and at the end of the speech someone asks you a pointed question. This is either the most dangerous or potentially most opportune time to make a statement. If you are prepared and have thought it through, it could make an enormously positive impact for your organization. However, if you are caught off guard and speak too quickly, you will be held to this statement for a very long time.

You might possibly be looking to shake things up a bit or to get your name mentioned. Unless you have a true commitment to an issue, steer clear of statements under these circumstances. Many will be able to see through the sentiment and see it as a stunt which will certainly hurt you and your organization.

A burning internal conviction to speak up could be your driving force and this is the most impactful way to speak out. Your heart on the matter will be evident and those who agree with your vantage point will be happy to jump on your ship to throw their support your way.

Does this benefit my audience?

You must be confident in who your audience is prior to taking a stand on a divisive topic. If you passionately speak your mind on a subject and your followers traditionally take the opposite viewpoint, you will certainly anger them and lose their loyalty and most likely their business.

If your opinion-filled statement has no connection to the values of your customers, it will be detrimental. It is likely that some demographic or group will disagree with your stance, but if you anger your support base, there will be a long-felt regret for your organization.

Am I prepared to stand by my words?

When taking a stand, you will possibly be asked many times to confirm, back up or explain what you have said. If you deviate from that original statement, you and your organization will feel the repercussions. Sometimes the only thing worse than offering a poorly thought-out statement on a controversial topic is to backtrack on that assertion at a later date. Be confident in your stance.

Can I humble myself enough to be empathetic to the opposing view?

There obviously will be times you speak up when there is clearly a right and a wrong side. But, more often than not, there is an equally passionate viewpoint facing you down. Before making your statement, place yourself in their position and try to understand why it is that they believe what they do. Approaching your opinion from a point of empathy and understanding will only make your voice more powerful and trustworthy. Shouting opinions without concern for the feelings or impact on another person is a loss for everyone involved. When you speak not just from your heart, but with God’s heart, real impact can occur.

As a ministry, organizational or corporate leader, your opinion matters. However, without careful consideration and a thoughtful plan, standing up for your beliefs in a controversial situation is not easily navigable. Be confident in your words, but cautious in the delivery.

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