Why Your Brand Should Address Hot-Button Issues

Sometimes it makes good business sense to take a stand on sensitive topics.

By Scott Willyerd

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the days of yesteryear, crisis communications pros and marketers wouldn't touch divisive issues like racial equality. Today, Coca-Cola proudly displays the ways it is tackling racial equity on its homepage as the lead item. Its website features menu headings entitled "Sustainable Business" and "Better Shared Future."

So what's changed from the days when corporations were silent on almost everything, to a time where big business is tripping over itself to have an opinion?

We have. And sophisticated institutions have been watching and learning.

Related: The Millennial Takeover: How the Generation is Shaking up the Workplace

As millennials and Gen Zers get older and have a growing share of the purchasing power, these individuals are increasingly evaluating brands. Buying and using a product says something about us as consumers and human beings. And we don't want to be on the wrong side of issues.

Today's consumers are looking to do business with brands they believe in or share their same values. There was research published by Kantar Consulting Group that showed that brands with "a high sense of purpose have brand valuation increase of 175 percent over the past 12 years, compared to the media growth rate of 86 percent and 70 percent for brands with low sense of purpose." In short, it makes better financial sense for brands to own a side. You'll win with some, but lose with others. The calculus is that those who you win will remain more loyal customers. Those you lose, however, may never become converts.

Related: When Brands Advocate Social Causes, Authenticity Is Key

When I counsel clients about issuing statements or messages to the public, we often discuss these messages as reflections of corporate ethos or values. Brands like the aforementioned Coca-Cola need to show consumers today where they stand. That's because consumers in this generation want to know if they are "for you" or "against you." They want to know their dollars are going to support something bigger.

This is a good thing for society. For the time being, companies are taking stands on hot button issues — and these messages will only proliferate for months and years to come.

Related: How Should You Be Talking With Employees About Racism?

Scott Willyerd

President and Managing Partner of RW Jones Agency

Scott Willyerd is the president of the RW Jones Agency, a boutique public relations firm supporting the needs of education. He sits on various boards and advises boards and senior leaders on crisis and strategic communications matters.

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