4 Ways to Protect Your Business From Cancel Culture
Cancel culture excludes no one, not even businesses or brands with loyal clients and followers, according to a 2021 Porter Novelli study. Among those surveyed, 66 percent of the participants revealed that even if they love a company’s products or services, they will proceed to “‘cancel” or boycott the company if it does or says something wrong or offensive.
How to Protect Your Brand From Being Canceled
Doing the right thing is easier said than done. At this time and age, what may seem like the “right thing” could have underlying negative or unethical implications. Unfortunately, there is no one foolproof way to protect your business or brand from getting “canceled,” especially if you employ several people; each with his/her/their own stances and belief systems. However, as we ourselves have been navigating our brand through cancel culture, Primeview can provide tips and tricks on how to survive the chaotic and fast-paced responsibility of being a modern entrepreneur.
Here’s how your brand can manage, sustain, and continuously engage with consumers under the watchful eye of social media users.
Define Your Core Values
Unless we begin expanding our circles to include people and opinions that differ from our own, cancel culture will continue. Once we empathize with and understand those who look, talk, act, or believe differently from us, we may become less likely to do or say something that may hurt or offend others. However, if your brand is based on these exact differences (e.g., products and services for “men” vs. “women”), you may need to lean in completely.
You can still have pride in who you are and how you identify without offending anyone. With the exception of Karen’s Diner, where the food is great but servers are mean to you “for fun,” we can’t think of a single successful business on a mission to hurt or offend people on purpose.
The bottom line is, go stand up for what you believe in and support your brand’s mission, but do so with the realization that you can’t make everyone happy. For example, one of Ben & Jerry’s core values is “environmental protection, restoration, and regeneration.” Some people, including anti-environmentalists, may not agree with similar core values, as hard as it may seem to believe. Again, trying to make everyone happy is impossible. And you know what? That’s okay.
Think Before You Post
CEOs are “the face” of a company. Their beliefs, thoughts, words, and actions mirror those of the company. Consider what happened to Elon Musk when he tweeted that the stock price of Tesla was too high. Within hours, Tesla stock had dropped by 12 percent and lost billions of dollars.
All it takes is one post from the CEO for a brand’s reputation to drop. According to the Harvard Business Review, 45 percent of a company’s corporate reputation and 44 percent of its market value is attributable to its CEO’s reputation. Case in point, Tesla stock has plummeted more than 35 percent since Musk first said he would buy Twitter.
Consider these reformist stances for your business:
- Implement diverse hiring practices. If you want your brand to reach the masses, you need to have a sense of what the “masses” are, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and body type. Furthermore, while you have a target audience as most businesses do, you are not selling to a homogeneous group. Diversity hiring reduces biases and takes into consideration what people from different backgrounds have to say about your product or service.
- Lead with actions, not words. Develop products that you would use yourself, offer services that you would be happy to receive yourself, and stick to your values. That way, if you unintentionally make a social mistake, the quality of your brand and your intentions will rise above and help you recover faster.
- Forge quality partnerships. Allow us to use the partnership between Apple and IBM as an example. One of Apple’s core values is to create products with functions that benefit everyone, while IBM ensures dedication to every client’s success. Learning from these corporate giants’ prioritization of inclusion and diversity, aligning your brand with others that have similar core values can serve as a public statement that you are committed to the cause.
Own Up to Your Mistakes
Being proactive goes beyond having a damage control plan. Yes, businesses should have a plan in case of backlash. For instance, instead of frantically deleting offensive or questionable social media posts (such as Balenciaga’s disturbing 2022 ad campaign), ensure your higher-ups are ready to explain, speak about, and/or apologize for the incident. Hold a press conference or release an online statement. No matter which route you choose, remember to be genuinely apologetic, take accountability for your company’s or team’s actions, and do not play the blame game.
Lastly, if people boycott your brand, we hope it’s not because of something that may tarnish your brand forever. For example, while Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana has been recovering from their last scandal, the brand remains associated with its history of discriminating against minorities. Unless you have a following as massive as theirs, smaller companies are unlikely to recover from such intense backlash.
Can Your Brand Survive the Age of Cancel Culture?
Behind every business or brand is a team of human beings, and humans are inherently flawed. But what we can do is try our absolute best. If companies commit to creating the best possible products and services, hiring the best people for the job without bias, and communicating empathetically and openly, there are fewer chances of getting canceled. And, when a company has a transparent culture, everyone benefits. In the case of cancel culture, transparency could simply mean admitting fault and apologizing, taking accountability, or even going the opposite route and taking a firm stance on a controversial business move, but explaining the reasoning behind the choice. Because at the end of the day, no matter what the issue is, all people want is for others to see, hear, and understand them.
Adopt a Continuous Monitoring Strategy Against Cancel Culture
Reputation management monitors what people are saying about your business online, tracking comments, responding to feedback, and addressing criticism. Reputation management is not a simple one-time activity–it requires ongoing attention and maintenance to be effective. To avoid a reputation-damaging mistake, schedule regular reminders to check your online presence and clean up content that does not reflect your brand. The more involved you are, the more protected your business will be.
Alternatively, you can hire us to provide the reputation management services you need. Even if you’re not a celebrity or fashion designer whose online mishaps make headlines, the smallest mistake can still cause embarrassment and hinder the growth of your business. Contact us now to learn how we can help you protect your brand from the age of cancel culture.