Should brands take a political stance? 

That exact question has been tossed around PR and communication departments for decades with many deciding to shy away from mixing PR and politics because of the overall risk.

However, we’re starting to see a monumental shift in how brands approach highly-political situations. Brands like Nike, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Dove are starting to see political situations as an opportunity to take a stand for what they believe to be right.

And it’s working. According to the 2018 Edelman Earned Brand study, 64% of consumers reported they make purchasing decisions based on a brand’s social or political position.

Which is why we’ve collected three of our favorite examples of brands taking a political stance and how powerful it can be in rallying your audience and attracting customers.

3 Brands That Mix PR and Politics

1. WeWork Goes Vegetarian

In July 2018, WeWork shocked the startup industry by announcing it was going vegetarian (more or less).

In a statement to the 6,000-employee co-working behemoth, Miguel McKelvey (co-founder and chief culture officer) stated that the company will no longer serve meat at company functions, nor will it reimburse employees who want to order a hamburger during a lunch meeting.

According to McKelvey, the decision was driven largely by concerns for the environment, which is a key strategic public relations move in how WeWork chose to frame their announcement. 

Obviously decisions like this don’t come lightly and there will inevitably be both supporters and critics of the decision, but WeWork seemed to draw a positive reaction from their audience and reports alike. Major publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Washington Post all covered the news in a positive light. 

Key PR Lesson: When making a potentially controversial political decision, it’s important to frame your reasoning in terms of the bigger picture. Make it less “personal” and more about serving the greater good. 

2. Salesforce Votes “Yes” on Prop C

In one of the bigger political brand moves of 2018, Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, made a pledge to support Prop C – A measure to tax the biggest businesses in San Francisco to raise as much as $300 million for homeless programs:

What’s most interesting about this particular situation, is that Marc Benioff personally lead the charge as opposed to Salesforce as a brand overall. However, Salesforce reported nearly $5.9 million in contributions, while Benioff was personally in for $2 million. 

The PR and communication teams at Salesforce successfully navigated what might have been a trick situation by allowing Benioff to be the “face” of the marketing campaign, rather than tying it back to the brand. 

Key PR Lesson: Mixing PR and politics can garner support from your customers as well as potential backlash. By allowing a key executive to take the lead on an issue, you can help disassociate your brand from any negative press.

3. Patagonia Launches “The President Stole Your Land”

Patagonia has long been known for their pro-environment mantra—often speaking out publicly about land conversation and other highly-political issues. 

But perhaps their biggest stand yet was what they called, “The President Stole Your Land.” 

What’s so intriguing about this campaign is how well it fits into the Patagonia narrative. 

Today, many PR and communication teams fall into the trap of commenting on issues that don’t necessarily fit their overall message or brand image. What brands should be doing is carefully assessing whether or not to take a stand on a political issue by determining if the issue is truly a part of their identity.

In other words, does the issue build upon and strengthen the brand reputation we have built?

In this case, it strengthened Patagonia’s ongoing fight for conversation, with the hashtag #BearsEars gathering more than 80,000 mentions across social media (according to our social media monitoring platform).

Key PR Lesson: When mixing PR and politics as a brand, it’s important to strategically evaluate the impact that it will have on your overall reputation. If you’re looking for PR coverage inauthentically, people will see right through it. But if you believe in the cause and taking a stand fits your brand identity, that’s where you can have a major impact.

What is your audience’s take on cultural, political, and industry-specific trends? Let us show you how to find out using media intelligence tools—and better inform your PR and social media messaging.