The business pros and cons of speaking out politically

Psst….This is the fourth part of our 5-Part series on business and politics. Click on the links to read the related posts (released weekly):

The business pros and cons of speaking out politically

Intermingling your business with political positions is not often straightforward. There are clear pros and cons for whichever way you decide to go. If you choose to stick with social convention and not speak about politics, you gain a certain emotional safety while losing democratic freedoms. If you make a stand and align yourself with a political position, you may gain a loyal group of customers and build a strong company culture, while losing other business that is not aligned with your position.

We’ve outlined many more pros and cons below of both staying politically silent, or becoming politically involved with your business.

  • You might have strong convictions and feel an emotional release when you express strongly held views
  • You might attract like-minded people into your sphere of influence
  • You might strengthen your connection with people who already share your views
  • The positions you take might align and support your brand’s promise
  • If you escalate your political involvement, you might be able to influence popular support or policy. People sometimes perceive business leaders as having higher status than the average Joe, which puts you in a position of authority. Consider too, however, that there’s also a high level of distrust for large corporations and their leaders
  • If you’re unliked to benefit yet still support a certain position, then that support can demonstrate that you care more about the position rather than your self-interest (this might not be the case if you only support issues that align with your self-interest).
  • Politics can at times bring out what’s most passionate in you and that authenticity can be attractive to others
  • You might avoid long-term entanglements with unlike-minded people
  • You might alienate a portion of your customer base. Most people worry about backlash resulting in missed opportunities. To be fair, some apolitical folks might not care
  • People might make generalisations about you when you share politically aligned positions
  • It might make you appear unfocused and might distract from your message
  • Your views may make your audience feel inadequate or uninformed
  • You might betray the purpose behind why people followed or subscribed to you in the first place, and they may become annoyed and unfollow you
  • Keeping your mouth shut helps keep you under the radar should things go against your opinion at a later date
  • You might feel safer and in alignment with social norms
  • You can avoid any backlash and differences of opinion, especially if you prefer to avoid conflict
  • You can let others do the heavy lifting intellectually while you go make money
  • You can avoid uncomfortable emotions or people who display uncomfortable emotions
  • Reality can be troubling; avoiding the fray enables you to avoid thinking about inconvenient truths
  • You might be perceived as a good foot soldier of the established order as opposed to “rocking the boat’. This can be especially useful as your society slips further and further into authoritarianism
  • Avoiding what everyone is talking about can make you appear ignorant; or worse, apathetic, of what matters more than your brand at this moment
  • You might appear self-centred
  • You may end up dealing with people that do not align with your core values
  • You may experience cognitive dissonance when bad things happen and you remain silent
  • You may be part of an escalating problem by not speaking out (who will speak for you when you inevitably become a target?)
  • You are not participating in your democracy
  • You might one day lose the freedoms of speech and assembly if you don’t use them
  • By not speaking out, you make room for those who hold potentially devastatingly incorrect positions to have a relatively larger voice (e.g. climate change denial)

Next week we’ll look at some considerations for using these pros and cons to successfully link your business with politics. How do you navigate some of the cons above while taking advantage of the pros? How can you leverage your positioning and strengths to support your democracy in a way that also supports your business?