Hot-Button Issues: How Will Your Organization Respond?

Social activism is a hot topic for brands and institutions, and employees and other stakeholders often have high expectations that an organization will put its money where its mouth is when discussing social issues. Communicators are wise to be aware of trending issues so they can help guide an organization’s response.

The Institute for Public Relations and Cision recently published a study that analyzed millions of social media mentions of issues such as race relations, LGBTQ+ rights, mental health, climate change, immigration, and gun violence, among others, to better understand how people relate to these issues and what they expect of brands. The report offers guidance communicators can take to ensure their organization’s position is understood and trusted when taking a stance on an issue. Among the findings and recommendations:

  • People will notice and point out discrepancies between what an organization does and what it says, so be sure the statements align with actions.
  • On topics like mental health, an organization should evaluate the supports it offers - and its culture - before participating in any awareness months or weeks.
  • On a persistent issue like climate change, organizations should review their own carbon footprint and environmental record before making statements, and also, be willing to be involved in the conversation on an ongoing basis.

The full report dives into each issue in depth, offering insight into audience demographics and leading topics during the study period of May - July 2021. For even more reading, this New York Times article discusses how some business schools are responding to the demand for courses that address environmental, social, and governance issues.