In our latest Take 5 Live we sat down with Vince Leibowitz of The Dawn Group for our second special edition conversation on the intersection of PR and politics, focusing on how brands can join that conversation in a meaningful way without being partisan.
We highlighted some key takeaways below— and it's especially important with the U.S. election just one week away! (Pair with our guide on 5 Steps to Earn Media Coverage During the Election for more.)
1. Is the election an essential topic that all brands should be covering in some way?
Yes, but with a few caveats; when it comes to elections there are things many companies can do that can help push the issue of electoral politics and voting without necessarily taking a position on the election one way or another because that can obviously damage your brand.
People picking up big-name doughnuts or soda, a lot of times, they're not wanting to get into that specific political space of one candidate vs. the other. But every company in America can absolutely work in the space of encouraging people to register to vote and get out there and vote.
By doing that, you're encouraging your customers to associate your brand with the promotion of democracy. It's key that brands do that but they've got to do it carefully.
2. How should you decide if your industry is relevant to the election discussion?
There are two tiers to address here: Highly regulated companies, who are directly impacted by government regulations and therefore are often more invested in a specific outcome, and others who are less impacted (maybe by local building regulations, etc).
Balance everything between your public image, what your company needs and what your consumers are going to respond to, much like everything else in PR and advertising. For example, you may want fewer regulations around something while your target consumer group would actually like you to stop producing a specific product deemed harmful to the environment.
Also consider that if your company isn't going to enter the conversation that your board or shareholders may speak out on their own without the company's consent or knowledge and it can still cause problems for the company; you need to be prepared to address that situation.
3. How can a brand showcase a non-partisan view related to the election?
The best way to exercise a non-partisan viewpoint when it comes to elections is encouraging participation in the process, whether that is voter registration or encouraging people to vote. How can you do that? That depends on who your brand is.
For some brands it may not be logical to have a campaign like this depending on the industry that you're in; in that case consider internal campaigns to help your employees get registered and get out and vote (let them know that they are welcome to take time during the work day to get out and vote, for example).
If it makes sense for your product you can add more direct reminders to vote on your packaging or something like that— you can do that in a tasteful way that gets people's attention and maybe even uses a little bit of humor.
"The caveat is always that you must respect the institution of democracy and always respect local rules and laws." -Vince Leibowitz
There are things you need to check before you invest in a campaign. But if you do, be sure to invest in an earned media strategy around it. Local coverage can lead to regional and then national coverage around your campaign!