Maintaining neutral views on sensitive issues has become difficult in the cancel culture. Different narratives on social media platforms influence our judgements. Fake news and misinformation are other factors which impact our ability to think objectively and result in sharp reactions which are often inappropriate. We all are entitled to have ideologies and inclinations towards specific people and groups. However, when beliefs, preferences and prejudices interfere in our job, it becomes difficult to be neutral on critical subjects. Public Relations is a profession where we engage with people from diverse cultures and schools of thought. Like any ordinary individual, Communication professionals (comms pros) also have strong political opinions, biases and even prejudices towards certain sections of people. There is nothing wrong in endorsing specific ideology. However, being brand custodians, it is imperative for comms pros to keep their beliefs and biases at bay while performing their job.
It can be frustrating for some professionals but with an objective approach, they can keep their ideologies out of their profession and stick to their brand message (even if they do not fully resonate with it). Here are a few suggestions on how comms pros can build objectivity in their profession.
Define Boundaries in Public Forums
In forums with a free flow of thoughts, we often get carried away and make statements which are not appropriate on public platforms. Ideologies, political affiliations, and religious beliefs are sensitive matters and should be kept private. If opinions expressed in closed circles are disseminated in public, it may create a massive reputational crisis for the brands they represent. Comms pros do not wish for such blunders due to their insensitive remarks that may impact their credibility. Define your boundaries and exercise caution while expressing critical views on people, establishments and socio-political issues.
Stick to Facts, avoid assumptions
All communication campaigns aim to increase positive sentiments for the company and ensure higher brand recall. However, stakeholders sometimes try to exaggerate or manipulate facts to gain traction. The temptation to overstate business performance can be risky, especially for establishments which are under constant public security. Authenticity is one of the fundamental aspects of communication. Comms pros should ensure their message is verified by facts and not based on their judgements and assumptions. Design a campaign that reiterates the brand message and highlights the organisation’s purpose without adding your narrative to it.
Safeguard against Fake News
In the era of fake news and misinformation, a casual remark can be misinterpreted as racist comments or incitement against a specific race or community. Fake news can severely damage credibility and also create chaos. Fake news is spread with a specific agenda and triggers public reaction to cause panic. If we see civil protests happening in recent years, most of the reactions were based on misinformation and fake narratives that caused unrest. While there is no way to stop misinformation, comms pros can leverage technology to identify and discard fake news.
Keep your ideologies distinct from the brand message
Many companies leverage their employees to create a positive image of their business. While internal brand advocacy is a great way to build credibility, it has its pros and cons. Prominent brands have faced criticism for controversial remarks of their employees on sensitive social issues. While there is nothing wrong with expressing anger or solidarity, do not make any remarks that will not resonate with your organisation’s message. Many companies have strict social media guidelines for employees to avoid PR crises. As a brand custodian, comms pros should keep their preferences and criticisms out of work and ensure their brand’s purpose remains consistent in all forms of communication.
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