The Citizenship Imperative: How Companies Can Win In a Post-Truth World

By | January 25, 2017

corporate-social-responsibility-powerpoint-ppt-slides-1-728Much is being written about the importance of “people like me” and the emotional decision-making by consumers despite the facts. And while marketers scramble to address the questions about how to reach, engage and activate “people like me” and create emotional connections, companies may be missing an equally important opportunity.

The post-truth economy creates new opportunities for companies to create emotional connections with people by serving as catalysts for positive change in society. Generally speaking, there is an expectation that government will be doing less to protect the environment, fund social programs and promote diversity and inclusion. Experts are predicting that everyone from poor Americans to veterans, working Americans to senior citizens will be facing benefit gaps. And warnings about the challenges for healthcare, education and affordable housing abound.

Who will fill the voids?

According to this survey from one year ago, two-thirds of Americans expect companies to play an equal role to government in solving world problems. And perhaps more importantly, people think companies will be more successful than government in doing so. This isn’t a new concept. And it is more relevant today than ever.

And the good news is you are probably already doing it. You just aren’t thinking about it through this lens, and you are even less likely to be talking about it. Or at least not in the right ways.

Take an honest look at your company’s priorities and ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What are we doing as a company that legitimately benefits society beyond our four walls? – Think beyond just corporate philanthropy, donations and other “feel good” moments. Do you have an internship program for under-privileged youth? A diversity and inclusion initiative that is moving the needle about unconscious bias? A workplace policy that addresses the needs of working families in interesting ways?
  2. What are society’s biggest problems that your business actually addresses, or that your business model could address? – Does your product help consumers with access to healthcare or health information? Could our technology be redeployed to solve a different problem? Do your retail locations serve as the interface between consumers and not for profits?
  3. What have we identified as our most important issues or causes, and why did we choose them? – This is where your philanthropic commitments can fit in.

Now take a look at your narrative. Do you talk about these issues in a meaningful way as part of your approach to business? Would your stakeholders recognize these “signature issues” as part of your DNA? If the answer is no, you are leaving reputation currency on the table.

In the coming weeks, we will be exploring the communications implications of the post-truth economy. I would love to hear your thoughts about how “post-truth” is changing the way you think and communicate.

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