4 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Stand on a Social Issue

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5 Factors to Consider When Taking a Stand on Social Issues.

Earlier this week, Starbucks announced that it would close its more than 8,000 stores on May 29th for racial bias training. While the decision is admirable, the organization didn’t really have a choice – something had to be done in response to the wrongful arrest of two African-American men who were simply waiting for a friend at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week.

More and more, brands feel pressure to weigh in on social and political issues – from LGBT rights to immigration reform to racial discrimination. However, making that decision is not always as cut and dry as responding to a crisis like the one faced by Starbucks. For hospitals, in particular, the decision has evolved from whether to light a building pink for breast cancer to more complicated matters like challenging DACA.

A recent POLITICO article called out hospitals for remaining silent in the push for stricter gun legislation following the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The American Hospital Association and provider organizations have championed lifting restrictions on CDC research on gun violence and increasing funding for mental health, but they have been criticized for not advocating for further change.

Is that a mistake? Maybe, maybe not. If the organization has made its decision subjectively, that is the bigger mistake. Hospitals, and all brands for that matter, need a replicable process with consistent criteria that allow them to evaluate the “fit” of social and political issues so that they can:

When does it make sense for an organization to step forward when it comes to social issues? An evaluation process should look at factors including:

How does this issue tie to our mission and values?

Are we a credible expert on this topic?

Does this issue impact/resonate with your stakeholder groups?

What are the risks associated with taking a stand?

Moral of the story? A repeatable method for evaluating social issues is critical to ensure that brands have authenticity when they step forward to advocate for change. The criteria may change from organization to organization, but it’s the process itself that matters.

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