Customers are becoming more aware of and sensitive to social issues. Cue the rise of the values-based consumer.

Forrester finds unprecedented access to information is giving customers insight into nearly everything a company does. Social media is accelerating and amplifying the spread of that insight and giving people the power to coordinate their wallets. This trend is jumping the generational divide, too. Although millennials and younger demographics have the highest expectation for brands to take a stand on values, older generations are growing increasingly sensitive as well. The bottom line? Committing to company values has emerged an imperative for business success.

It’s only a matter of time before your business has to communicate a stance. But how do you determine when, and how, to put a stake in the ground? Start with these three questions. If you answer “yes” to any, it’s time to communicate your position.

Does the issue relate to a business imperative?

Take net neutrality as a prime example. Last year, the Trump administration defended the FCC’s repeal of open internet rules. However, having a direct stake in an open and equally accessible internet, Google came out against the repeal, publicly communicating its stance and organizing others to take action.

When a social or political issue can directly impact your company’s vitality or long-term strategic vision, it is imperative to get involved and activate others to do the same.

Does your silence risk narrowing your prospective talent pool?

In Fall 2018, Nike featured Black Lives Matter supporter Colin Kaepernick and dozens of other women and minorities in its 30th Anniversary Just Do It campaign. Is it a coincidence that just months earlier Nike was forced to publicly acknowledge its diversity issue at the leadership level, vowing to attract and retain more women and minorities in the C-suite? Doubtful. Nike saw an opportunity to align its rebellious brand with a social movement, communicating its stance in order reach an under-represented talent pool.

In today’s war for talent, no company can risk ostracizing entire groups of potential workers and leaders.

Does the issue relate directly to your brand?

Patagonia jumped to attention when the Trump administration moved to reduce the size of protected lands in Utah. Taking a stance against the order was a no-brainer for the company whose mission statement includes “…a love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them...We donate our time, services and at least 1% of our sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups all over the world who work to help reverse the tide.”

Successful brands are built on a set of values that define and guide the business. Today’s customers are increasingly aware of the fact that they aren’t just buying products and services, they’re buying into these values.

For the companies above, taking a stance was a business-critical decision. When it came time to go public with its position, each organization had aligned its stance with its brand values, responded to the issues (not the politics), and anticipated and planned accordingly for public reaction. Are you ready to do the same? Let’s talk (

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