Today, good business is about more than great products, services, and outstanding customer care. It’s about learning how to navigate through all the new and fast moving risks to your brand. Small Business Trends spoke with Fortune 500 Chief Marketing Officer Peter Horst MBA about these potential marketing bombshells in what’s been refereed to as the Trump Era for business. He talked about the one thing that all small businesses can do to steer around or through any social or political frays.
How to Manage the Lack of Trust
“Whether you call it the Trump Era or the Fake News Era, there are more new and fast moving risks to any brand asset than ever before,” he says. “That’s because of a perfect storm of trends and forces that have been brewing even before Trump came into office.”
Understand the Threats Your Brand Faces
Horst says that while the public have lost trust in their institutions over time, the process has accelerated in the past year. This loss of trust covers every public institution including government, business and even NGO’s.
“Along with that comes a rise in fear. It’s a generalized fear that things are broken and not going well,” he says, adding worries like corrupt politicians and war cut a big swath.
That, in turn leads to the radical polarization we see today. It’s a highly charged environment that often pits groups against each other on any given social issue. Horst says when all of this gets layered into the business and brand arena, the result is consumers that expect small businesses to put their values on display.
Understand the Risks of Taking a Stand – Or Not
“They’re being expected to declare what they stand for and even play a role in making the world a better place,” Horst says.
This higher expectation to engage can be a dangerous place for your brand if you don’t do the work to navigate it successfully. Brands need to be constantly aware that social media can illicit immediate, crippling responses for any missteps.
In the end there are risks for getting involved and risks for staying on the sidelines and not taking a stance. He suggests shaping their values is the one thing that every small business should do using the following blueprint.
Stick to Your Brand’s Core Values
Horst feels that every company should be ready to hang their brand hat on their company values – no matter what they are.
“That’s where you say, ‘Listen, because of my values which include my business model or my customers, I choose not to wade into the dialogue about social or political issues’,” he says.
This process can exempt a small business from entering the fray, but you need to be clear and have done the work to demonstrate what your values are.
Horst also suggests having these core values clearly mapped can help a small business draw a line when they find themselves being pulled into a debate against their will.
“Because you can’t choose whether the President will call you out in a tweet or an associate will do something unfortunate at a coffee shop,” he says, “you need to know who you are and what your response will be if any one of a number of things happen.”
He suggests collaboration is a great way to put this kind of company DNA together. A management team and even a founder’s input can be valuable.
“You’ll also need to find out what the issues are that have become near and dear to the hearts of employees because they’ve become a big force in forcing companies to adopt policies,” he says.