Risks and Rewards of Taking a Political Stance for You and Your Business
Businesspeople today often take political stances and air their views in the news media, but doing so may negatively affect their businesses. When considering whether you or your business should express political views to the public, think carefully about the consequences both inside and outside the company.
Does taking a political stance on an issue fit within your business’s mission? If not, any harm caused by the political statement could result in liability for the business. For example, corporate officers must act in ways that they reasonably believe are in the corporation’s and shareholders’ best interests. A potentially inflammatory statement by an officer or director of a company that has nothing to do with politics andcauses economic problems for the company might result in angry shareholders and lawsuits. Further, your business could face extra scrutiny by the public, so be prepared.
Defamation and Libel
Will the political statement falsely or inaccurately portray a person or his words? Be careful, because you or the business could be facing a defamation or libel suit. You could be sued personally for the statement if it lies outside your duties for the business. Most people do not make a strong distinction between a company’s owner, officer, or director and the company itself, so your statement could do your business a huge disservice even if you make it on personal time.
Hiring and Retention
Do your employees and prospective employees share in the political view that you are thinking about expressing? If not, or if you are not sure, your business may alienate current employees. Prospective hires may think twice if they research your company before applying and find out about the views that have been expressed publicly. Depending on the political statement, it could be viewed as discriminatory toward protected groups, subjecting you to potential liability.
The same goes for customers as for employees. Does your target audience and demographic support the political view you want to share? If you plan on sharing a view opposed by many people who buy your products or use your services, you could spawn negative feedback, social media mentions, protests, or boycotts. Put a social media policy in place for your employees as well, because customers see both you and them as the face of your business.
Although taking a political stand on an issue may have negative consequences for your business, it also may be a huge boost to marketing and visibility. People who agree with your stance could flock to the company, interested in purchasing products and services from a company with vision. You may garner interest from like-minded investors too.
When considering a decision that could have far-reaching consequences for your business, talk to a lawyer. Michael Leonard, Esq., of San Diego Corporate Law, named a “Rising Star” for 2017 by SuperLawyers, is familiar with common publicity and intellectual property issues for businesses and personalizes his advice to each client’s situation. To schedule a consultation, e-mail San Diego Corporate Law or call Mr. Leonard at (858) 483-9200.