By: Jennifer Hellman, Goff Public, Chief Operating Officer and Principal

We live in a world with a highly charged political atmosphere and an increasing desire for companies and their leaders to be authentic and outspoken about their beliefs in real time. Because of this, businesses and brands are spending more time considering when to enter conversations in the public arena. It’s a challenging line to walk, with outcomes ranging from a swell of positive support from consumers and constituents to a full-blown crisis.

As the go-to reputation management and crisis expert at public relations and public affairs firm Goff Public, I have had the opportunity to guide businesses, government entities and nonprofits on how to evaluate and nimbly respond in these situations with an authentic and thoughtful voice. Below is a checklist I use when considering if a client should participate in a conversation.

  1. Does the issue directly affect the organization’s consumers, employees or other stakeholders?
  2. Is there any connection to the business or organization, and will that connection feel authentic to consumers and the public?
  3. Have any stakeholders asked the organization to weigh in on this conversation?
  4. What is the organization’s stance, and who does it alienate, if anyone?
  5. Who from the organization could reasonably and authentically carry this message?

This level of evaluation is not limited to political issues, but also national or worldwide stories and news cycles, such as the death of a beloved celebrity or the celebration of a nationwide awareness month. What may seem like an easy bandwagon to jump on could potentially backfire if it doesn’t feel authentic to the consumer.