New Balance got off on the wrong foot recently by stepping into the controversy following the presidential election. For a company that manufactures and sells athletic footwear, its leadership should have known better. Even for amateur athletes, sports is about envisioning an outcome -- winning. New Balance’s decision to make public its opinion about the incoming administration’s activities clearly didn’t consider the potential fallout, essentially the unintended consequences of their actions. Instead, New Balance was thrown off balance by the backlash from customers who were offended and angered by the company’s support of the Trump administration’s direction. And of course, the power and velocity of social media activism moved faster than the sleekest of New Balance footwear, causing the company to diplomatically try to fix the problem. Customers used the varied social media channels to post photos of their beloved shoes being tossed into dumpsters, set on fire and, in general, discarded.
Thanks to the world's conversation channels provided through social media, it’s easy to be lured into the fray during a crazy political season such as the one that just occurred. But in general, for business, it’s probably just a good and basic rule to keep quiet and focus on what your company does best. Starbucks, known for its socially conscious culture, found itself in hot water last year by attempting to spark race discussions between customers and baristas. What company leadership probably believed to be a noble and positive thing to do, actually backfired both internally and externally, making employees and customers uncomfortable and irritated.
Loose lips sink ships…silence is golden…if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all… These are all good and simple rules to help businesses prevent themselves from losing their footing and instead staying on track. For more on corporate communications, read through my blog or contact me to learn more about what I do.