Mixing Politics with Business

Something major happened during the 2008 election year. Okay, so a lot of major things happened that year, but I’m referring specifically to the openness in which people proclaimed their political alignments and sparked conversations (arguments) with those who disagreed with them.

Once upon a time there were three topics you didn’t discuss at work or amongst company you weren’t close with: politics, sex, and religion. You didn’t discuss these things because you never knew who could be offended, but not say anything about it. There was a time and place to bring up these issues, and they did not include the latest staff meeting or family reunion with those cousins you only get to see once every three years. It feels likes these boundaries have been broken over the last half a dozen years or so.

I partially blame social networking. For all of the fantastic benefits of being able to stay in touch with friends and families via electronic devices, Facebook and its relative platforms have also done a great job at allowing the majority to gang up on the minority when it comes to certain discussions. Not only that, but these platforms often invite us to openly proclaim our political alliances, in black and white, when we might not always strictly agree with one party or candidate on all of the issues. However, when you look at our profile page, it might look like we do. I’ve often had friends and family assume I support certain things, or am against certain things or candidates based on what I’ve placed on my profile. The real world is more complex than what we are limited to label ourselves as.

More than social networking, I blame televised media. A lot of the news networks report on political elections and issues in the same manner they report on sports. How often have you heard “Team Romney” vs. “Team Obama”? How about use of the terms “points,” “winner,” “loser,” “defense,” “score,” “offense,” etc? in an effort to get people to watch THEIR network versus the competition, the reporting has become more and more sensationalized, to the point of using war vocabulary such as “fight,” “battle,” and “war on [insert guns, women, drugs, religion, etc here.]” I’m reminded of how spoiled I have gotten listening to NPR and reading newspapers for most of my information when I watch just a few minutes of the commentary after the presidential debates by the media pundits following. After about 30 seconds I can’t stand it anymore and have to switch them off.

So with the media molding the latest political race into a sports-like-arena, more people are treating the elections like last night’s football game and bringing it up in polite company. Likewise, I notice several small businesses owners jumping in the mix and posting their opinions via Facebook and Twitter, hoping to somehow convince their fans to jump on board their team with a meme image and oh-so-not-clever caption accompanying it. Is this really a smart decision on their part?

Before you start to promote your personal political preferences via the platform you’ve build your business on, I urge you to consider the consequences of doing so.

First of all: who might you be offending? If you concretely believe that your target audience does not include these people, then feel free to post. But be aware of the listeners you might be losing until you are completely sure that is not the case.

Secondly: are you being respectful? I’m happy to engage in a political debate as long s the person on the other end is as respectful of my opinion as I am of theirs. As soon as name-calling such as “bigot,” “idiot,” or “kool-aid drinker” start being used, there is nothing to be gleaned from the conversation and it only becomes destructive.

Finally: choose the causes you champion wisely. It’s one thing to promote your support for something (or against something) via your personal Facebook profile to the friends and family you know in person, and yet another via your Facebook Page to those who don’t have the benefit of discussing the issues with you in person. If you feel like you simply HAVE to champion a specific cause from your business platforms, make sure it aligns with enough of your followers beliefs to gain support. Being blocked, unsubscribed from, and un-friended won’t help your business OR your cause, and should always be handled delicately.

With the election being just a few short days away, I felt this post to be an appropriate reminder for all of us to tread carefully, and more importantly, respectfully.

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20 thoughts on “Mixing Politics with Business

  1. Barbara October 24, 2012 at 7:39 am Reply

    I’m glad, for the most part, that we discuss the 3′ taboo’ topics more openly these days. But, you are right about where & when to discuss these things. Discuss being the key word. No preaching, name calling or disrespecting others opinions. A lot of my jewelry is geared toward animal rights & adopting shelter pets, so I’d feel pretty secure talking to customers about the activism I do in that vein. But, I don’t feel like everybody needs to know everything about us, which seems to be a downside of social media. just my 2 cents. Great post Megan.

    • MegansBeadedDesigns October 24, 2012 at 8:16 am Reply

      You’re absolutely right Barbara “discuss” IS the key word, and respectful discussion can be enlightening and fulfilling at the right place and time.

      I think you are a perfect example of a business that has chosen to use it’s platform to support a cause, having taken the appropriate measures to ensure it was something that your followers would agree with and get behind you on. I always think it’s a great thing when a business can do that. :-)

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Laurie October 24, 2012 at 7:48 am Reply

    Fabulous insight, I think we all have an urge to just put it out there and forget the consequences of our actions and thoughts. Great post.

    • MegansBeadedDesigns October 24, 2012 at 8:19 am Reply

      Thank you Laurie.

      Hopefully this entry helps at least a few of us take a moment to consider the consequences before hitting the “post” button!

  3. Susan Pores Rehberg October 24, 2012 at 7:52 am Reply

    Thanks for the reminder Megan!

  4. ImagesByCW October 24, 2012 at 9:05 am Reply

    Great article, Megan! I think a real discussion without getting offensive (i.e. calling names etc.) about the formerly totally tabou themes is a good thing. However, you are so right: Everybody, no matter if business or personal account, has to be aware that once they post something online, it is out there and will stay out there, and it will have effects. Positive or negative.
    A very good reminder to think before posting!

    • MegansBeadedDesigns October 24, 2012 at 2:10 pm Reply

      Discussion is great. I love me an in-depth conversation about the meaningful and tricky facets of life.

      Disrespect is not great however, and something we need to keep in mind whenever bringing up a touchy subject.

      Thank you for your comment!

  5. Melissa @ Hilltop Hausfrau October 24, 2012 at 9:49 am Reply

    Ya I feel the judgy bit is really a regression in civilization. Like…our predescessors fought so hard to get equal rights in this democracy! Pontificating feels more like a dictatorship, no? Moral platforms are weak…good chat here Megan!

    Am popping over from the EBT…

  6. pcourneya October 24, 2012 at 10:58 am Reply

    An excellent post, Megan. It hits a nerve with me. I could write pages responding to your post but I am just going to say: “it is an excellent post and very well done.”

  7. Cindy Breninger, Deerwood Creek Gifts October 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm Reply

    Great post and I agree. So, who are you voting for? KIDDING! haha
    Cindy Breninger
    http://www.adayinthelifeofcindy.blogspot.com

    • MegansBeadedDesigns October 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm Reply

      HAH!

      (Honestly, that’s probably not a hard guess for most of you guise to make…)

      BUT – I’m not going to tell YOU that you better vote the same way or you’re a freaking blankity, blank, blank!

      lol

  8. SaturdaySequins October 24, 2012 at 10:10 pm Reply

    I’ve stayed away from Facebook lately because of all the political and religious rants. I have things I feel strongly about, but unless it’s something like bat conservation or pie, those things don’t have a place on my blog’s Facebook account.

    By the way, I’m voting for Ross Perot. ;)

    • MegansBeadedDesigns October 25, 2012 at 8:11 am Reply

      Oh, goodness I know it! I’ve had to “unsubscribe” from some close friends of mine because I couldn’t handle reading their political/religious stuff every 5 minutes. I’m hoping after the election things will get back to normal, but we’ll see…

  9. Nina Penalosa October 28, 2012 at 2:56 pm Reply

    Politics are so tricky, and it gets especially annoying when someone on your Facebook or Twitter feed has opposing views and basically bashes your candidate or beliefs. I try to keep things at a minimum on both platforms and don’t even talk about it on my blog. But I do plan on posting something that encourages everyone to vote no matter what their beliefs are (and I will be wearing a super sweet Obama shirt). :)

    • MegansBeadedDesigns October 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm Reply

      Oh, yes. I don’t think you can go wrong encouraging people to vote! I’m always surprised (and saddened) by how many people, especially younger people, don’t.

  10. Christine October 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm Reply

    In a way it’s good that we’re a bit more open these days. Discussions lead to more learning BUT I think it’s really important to tread lightly and be very aware of our audience. It’s could open a can of worms.

    • MegansBeadedDesigns October 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm Reply

      I agree Christine that discussion in and of itself is good. But there is a vast difference between an actual discussion (where we don’t assume things about the other person, and we remain respectful of differing opinions), and an all-out ridiculing of anyone who disagrees with us. Discussion ends as soon as the name-calling begins. Also, time and place also need to be taken into consideration before anything potentially offensive is brought up.

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