It happened to Matt Damon. It happened to Chrissy Teigen. It happened to Dr. Seuss. They were all “canceled” because of behavior that violated the expectations of the culture. Each suffered career setbacks because of the movement known as cancel culture.
Celebrities are not the only ones who can find themselves the target of cancel culture. It is also used to call out and tear down brands. In recent years, those brands have included Hasbro, PepsiCo, and Eskimo Pies, among others. No one is safe, regardless of who you are, what you do, or how long you have done it well. If you care about your reputation, you need to know how to avoid cancel culture.
What is Cancel Culture?
You might think of being canceled as suffering a cultural boycott. Do something that the culture considers inappropriate or irresponsible and you could find yourself called out on social media. If the accusation gains momentum, you could find yourself suffering from a serious attack on your reputation. It could be aimed at you personally or at your brand. Either way, it has huge potential to cost you business opportunities.
How Do You Avoid Cancel Culture?
The culture has changed in recent years. Consumers are looking for more than a good product or experience. They expect brands and businesses to have a position on social issues. And they expect them to be vocal about it. Regarding most topics, staying neutral is no longer an option. Trying to avoid the topic can just as quickly result in having your brand canceled or your business canceled.
The good news is that the culture can be forgiving. It will hold a brand accountable, but it will also give it a second chance if it adjusts. In other words, being canceled does not necessarily mean that you are canceled forever. To help you to navigate these waters, here are nine tips that can protect your brand from being canceled.
Tip One – Pay Attention to Cultural Trends
Cultural and societal expectations are much easier to violate when you do not know they exist. When it comes to environmental issues, for example, what does the culture expect of a brand? What can lead to getting your brand canceled? It has become a good business practice to know those things. If you fail to pay attention to cultural trends, you make yourself a target of cancel culture.
Tip Two – Have Honest Corporate Conversations
Many of the issues that can lead to your brand being canceled are polarizing. Bringing them up during staff meetings will cause some tension. Bring them up anyway. Talking about them will help you to understand the viewpoints that exist and the emotions that may be involved.
Tip Three – Adopt A Purpose-Driven Attitude
Issues like supply chain efficiency and attracting top talent might seem more important than gun control or global warming when your goal is running a profitable business. The problem with that line of thinking is that the culture expects you to do more than run a profitable business. It wants to see you run a business that is not just making money, but also making a difference. If you adopt a purpose-driven attitude for your business, you will connect better with the culture around you.
Tip Four – Be Clear About Where You Stand
In addition to being polarizing, many of the issued that lead to a brand being canceled are also complicated. There are many gray areas, so make sure you have a comprehensive explanation for the position you have adopted. Being clear about where you stand may result in being criticized for your position. However, it will keep you from being labeled as someone who ignores the issue, which can be just as damaging.
Tip Five – Choose Alliances Carefully
Being canceled can sometimes be the result of guilt by association. Before you align yourself with another organization, talk about their position on key societal and cultural issues. The profitability that the partnership promises could be wiped out if they go down and take you with them.
Tip Six – Have A Crisis Plan Prepared
This may be the most important tip, because a cancel culture crisis can come to any business or brand. Sometimes it will be warranted and sometimes it won’t. Regardless, you need to have a crisis plan in place if you intend to respond well. For a business of any size, mismanaging a crisis can be fatal.
An effective crisis plan will map out what communication needs to happen, what staff members need to be involved, when communication will happen, and what channels will be utilized. If your organization needs help developing or carrying out the plan when the need arises, public relations firms are among those who can provide expert assistance. Click here for guidance on crisis communications tactics for 2022. Click here for information on how to create a crisis management plan.
Tip Seven – Listen to Criticism
As I already mentioned, cancel culture is often willing to give its targets a second chance. If you have been canceled, pay attention to the criticism that has been leveled at you. It is possible that your brand has failed to keep up with cultural expectations. Getting canceled may be an opportunity for you to learn something important. The goal of any crisis is coming out on the other side stronger than you were before.
Tip Eight – Be Prepared to Defend Your Values
It is said that your core values are the things that you will do to your own detriment. If you are criticized for having a value that is truly foundational to your brand, you should be willing to fight for it. Buckling to public pressure and going against your values won’t save you anything if it costs you your identity. Fighting back could reveal that there are people who agree with you and who are willing to stand with you.
Tip Nine – Evolve With Culture
Being successful as a brand or a business does not require staying on the cutting edge of culture. But it usually requires being relevant to the needs of the day. While there are some who criticize cancel culture, they cannot deny that cultural expectations have changed. Brands that ignore expectations cannot expect to be successful in the long run. The failure to accept that cultural engagement is important may be the biggest weakness that any brand can exhibit.