Business as Political Citizen

I had a particularly interesting and rewarding week. It started in Minneapolis where my colleague and I spoke at a YPO/WPO event on managing a reputational/pr crisis and how to use social media to keep one's reputation from getting tarnished. The audience of over 100 CEOs and presidents wanted advice on managing a crisis in this hyper-connected, turbulent and "gotcha" world. The person who was to introduce us was abit late because he was handling a crisis...which I thought was perfect timing! I hope I made the point that reputation management is a contact sport today.  While preparing for my talk, I was searching for something to say about how socio-political-local issues are more important than ever in managing reputation. I was barely in the state when I quickly learned about the upcoming vote on the Marriage Amendment. Companies are being asked to vote yeah or nay on gay marriage and from what I can tell, it is having a resounding impact on perceptions of business reputations in the state. This event is an extraordinary example of how business reputations are being shaped by their political citizenship. In case you are curious as to how some CEOs are taking a stand, read this entry on the General Mills blog, Taste. Here is an excerpt written by the head of global diversity and inclusion as to his company's CEO, Ken Powell, who addressed employees:

"As readers of this may or may not know, Minnesota voters will be asked to decide on a proposed constitutional amendment in November. If passed, this amendment would define marriage in our home state’s constitution as being between one man and one woman, effectively banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota. If defeated, Minnesota voters would send a strong message about our state’s view of the importance of inclusiveness and diversity.

Ken spoke only a few minutes – but his words spoke volumes.

He voiced our company’s opposition to the proposed marriage amendment, an initiative that makes our state less inclusive and reduces our company’s ability to attract and retain talent.

While, General Mills doesn’t normally take positions on ballot measures, this is a business issue that impacts our employees.

I am proud to see our company join the ranks of local and national employers speaking out for inclusion. We do not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy – and as a Minnesota-based company we oppose it."

Also pretty impressive is that the company left all the comments from those in favor and those opposed to the marriage amendment on the blog on their corporate site.  They are all heart-wrenching and some unbearably uncivil.

I was talking to a few colleagues and came to the conclusion that companies are now mirroring civil society. Many of the issues facing the nation or even the world at large are now the business of business -- education, bullying, civil rights, etc.  The public square and corporate corridor are becoming increasingly similar.