We don't speak religion or politics

But maybe it's time for us to take a stand.

There is a lot of crazy shit happening out in the world.

The continuing atrocities in Syria. The bombings in Turkey that no-one is talking about. The public distraction campaign in the UK about whether or not to leave the EU. And of course the farcical black comedy act that they call an election process in the US.

It’s enough to make us ordinary humans despair.

And whilst I’ve seen intelligent (and not so intelligent) discussions between individuals on Facebook and Twitter, it kind of feels like the elephant in the room when we move into a professional or business environment.

The extent of this was illustrated to me when, following the terrorist attacks in Paris last year, a good friend of mine (who usually gets great response to his articles) very articulately shared his thoughts on LinkedIn and was greeted by the sound of crickets.

Since that time I’ve been thinking about why this is, and whether we are actually doing ourselves, our businesses and our clients a disservice by ignoring what is going on in our world.

Whatever you do, don’t speak religion or politics

We’ve all been there. At the dinner party when someone dares to venture into one of these murky realms and everyone starts to shift in their seat uncomfortably. The unspoken consensus is that it’s okay to have opinions, but ‘this’ isn’t the place to bring them up.

And it makes sense that different environments (or platforms) are suited to different types of discussion and interaction.

In the business oriented environment of LinkedIn, topics like politics or religion are considered somewhat taboo – lest you offend a future employer or customer. But in a world where more and more of our interactions have moved online. And you can find out so much about a person through a google or facebook search, does such carefulness and self censorship actually pay off?

Should we be scared of posting on any digital forum, lest it be used against us at a later date? Or should we just stand up and own our beliefs and values?

And as solopreneurs how concerned should we be about what we share personally? Particularly when so much of our business and brand is our personality.

Like the issues we are debating, I think there is no black or white answer. Whichever way we proceed we are most definitely in the murky world of grey. But here are some questions you might want to consider when you make decision.

1. Do you have a moral responsibility to stand for something?

Do you want to live in a world where everyone goes around scared to offend eachother?

I’m definitely not advocating that we go around shouting at people who think differently from us. But it seems like maybe, the current state of the world might be down to the majority of people staying silent and minding their own business while the crazy people are going off their heads left and right of us.

So perhaps there is something to be said for saying our piece and being prepared to stand by it.

2. What is it you stand for?

You have a better idea than me, what you stand for. But the key thing to remember is that you should be clear what you are making a stand for.

You can’t save the entire world, or support every cause or campaign that floats by. That sort of approach will only confuse people, and sully the impact your opinions could have.

But if there is something you care about deeply, and you can talk about it in an intelligent and considered manner, then my experience has been that people will stop to listen – even if they don’t agree completely with what you are saying.

3. Can you frame it in a positive way?

Love trumps hatred.

It is never cool to attack anyone. Whether you are a business, or an individual, there is no greater turn off than hatred. And sometimes you can make a better statement through your work or actions than you ever could through rhetoric.

In the past I have worked for large corporations, whose values definitely don’t align with mine. But in creating FeelGoodAgency, I have drawn a line in the sand and clearly said no more to this type of work.

I now help people who are doing good – either by improving lives, relationships or communities – to create a deeper and wider impact.

But note that the focus of my message is not ‘anti’ corporations, it is ‘pro’ the little guys.

4. What do you stand to lose?

When your business is small, and you are dependent on your clients to pay the rent and put food on your table, you should definitely consider whether you will lose business.

Because the truth is, you could.

I certainly experienced an initial drop in income when I stopped working with the big boys. But to me the emotional energy that this choice has freed up has been more than worth the loss. And with a considered strategy, I am on my way to restoring (and even surpassing) that income in a way that makes me feelgood every day.

5. What do you stand to gain?

I don’t know about you, but I went into business for myself because I wanted make a difference and do things my way. So whilst I would never attack or deliberately offend my clients. I have also come to understand that not everyone is – or should be – my client.

The entire brand building process hinges on accurately defining and understanding who your ideal customers are AND who your ideal customers are not.

So from that context it should become very easy to work out who you should or shouldn’t care about offending. And what it is you should or shouldn’t share.

My experience time and time again, is that when you are very clear about who you are and what you stand for, you will attract clients and supporters who feel the same way. And they will have a much stronger affinity and loyalty to you and your business.

So what’s your opinion?

Do you think I am talking a load of idealistic crap? Or do you resonate with what I’m saying?

Have you taken a stand on something that is important to you? And if so, what were the consequences? And if you haven’t, what would you consider taking a stand on?

Cat Townsend

Cat Townsend

Brand Strategy & Design

With a background in branding and information design, Cat setup The FeelGoodAgency, to help passionate solopreneurs to understand their brand and how to wield it effectively. Oh, and to make the world a better place. It always comes back to changing the world!

3 Comments

  1. Ryan Rhoades

    Came here because I run a design agency and have had some folks ask me to do political campaign things.

    Personally don’t feel comfortable doing it unless I *really* know the person and what they stand for.

    Don’t want to “use my powers for evil”, so to speak!

    I appreciate the article and agree with alot of what you have said. Especially regarding the responsibility we have as designers and creative types to craft conversation and get people talking.

    It’s a huge responsibility – and I struggle with finding out where the boundaries are and how to wade through all this stuff.

    I have usually erred on the side of saying whatever I feel like on my blog because we live in a world where censors keep popping up everywhere and I was forced to read 1984 as a kid 😀

    Especially since no matter what we say or do, there are people who will disagree with us – some very sharply.

    All in all, I dunno.

    But I felt to chime in since I appreciated you writing this…

    …and I got tired of the sound of crickets. 🙂

    Reply
    • alyssa cherry

      Great post! My company is all about creating less waste by refill of natural liquid soaps, so my ideal client cares deeply for the environment. Considering a climate change denier who wants to abolish the EPA just got elected I could not stay silent and hoped I would not loose any business and have not yet. My values are directly tied to my brand and so is the sustainability activism that I am involved with. I feel it is important to speak up and I do support other businesses that take a stand for whats right.

      Thanks for you work!

      Reply
      • CatTownsend

        I’m glad that the article resonated, and am inspired to see yet another company standing up for what they believe in. At this strange time in history, we are seeing more and more brands decide that their values can’t just be some random words and written on a wall somewhere, and that they actually have to step up and defend these values. Far from being a risk to business, I actually think it’s going to pay off big time for them.

        Diverting the subject entirely, I just need to say that I love what you guys are about Alyssa. If you have just stumble across this page, and have made it this far through the comments, then I highly recommend checking out Alyssa’s company Fillaree (http://fillaree.com/) as a great example of an ethical brand.

        Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Myths of authenticity

Authenticity isn’t something you do. It’s what happens when you make a commitment to stop pretending, avoid fakery, and get real.

Read More

The case for cheap design

Cheap design is usually bad, but it doesn’t have to be. If you must go there, these tips will help you ensure you aren’t just throwing your money away.

Read More

The doubting soloprepreneur

There is nothing that tests your self belief quite like running a business. Your brand should remind you and the world just how amazing you are.

Read More

Why you shouldn’t hire someone to design your logo.

And other reasons why your branding and design efforts are back firing or making no difference to your business bottom line.

Read More

Are you trying to bed your clients on a first date?

Pitching for the sale is the business equivalent of asking someone to sleep with you. Here are some dos and don’ts for building lasting client relationships.

Read More

Why are good people, so bad at selling themselves?

Is it just that good people are so focused on doing what they are doing? Or is it that they feel bad about selling or communicating what they do?

Read More

Be yourself!

Because no matter how hard you try, you are never going to be Marie Forleo. 

Read More

Head v Heart

It’s true that purchasing decisions are often made from an emotional place. But we don’t feel good about them unless they appeal to head and heart.

Read More

How to ask for a testimonial

You’ve finally wrapped up the job; you’ve tiptoed around the uncomfortable issue of getting paid. But you still don’t know how to ask for a testimonial.

Read More

How schedules and systems gave me even more freedom in business

I went into business to be free and spontaneous. I never imagined that I’d need schedules and systems to allow me to be free and spontaneous!

Read More

Need help with your brand?

Schedule an obligation free call, to see if we’re right for you.

Book now

You're almost there!

Leave your details and we'll send you a super special link to all the tools and services we use to run our business. And to grow our client’s businesses too!

Yep. That will do it. The toolkit is winging it's way to your inbox as we speak!

Psst! Sorry to interrupt...

We thought you might be interested in the apps and tools we set our clients up with, along with a run down of how and why we use them. If so, pop your email in the box and we'll send it straight to you. Oh, and you're welcome! :-)

Awesome. We'll be in touch soon!