Responding to Mayhem

Corporate America is responding swiftly and decisively to reject the breach of the U.S. Capitol, speaking out on extraordinary political upheaval often in unequivocal terms. 

Today and in the next two weeks before President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to be sworn into office, brands must face decisions about their posture in a time of unrest and uncertainty. Here is what some are saying: 

  • The National Association of Manufacturers went so far as to suggest Vice President Mike Pence should “seriously consider” invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from power. The association, speaking on behalf of its 14,000 member companies, accused Trump of inciting violence to retain power and to denounce any elected leader who defends him.
  • Comments were issued quickly, powerfully and unequivocally – often by the CEOs themselves on social media. That included heads of Johnson & Johnson, Salesforce, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Blackrock, General Motors, IBM, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Cisco and others. 
  • Many of those statements were from well-known consumer facing companies on the coasts, but not all. Cardinal Health, a Ohio-based healthcare services company based in the Midwest, decried the violence and declared, “Our democratic processes worked as designed to determine the election results, and the transition of power in our country must proceed peacefully.” 
  • Some leaders addressed comments internally in recognition that employees would be on edge by what they saw unfolding. Google’s Sundar Pichai sent an internal email condemning the violence and encouraging employees to prioritize their health and wellbeing and offering support resources. 
  • Of course, there were some prominent corporate leaders who chose not to speak out and in some cases are facing criticism for that today

Organizations should carefully consider their conduct and messaging today and as uncertainty looms ahead in the next couple of weeks. There’s no blanket rule – considerations to be made on a case-by-case basis include: 

  • Whether to suspend advertising until there is a return to normal, or at least closely review messages for tone appropriateness.
  • Assessing other planned appearances or announcements to determine if the timing is right or they should be delayed. Audiences may have a hard time concentrating on anything other than what is dominating the news right now.  
  • Whether a blanket suspension is appropriate or it’s better to demonstrate it’s time to get back to business.