This Post is Not About Gay Rights

Pixar’s new contribution to the It Gets Better Project highlights important evolutionary change happening at the intersection of private enterprise and public dialogue, and the communications issues that go along with it.

It’s relevant to this blog because any company dealing with social issues – whether it’s gun control or the environment – faces their own version of these questions, as does any advocacy group engaging with the corporate world to move their agenda forward.

Pixar isn’t the first company to produce a company-backed video for the campaign. Google, Facebook and the Gap have released segments under their official corporate flag.

These are all San Francisco Bay Area companies in young, creative industries, of course. We’re still waiting to hear from Caterpillar and General Mills.

What really sets Pixar apart is that its core customers are children. While they may sell a few more DVDs to people who watched the video, it also creates a massive brand risk for the company, particularly in today’s climate.

Clearly their motivation isn’t commercial. So why do it?

It’s an expression of the company’s values. And the number one audience for that kind of message is their employees and other stakeholders closest to the company. They are the ones listening hardest when a business says, “This is what we stand for.”

Most businesses still follow the old rule, preferring to avoid talk about religion or politics. But these conversations are very much on the minds of both customers and employees. And as brand managers from Starbucks to Walmart have learned, issue advocates on all sides are getting better at leveraging corporate reputation every day.

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2 Responses to This Post is Not About Gay Rights

  1. so, how do you distinguish between a company which says something because “this is what we believe” vs. “this is how we want to be believed to be.”

    Can you identify or distinguish any company in the energy sector which is more the former than the latter? how? why?

    • There’s no perfect system for that. But in my experience, it does matter whether PR and advertising are aligned with facts (as well as the overall perception of the enterprise). Which is not to say that somebody doing a middling job or making token gestures isn’t going to come off looking better than they deserve to.

      Also consider how you’re hearing it. Paid media is always a reason to be skeptical. An agency I once worked for put together a reasonably good engagement program for a big name natural resources company around their footprint in Africa. We were fired shortly thereafter, because the company decided to invest in a massive advertising campaign instead of real work in the ground and in the communities where their operations have a massive impact.

      Also look for what other people are saying about them. PR folks have figured this out, too. That’s why we love third-party validation. But it works because it’s true. And it’s hard to knit genuine respect out of whole cloth.

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