Two-headed Sword: PR of Politics in Business
Sometime individuals in positions of power in business decide to make decisions based not on business but on politics. While this can be a good and liberating idea in principle, the reality in practice can be considerably more complicated.
Take the recent kerfluffle at SunTrust for example. After their rough go with PR a few weeks back, real estate investor brothers David and Jason Benham learned that SunTrust was planning to end its relationship with the investment entrepreneurs. The bank made the decision as public as possible, hoping, it seems, to make a political statement related to the Benhams’ earlier public relations troubles.
Just a week prior, the cable TV network, HGTV, said it would not be airing, and would in fact, be canceling any earlier decisions to produce a reality show around the brothers’ business due to their conservative political views. The decision, however, backfired. Conservatives were outraged at the bank’s obviously politically motivated decision, and they let SunTrust know it in no uncertain terms. The bank responded that the decision to blacklist the Benhams was made by a “third party vendor,” but the upset customers were not buying it.
In a public statement, SunTrust officials said they “fully support” their customers’ rights to express their views pursuant to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
But, the entire incident begs two questions. First, why was this very public business decision made based on political ideology in a clearly apolitical business relationship? And, two, why are businesses not learning from the travails of so many organizations who, in recent years, have brought the rage of vocal advocacy groups on themselves when they absolutely had zero need to do so?
Anyone at any time should be entirely free to associate, or choose not to, based on personal convictions. But, ending a relationship is a two-headed sword. You might think you are making a statement, but what you are really doing is hurting your bank statement.