Two-headed Sword: PR of Politics in Business

pr politics

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.


Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5WPR, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America’s most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company’s growth, overseeing more than 275 professionals. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named “PR Agency of the Year” by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world’s most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine’s Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country’s foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations,” which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.

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