You Know Who Can Ruin Your Marketing? Obama.

You Know Who Can Ruin Your Marketing? Obama.
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Ok, calm down. This isn’t a political rant about Obama or any other political figure or party. However, it’s not a stretch for me to say that the politics of our nation have become more and more toxic. Politics has become less about democracy, cooperation and compromise and more about a professional sports-level desire to win.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to show my hand. I’m not a partisan person. I don’t belong to a party. I have voted for Republicans. I have voted for Democrats. I have praised both sides when merited and condemned both sides when deserved.

But this isn’t about them. It’s about you.

It about you, the folks on the right and you the folks on the left who turn your businesses into a forum for political speech.

Before you get yourself all riled up, I believe in freedom of speech. I believe that every person can and should voice their opinion. It’s a right, not a privilege.

However, the consequence to voicing your opinion is that some people may not want to do business with you. And not because they disagree with you, but because they don’t want to be attached to someone who is making public statements that could be controversial or turn off existing or potential customers.

Does Hate Sell?

A few days ago, I visited the site of company that offers business coaching. They offer to help people run and market their businesses better.

Their latest article featured a condemnation of the government’s failures. However, it quickly devolved into an attack on Democrats. A few days later, the same blog published another article about “hate.” I’ll spare you the pretense and boil it down for you.

*Point #1: The Democrats are driven by hate.
*Point #2: Don’t be a Democrat.
*Point #3: Democrats suck.

After reading these two back to back articles, I decided to check the archives. The list of articles posted on the site was a mix of business and marketing articles that I would expect. Right up until the government shutdown. At around the date the shutdown hit, every article was a blog-based-meltdown by the author pointed at the left.

While I’m not condemning the author for writing whatever he chooses to, it is up for debate whether or not the business website is the proper forum for these comments.

Can content like this harm this business?

Will Democrats who run businesses want to hire this business?

Will Republicans who run businesses want to wear their ideology on their sleeve?

Seeking Attorney? Find Jesus.

Some time ago, we were hired to do some consulting for an attorney that specialized in bankruptcy law. I started doing my standard begining-of-project reasearch and found a competing local bankruptcy attorney. That competitor offered the same basic services as my client except with one caveat. If you wanted them to represent you in your banrkruptcy proceeding, you needed to accept Christ.

This was on their website.

I can’t speak to how this message affected their business, but I’m sure that any local Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, Hindus, or Scientologists seeking a bankruptcy attorney weren’t going to bite on that offer.

To be fair, that business may not care. Maybe they want to service Christians exculsively and they are happy about that. But that’s not the typical business. Most businesses don’t want to turn away dense segments of the population.

Nothing Motivates Like A Decapitated Head

Then there was the time right before Obama was elected the first time that a client of mine decided (on their own) to send an email blast to all of their clients asking them to consider not voting for a “Kenyan Born Muslim” who had “clear ties to Al Quaeda”.

Regardless of the politics, I’m sure what people took most offense to was the attached photo of a decapitated American soldier in Iraq with the words “This is what Obama wants” Photoshopped on it.

There were two consequences to this email.

First, many people reached out to my company and condemned us for the email. We were fortunate to be able to cleanly distance ourselves, but we promptly “fired” the client.

Second, our former client’s company lost investor funding and went out of business in a handful of months.

We can debate whether or not some on that list agreed with the sentiment, but they also liked their businesses running and making money so they kept their mouths shut and distanced themselves as well.

The Flip Side

The flip side to this whole conversation is that ideological speech may be good and helpful to your business if that speech is positive. If you want to support local or national causes that make your business a positive part of the community then that can amount to tremendous benefits both from a business and personal perspective.

There is a big difference between “we support our troops” and “American troops are murdering children overseas.” Only one of those statements has a remote shot of endearing the general public to your business.

Politics And Business

Ok. So you think the Democrats are awful. Or the Republicans are terrible. Or the Tea Party are kooks. Or the Founding Fathers were space aliens.

Keep it to yourself. Or more specifically, away from your business. If you have employees and need to keep making payroll, you have a much bigger obligation to those folks than you do to bashing [insert politician here].

We’ve seen major national brands get bad press, boycotted or worse because someone had to comment on gays or liberals or conservatives or health care or socialism or whatever.

Is it really worth it to the health of your business?

Be Loud And Proud

Here’s an alternative. If you really need to get your feelings out, do it in a way that is detached from your business and your employees. Start a separate and distinct blog. Use a separate personal Twitter account. Start a personal Tumblr.

Anything. The tools available to you are limitless. And no matter what your ideology is, you’ll find listeners. Your voice will echo into eternity with your fellow ideologues.

As a precaution, consider adding a disclaimer to your site that the thoughts presented are your own. You’re entitled to that. It’s your right.

But enjoy your right without hurting others and that includes your business.

Have you put your political ideology up for public view at your business’ expense? I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments.

Ralph M. Rivera
Hi, I'm Ralph! I'm a web developer at Rahvalor Interactive, a creative marketing services company that I founded in 1999 with my wife and business partner Carol Lynn. In January 2012 we created Web.Search.Social as a branded service offering that brings enterprise-level services to small businesses in an affordable way. I'm also founder and CTO of Podcaster's Toolbox, a SaaS platform designed to help podcasters plan, produce and promote their shows. I teach web development at Manhattan College in New York City. Carol Lynn and I are home based near the Jersey shore but we're currently location independent and traveling the country for a year, working and podcasting. I'm also trying to build a flux capacitor, but that's not going as well as the other stuff I do.
Ralph M. Rivera
Ralph M. Rivera