As activism grows in the US and around the globe, its influence on companies continues to grow. And it doesn’t appear it will stop anytime soon.
At the 2020 AMEC virtual conference, Fred Cook, Chairman of Golin and Director of the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations School reviewed results from a study they conducted with PR professionals and activists in January 2020 about “New Activism.”
The increase in activism is attributed to declining trust in political institutions and lack of government action. And activists aren’t just seeking awareness anymore, they are focused on lasting change. A company lending its name to a big cause or simply bringing attention to it is no longer enough – new activism requires corporations to commit to real change.
The big opportunity for corporations? Engage with activists. Only 14% of companies are currently doing this, but when this happens the benefits companies reap is enormous. It allows them to make informed decisions about which groups they want to partner with, it builds credibility and leaves companies better prepared to respond to a crisis.
According to Cook and study authors, critical issues are changing on a minute by minute basis and companies now need to be prepared to talk about a wide array of issues at any moment. Engage with activists, partner with them to demonstrate a commitment to long term change and you will not only be better prepared to address activist concerns as they evolve, you will be part of the evolution.
Companies are not prepared to deal with activists...they are struggling to respond and find their voice. The primary reason for their uncertainty is that they haven't engaged with activists before.