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Political Correctness and Your Utility’s PR Efforts

image credit: ID 124843565 © Artur Szczybylo |

I’ve long been a fan of companies using social media to send messages that don’t necessarily have to do with business at all.

Sending out a tweet, Facebook post or Instagram message on a holiday, for example, seems harmless enough, right? After all, who’s not in favor of the Fourth of July, for example?

You would think there wouldn’t be a problem, but the world’s getting so politically correct that you have to be incredibly careful about what you post.

In just the last week, the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, announced it no longer would celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday because he was a slaveholder, while Nike decided to withdraw a patriotic limited edition sneaker that featured the original Betsy Ross flag.

If Thomas Jefferson, Betsy Ross and the 13-star aren’t immune from criticism, what is? That’s why you need to be careful with your posts – you don’t want to accidentally create a firestorm of protest when all you’re trying to do is send an innocuous message.

So, how do you cope with it?

One option is to entirely cut out any messages that aren’t strictly tied to your utility, but that seems a bit extreme.

Your other main option is to make sure your posts are vanilla and generic. It’s not ideal, but in today’s climate, where seemingly everything is under scrutiny, you have no choice. Leave nothing open to interpretation and don’t try to be too clever.

As always, steer well clear of politics –- that is a no-win situation.

Focus on family, but choose your images carefully to avoid stereotypes.

You might also think about increasing your social media oversight to make sure all posts are reviewed by a couple of people at minimum, The extra eyes on the copy don’t have to be the equivalent of a Ph.D. review  team, but additional perspective may keep you safe from unintended messages.

Andy Gotlieb's picture

Thank Andy for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 5, 2019 11:07 am GMT

The key also could be in engaging like you want but when you receive criticism and blowback, react to it swiftly and openly. The extreme examples of companise using social media to engage in topics outside of their product, such as the infamous Wendy's Twitter account, show the possible value of this and especially for a company that's arguably so personal like a family's power provider the connection and building of 'trust' and that image can be valuable. So I'd want my utility to not shy away from it, but be careful and if they misstep to admit it and address it right away

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