As a result of the January Supreme Court decision which allows corporations to contribute unlimited funds for political activities, both Target and Best Buy each contributed $100,000 to a business group in Minnesota called MN Forward. MN Forward is an organization who advances political agendas in the spirit of private sector job creation and economic opportunity. The issue is that MN Forward used the funds from Target and Best Buy to help support the gubernatorial campaign of state Representative Tom Emmer, who supports lower corporate taxes. That wasn’t the problem; the issue, apparently unbeknownst to Target and Best Buy executives, was that Tom Emmer also supports the very controversial banning of same-sex marriages.
Regardless of which side of the political aisle you sit on, corporations must fully vet each interest it supports and fully understand the risk while entering the political arena.
As a result of this “alignment,” Target has now been the subject of immense stakeholder skepticism, protests, product boycotts and public apologies. Yes, this is a crisis that impacts brand and has now made national news – www.washingtonpost.com – August 18th. This blogger is neutral in his opinions about the political issues, but not middle of the road when it comes to the realization about the lack of strategic planning and foresight by both companies. Regardless of which side of the political aisle you sit on (perhaps it’s directly in the aisle), corporations must fully vet each interest it supports and fully understand the risk while entering the political arena. Most times, the support garnered with one group will alienate another group. And, the alienated group could well be very important stakeholders which could have enough clout to mobilize and impact the bottom line.
CRO – Chief Reputation Officer
This is yet another reason that I support the concept of a corporate CRO – Chief Reputation Officer. This executive should be fully engaged at every level within the organization and be the expert who accurately researches and predicts every internal and external decision’s impact on brand integrity. Organizations who do not continue to critically define, promote and defend their brand will never achieve ultimate growth and profitability goals.