Look from afar, and it seems corporate management is becoming sensitive to social issues. But think about it for a few moments, and you realize these are issues that affect their pocketbooks.
- Most recently, Apple and WalMart came out against state laws in Indiana, Arkansas and elsewhere that would permit discrimination against gays and others in the name of protecting religious freedom.
- McDonalds announced it would raise wages to $10 an hour — up from $9, but still far below the $15 “living wage” being sought throughout the fast-food industry.
- A Bangladeshi garment maker bowed to pressure from leading Western retailers and paid reparations after union organizers were viciously beaten outside its factories, allegedly by thugs on the company’s payroll.
- After the collapse of a massive Bangladeshi garment factory two years ago killed more than 1,100 workers, many of the world’s largest retailers vowed to pull all their business out of that country unless national safety reforms were instituted.
Were these acts of altruism? Or cold calculations — a realization that if you aren’t perceived as more caring and inclusive, you may be the next target of consumer ire and perhaps even a boycott.
Were the higher wages offered by McDonalds a sincere effort to provide a better life for their workers, or an attempt to deflect momentum from the movement for even higher pay?
The ultimate intent will never be known with certainty.
(There are a few exceptions, such as Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s, where employee benefits and social and environmental well-being have always been part of the corporate culture. And Google, whose original business plan in 2004 included the phrase “Don’t be evil,” although that concept was quietly dropped in 2009 as Google was becoming a corporate behemoth.)
But there’s no doubt about one thing: Internal public relations staffs and outside Crisis PR advisers were working overtime to make sure their companies and clients were perceived in the best possible light.
At the end of the day, nothing else matters. Because what the public perceives as real, is real.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.
If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog, Insights on High-Stakes PR.
For a deeper glimpse into our world, see our book on Amazon, “A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR: Protecting Your Clients In & From the Media.”
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net