Wadds report snapshot: A decision-making framework for taking a stand on public issues

February 6, 2024

Written by Benedict Nicholson

Our latest report is being released in partnership with Wadds, inc., and comprises a set of interviews done by founder and managing partner Stephen Waddington. 

Through interviews with senior communicators at organizations including Adobe, BP, Oracle, and Paypal, Stephen has uncovered some fresh insights, especially regarding companies taking a stand on societal issues.

From the interviews conducted, this was an area of priority focus for many. As such, the report sets out to provide an easy-to-follow framework on when companies should take a stand on issues, which has become a common ask of the world’s biggest companies in recent years and was top of mind when the research was conducted. 

Building a decision-making framework for organizations on public statements

An increased focus on corporate purpose and social responsibility creates tension for the corporate communication function as business drivers must be balanced with value-driven leadership. 

Views were polarized between staying quiet and speaking out, and while some communication teams adopt more partisan stances on social issues, others argue for an apolitical position. 

The following decision-making framework has been codified from the interviews.

 

A chart showing a decision-making framework for public statements, the questions of which are outlined below.

There are several key questions that brand communicators must answer when it comes to taking a stand on public issues, distilled down to the following: 

  1. Is there a clear position that lacks ambiguity?
  2. Is the situation relevant to the organization’s core business?
  3. Is it a priority issue?
  4. Is leadership and management aligned on the issue?
  5. Is the timing appropriate?

If management and comms leaders are able to successfully answer these five questions in the affirmative, then a public statement is likely appropriate, but any one of them answered in the negative could derail or undermine any statement made. 

Influence through insight

The above is just one of many topics covered in the report. It also looks at the following topics in depth and detail:

  1. The outside-in view: The view of the corporate communication function is sought to provide a wider stakeholder media and public perspective. This is an important role as it frequently challenges the prevailing management view of external stakeholder perspective.
  2. Measurement of the contribution to organizational success: The corporate communication function has traditionally been viewed as an operational cost. There is a growing case to support its financial role as a net contributor of value to the organization.
  3. Importance of data and insights: External perspectives are presented to the management as data. A growing range of skills and tools enable this to be translated into actionable insight to support planning and decision-making.
  4. Practitioner skills and competency: The modern corporate communication practitioner has unique strategic, analytical and technical skills. These are supplemented by business acumen, emotional intelligence, data literacy, cross-functional credibility and issues management expertise.

You can read the full report here, and we’d like to thank Stephen and the report’s participants once again for their time and contributions. 

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Benedict Nicholson

In addition to leading the NewsWhip Research Center in New York, Benedict Nicholson manages partnerships with internationally recognized media outlets furthering data journalism, which includes NewsWhip’s Data for Democracy program. Benedict also facilitates consultations with communicators from the top 10 public relations agencies across America and Europe and with Fortune 500 brands to discuss consumer engagement trends and effective media monitoring. Email Benedict via benedict.nicholson@newswhip.com.

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