By Travis Kennedy
The tie between politics and the water and wastewater industry goes back nearly a century. When regulations play a large role in the flow (no pun intended) of the market, it’s impossible to separate the two entities. During the election season last year, I received the strongest reactions and the most feedback on those articles that touched on the political debate.
In 2017 the political climate is as volatile as ever. This week alone Donald Trump decided to withdraw the US for the Paris Climate Agreement. This decision has such far reaching consequences and has created a tidal wave of emotional and practical backlash from many within the US and worldwide. Recent events will have a profound effect on our industry specifically because, simply put, a warmer world would similarly increase pressure on water resources considerably.
I bring it up only to introduce this as a topic of debate. Should a water and wastewater equipment manufacturer utilize politics in their content?
There are three positions a manufacturer in this industry can take when producing content in the thick of a political firestorm. The first is the passive approach. This is the option that carries the least amount of risk. Simply take no position, wait for the next issue to arrive and rinse and repeat. Sometimes however, that is simply not an option. If an issue is present and that issue impacts your target audience, a lack of a stated position can mistakenly be viewed as your brand lacking care or investment in what’s important to them.
A second option is to take an active stance. This is a bit riskier but it gives your brand a chance to impact formal public opinion before it inevitably evolves on its own. It demonstrates that your brand is powerful enough to take a position and thus creates a higher level of credibility.
The third and final option is to be reactive as a brand. This is a more conservative approach than an active stance that gives your company the gift of time. It allows you to see how your audience is reacting before going public with your stance. However, it does leave the door open for your competitors to jump in front of you in the market leader rankings by being the first to address an issue important to the target audience you both share.
If I could suggest three things to help guide you, what follows would be the list in order of importance. First, never make the decision alone. All parts of the leadership team should be aware and in lockstep on any position relating to political policy or issues. Second, if your stance is only being taken to boost your company’s revenue, it’s not going to be received well by your audience. Make sure the stance or message has your customers’ best interest at its forefront, regardless of how it impacts your bottom line. Lastly, never let politics be the foundation for your brand publishing efforts. Issues will come and go – it’s politics after all. It’s a forgone conclusion that there will be something else right around the corner.
Image credit: "Election Day Visibility," Roger H. Goun © 2006 used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/