Stop us if you’ve heard this one: “A politician walks into a nondescript farm-to-table restaurant named after a scarlet female fowl …”
Oh, so you already know about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ quick jaunt to Lexington, Virginia’s Red Hen restaurant?
If not, here’s the skinny: In June, the White House press secretary was asked to leave the restaurant because Red Hen co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson didn’t agree with her support for an “inhumane and unethical” administration.
The ensuing debate split the nation straight down party lines. Republicans vilified the restaurant and its owners on every review site imaginable, while Democrats hailed those same owners as heroes who stood up for a cause they believed in.
We’re not choosing sides. Instead, we’re singling out this situation because it brings up an important question:
Should your small business ever get political?
In our honest opinion, absolutely not. At best, you’ll raise more than a few eyebrows and create the wrong sort of buzz; at worst, you’ll alienate a significant portion of your customer base and have your name sullied all over social media.
However, we do understand why some small businesses take the chance to make their voices heard. So, if you are bound, set and determined to get political, keep these tips in mind:
Focus on Issues Rather than People
Sen. John Doe has just proposed legislature that would ban boomerangs in your state. (He’s probably still salty that his boomerang didn’t come back to him when he was a kid.) The problem is, boomerangs are the bread and butter of your small business.
It’s tempting to call out Sen. Doe by name. After all, he’s threatening to damage your livelihood. But that’s not the best solution.
Try focusing on the issue instead. Boomerangs are cool. Kids everywhere love boomerangs. There has never been a boomerang-related injury in your state.
You’re not calling Sen. Doe out. You’re simply demonstrating that (and explaining why) you don’t side with his ideas.
Engage in Dialogue, Not Dismissal
It’s easy to say, “This is just the way our business feels, and nothing you can say will change that.” But that dismissive attitude will push people away, not draw them in.
Instead, if you face dissenters, start a dialogue. “Is there a specific reason you support the boomerang ban? I’d love it if you could help me understand your position.” You probably won’t be swayed, but it’s important to people that they’re heard.
Keep It Civil
You feel very strongly about boomerangs, so it’s easy to let your passion get the best of you. However, hot tempers are often contagious on both sides of the coin.
Never let a political discussion — be it via email, on social media or even in your brick and mortar location — gets too heated. People won’t remember the random person who egged you on, but they absolutely will remember the small business owner who flew off the handle when his or her political views were challenged.
Talking Politics? Be Prepared for Backlash
No matter how carefully you politicize, a few people will always disagree. If you do choose to take you politics public — whether it’s a sign in your shop window, a post on your Facebook page or even just a retweet on Twitter — just know that it can come back to bite you.
Can your small business survive the negative press? Are your personal beliefs worth putting you (and anyone you employ) in jeopardy? That’s ultimately for you to decide.
Mischa Communications thinks boomerangs are awesome, and that’s as close to politics as we’ll get. But everything else in the small business world, we’re happy to help you with. Just drop us a line!