Startups feel more and more urged to take a stand and show which side of society they are on. This can feel like taking the focus away from the product. But taking a stand can have benefits for a company. This article is about how and why a startup can take part in social discourse.
How can a startup position itself in social discourses?
Racism, sexism, homophobia, wars, pandemics, climate crisis… There are many topics in our society that we encounter and deal with again and again. What we think, or whether we have an opinion at all, is something we can comfortably decide for ourselves in our everyday lives. But when we are in the public eye, be it with our person or with our company, the expectations of customers, for example, are completely different. People want to know who or what exactly they are supporting. Can they recommend the product, the company, etc. without a guilty conscience? The positioning of a company can also be transferred to the customers in that the support is often equated with a similar positioning of the customers.
If there are current crises that society is talking about, the question of how to deal with the current news at all arises, especially for startups that are just building up their reach and customers. After all, you can put your foot in your mouth when you’re throwing around dangerous half-knowledge. At first, that means stress! But it’s not that difficult to take a stand.
Why taking a stand can be good for your own reputation:
Not every startup can and must take a stand on all socially critical issues. But in some cases, when the topic is reflected in one’s own brand, for example, it can be a disadvantage not to speak out at all. Positioning conveys an image of awareness and a current zeitgeist and, if opinions are formed and expressed independently, can strengthen ties with customers or even attract new customers.
How to position yourself, even if the product itself is neutral, and what to consider:
In order to be able to take a position, it naturally helps to be well informed about the topic. The more you inform yourself and the more diverse the sources of information you use, the more accurately you can form your own opinion based on a wealth of information. Reading and listening to different opinions helps to concretize one’s own positioning. Thus, it is also advantageous not only to consume the opinions that differ little or not at all from one’s own, but also to listen to the opposing side(s).
However, this also includes reflecting on and questioning the sources and media that one uses to form opinions. How reputable are the facts or in which political direction is the source influenced?
You can read, listen to and discuss a lot to form an opinion, but the truest source is always people who are affected by the topic in question.
For example, on the topic of racism, it is of little use to seek information and consume opinions from a primarily white, privileged community, as they cannot speak from experience. In this case, it would be advantageous and important to interview and listen to BIPOC on this topic, for example. In this way, opinions are not based on speculation but on tangible experience.
It’s good to show solidarity!
If news of concrete incidents circulate through the media that require an expression of solidarity, it is good to show it. However, it is better to be able to justify this solidarity, so that customers realize that the issue is serious and that you are not just acting out of an expectation.
One challenge for startups may be that there is not enough time for detailed information. However, you can ask your own team if there is someone who is interested in the topics anyway, who also deals with them outside of work, and who therefore already has a certain knowledge and interest. This person can then be the representative for social issues.
All these processes of informing yourself and finding a position are important, both as an individual and as a startup, in order to present a well-founded and thus comprehensible opinion to the outside world.
Workshops that you conduct together are also suitable for startups and teams. For example, there are anti-racism or diversity workshops in which you learn how to deal with respective topics. This not only teaches you, but also strengthens team building!
There is always something to learn.
Last but not least: No one is perfect, which makes it all the more important to remain open to feedback and, if you make a mistake, to admit it, because you never stop learning.