Lucy Nashed Provides Insights on How to Navigate Business and Politics

March 12, 2020

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In a March 12 article for O’Dwyers, McGuireWoods Consulting vice president, Lucy Nashed, explored how business leaders can learn to better navigate the hyper-political, hyper-connected world by understanding all opportunities, expectations and pitfalls.

As cultural and political debates heighten, companies can no longer wait on the sidelines. A recent survey found that 76 percent of respondents believe CEOs should take the lead on change rather than wait for government to impose it, and 74 percent agreed that a company can take actions to improve the economic and social conditions in the communities where it operates.

“Social media has fueled these trends, giving consumers a channel to directly and publicly pressure brands to change practices, speak up on issues or respond to crises and scandals,” Nashed said. “Political engagement requires a clear strategy and understanding of the climate, players, issues and messaging.”

Nashed gave a few examples of social engagement that worked well, including the dating app Bumble working to pass a law in Texas to fight digital sexual harassment, and examples of where the strategy failed, as Pepsi did in a widely criticized racial equality Super Bowl ad.

“Strategic public policy engagement gives businesses of all types and sizes the opportunity to enhance their brand awareness and engage with consumers outside of the traditional buyer/seller relationship,” she said.

However, that engagement can sometimes backfire. In crisis situations, preparation is key. Companies must understand where their vulnerabilities are in order to practice proper risk management.

“How companies anticipate and respond to crises, both internally and externally, can fundamentally change the outcome of the situation. Understanding what to look for, remaining proactive and having the right team in place makes all the difference,” Nashed said. “A crisis communications plan outlines the appropriate process to follow when a business’ reputation is in jeopardy because of negative media exposure.”

Responding in a timely manner is critical, and relaying that the company is taking serious, tangible steps to address the issue are all important in managing public perception.  

“No matter the context, brands are either made or broken by how they respond in these situations,” she explained. “Those who are dismissive of crises and scandals, slow to respond or seem aloof can impose serious, self-inflicted harm. Those who make their positions known early and clearly, and remain firm in their values stand the best chance of recovery.”