The Most Important Question for Any Business: “Should I Say It?”

In the past week the owner of one of Pennsylvania’s most prominent businesses, Yuengling Brewery, vociferously threw his support to one of the major Presidential candidates, the endorsement including media coverage of the campaign’s tour of his facility. Of course, that’s his right, thought from a business perspective it might not have been the wisest move. We’re in the midst of the most contentious presidential race of my life, and the rancor that has surfaced will likely linger for a long time. The endorsement resulted in a boycott, which is now getting press across the state and beyond. There’s no indication that it’s selling any more beer.

Sometimes it’s best to NOT speak for your company!

Which brings us to the most important business question of our age: “Should I say it? If I say anything not directly related to my business, will it come back to hurt my enterprise?” If you’re going to make a public statement, be sure to weigh the plusses and minuses of the statement.

For example, the chairman of a huge, multi-national financial organization came out in favor of legislation supported by a landmark Supreme Court decision. He was roundly applauded by other businesses, clients, and especially the employees of his organization. However, in one case a large potential client refused to do business with the firm, due to the chairman’s stance. I’m sure the chairman had considered repercussions of his statement, and determined that it would create more goodwill than trouble.

Marc Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is known to be a major supporter of the Democratic party. A few weeks ago his executive team, representing the concerns of the staff, asked him to ban any comments by or about Republicans. Zuckerberg wisely refused, since any bans would gain him no new customers, would alienate many customers, alienate advertisers, and ruin Facebook’s positive image among the general public. Since more than 50% of Americans now get their news from Facebook feeds, it was especially important to avoid any impression of partiality (which is also why editorial control of newsfeeds were switched to an algorithm recently.)

So sit back, count to ten, keep a small sign in front of your computer screen (or on your smart phone): “Should I say this? Will this statement help or hurt my business?” A little deliberation can prevent untold pain.