Politics aside, the mainstream dialogue surrounding the new tax bill pits CEOs against the working class. Polls at the time of the law’s passing indicated that only a third of Americans supported the plan, and more than half opposed it, mostly because they believed it favored the rich.
This situation presents a problem to organizations who will more than likely see the economy start to slow in 2018 and require them to reduce their workforce. The more layoffs that occur, the more likely consumers and employees will consider their bosses greedy.
PR practitioners will need to plan activities that demonstrate the human side of their organization’s leaders; folks who care about their customers and staff. These events should center on performing “random acts of kindness” that don’t appear overly scripted. Doing so will require an expert touch from professionals who understand the anatomy of a story that gives it the best chance of going viral.
Here are just a few examples:
Give bonuses and give them now. Southwest Airlines, Fifth Third, AT&T and others doled out money to each employee within the last few weeks, touting the ability to do so from the recently passed tax law. Each company insisted that they did so not to generate good PR, but to give along the savings to their staff genuinely. I’ll take them all at their word, but not overlook the need for organizations to follow through on the promise Congress made that the law will benefit the middle class.
Expand philanthropic efforts. Most of the companies that will receive the most significant benefits support foundations on a regular basis. Each should make increased contributions to these nonprofits and in very public ways. When they do, executives and employees should not merely dole out more extensive checks, but participate in their activities, most notably ones that directly impact the people for which the foundation serves.
Pay more shareholder dividends. The tax law will look to generate more corporate profits. That’s all well and good, but if all a business does is pocket the cash, they’ll draw the ire of investors for not spreading the love. Bigger payouts to shareholders must occur for companies to stay in their good graces this year.
Hire more folks. We heard all about the job growth potential of the tax legislation. If they don’t manifest, the masses will inevitably voice their displeasure. The task is most difficult since we’re experiencing near full employment by all economic standards. Nevertheless, showing a rise in staff will ensure they believe companies keep up their end of the bargain.
Every political issue comes with its own PR pitfalls and the tax bill possesses numerous ones for corporations. There are remedies to be sure, and organizations should start implementing them now.
About the author: David Oates, APR, is the co-founder of PR Security, a service of Stalwart Communications dedicated to helping companies deal with possible and ongoing crisis communications. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.