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There’s a cultural battle raging for our morality.

This moral battle could spell devastating consequences for businesses trying to communicate efficiently with their publics. A business could easily be hung out to dry just for being deliberately misunderstood and used as a case-in-point for either side in this war. Like me, you might have strong moral opinions yourself, but these aren’t necessary the right ones for your corporate messaging. An organisation can’t serve as a mouthpiece for hundreds or even thousands of personal opinions.

So, how should your business navigate this inflammatory culture war? To better understand the field of battle, we must identify four key groups based on their underlying philosophy of life and ethics.

Social Justice Warriors (1) will not accept any perceived social injustice. They regard themselves as morally superior and they see any concentration of power as a form of oppression.

Science-Driven Realists (2) draw moral conclusions from scientific facts, which results in a harsh and cold view of the world. They often display a low tolerance for religious views or emotional arguments.

Wholesome Traditionalists (3) sees common sense derived from generations of empirical wisdom to trump other forms of insights. They celebrate being down-to-earth, patriotic and are often religious.

The Pragmatic Majority (4) are only moderately interested in moral philosophy; they are more focused on making ends meet in their personal lives. They avoid taking any such stands — at least publicly.

How should a brand navigate such a complex cultural environment? There are two strategic routes to choose between. Either you pick a side (1-3) and stick with it — or you find a way to stay out of it (4).

Choose Your Path (and Recruit Accordingly)

Businesses who decides to act as beacons for moral behaviour will gain traction with the chosen minority while earning themselves highly engaged enemies at the same time. From a PR perspective, conflicts such as these could serve as fuel for media attention, but it’s far from obvious that these brands will increase their market shares; the share-of-voice for the loudest agitators are rarely proportional to their actual numbers. Most brands will likely do much better if they realise that it’s not their core business to teach grown-ups about moral behaviour. Instead, they must find something else to drive their messaging forward. And that message must be pragmatic, strong, and clear.

Most importantly — this isn’t a PR challenge.

The basic foundation for long-term strategic success in navigating culture wars is fundamentally a challenge for HR. Today, brands must hire and fire on basis of moral classification as well as on competence. The ability to find co-workers with compatible values will be a determining factor for brands who wish to survive this war — and come out even stronger than before.

Today, brands must hire and fire on basis of moral classification as well as on competence.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.