slides: 5 Businesses Getting Boycotted in New England
Saturday, April 12, 2014
A suit before the U.S. Supreme Court claims that, as a "tightly held" family business with Evangelical Christian convictions, Hobby Lobby should not have to follow the Affordable Care Act's mandate that it provide two "objectionable" methods of contraception to its female employees. Outside the court, grass-roots Hobby Lobby boycotts have taken to social media and beyond to protest the company for being discriminatory. Twenty years ago this would have meant picket signs and chants in parking lots. Today, boycotts move as quickly as a keystroke.
See more about boycotts in New England in the slides below
“Anyone who boycotts a company is sending a clear message of disapproval,” said Gina Betti, associate director of the Collaborative for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).
“Social media will pick it up and it will spread quickly. It is a must to address concerns in a constructive manner. But it also allows companies an opportunity to improve their message. I’ve always said that the customer who complains the loudest is also your best asset. Addressing concerns quickly stems critical momentum that can hurt future sales.”
Substance as important as reach
This is not to say that any one individual with an agenda and some free time is going to change a corporation. The substance of the boycott is as important as its reach.
“The reason for the boycott is an important predictor of impact. For example, the boycotts during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s was extremely important in drawing attention to an injustice. Boycotts by single interest fringe groups may be a nuisance, but are generally counterproductive,” said Gray Sasse, Founding Director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University and former Executive Director Rhode Island Public Expenditure.
Risks to reputation
Businesses that take a stand on an economic, social, labor relations or political issues may face activists and negative media coverage. However, customers who agree with the position of the business may redouble their efforts to support the company.
“One of the most important risks today is risk to reputation. Most boycotts have a short shelf life. No one benefits from a boycott. Short-term sales and profit and the business's reputation in the community will be affected. Large businesses often have an emergency plan on how to deal with reputation issues while small business owners are generally not trained to deal with crises such as a boycott,” said Dr. Edward M. Mazze, Distinguished Professor of Business Administration at The University of Rhode Island.
Negative attention affecting change
Companies responding to this type of negative attention have history as a resource. When seven people died after taking Tylenol that had been poisoned, the company’s response became the gold standard for corporate responsibility.
“The objective is to minimize business loss when threatened with a boycott. The best way is to anticipate it and correct its causes in advance. If that cannot be done, take the lead in communications and get the news out as soon as possible to all the business's stakeholders. Information provided to social and news media should be prompt, honest, credible, informative and managed. Sometimes it is more important to communicate values rather than hard data when dealing with activists. It is always important to take the high ground in dealing with issues that affect a company's reputation,” Mazze said.
Related Slideshow: 5 Businesses Facing Boycotts
Retail Arts and Crafts Stores
Headquarters: Oklahoma City, OK
Local Locations: Warwick, RI; Seekonk, MA; Holyoke, MA; Manchester, NH; East Haven, CT
Fast Food Restaurants
Headquarters: College Park, GA
Local Locations: Burlington, MA; Chicopee, MA, Peabody, MA; Westborough, MA (Pending); Warwick, RI (Pending)
Headquarters: Houston, TX
Local Locations: 27 Central MA locations
AM Radio Station
Headquarters: Providence, RI
Allston DoubleTree Suites
Headquarters: McLean, VA
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