The Dangers of Wading into the Conversation

The Dangers of Wading into the Conversation

It’s tempting to put your company into the public debate, but is it wise?

We know. It is so, so tempting.

After all, the topic is all the rage. Everyone is talking about it. If you could just find a way to get your company name or brand or product into the conversation, it would be a huge marketing win—and would make your company look with-it and relevant, too.

Sure. And it can make you look very, very tone deaf—and turn off a lot of people.

Is the real risk truly worth the possible reward?

Let’s be honest: In most of our experience at FrogDog, entering the conversation is not worth the risk. In fact, in some cases, we’ve postponed the release of certain clients’ news just to avoid getting caught in the media hubbub around a topic close to their own.

That said, we have had a few specific instances in which wading into the conversation around a hot topic makes sense.

Let’s talk about when to wade into a public conversation you hadn’t predicted will arise—and when to stick to your plan.

Don’t Do It: Stay out of the News

Although our clients come from a variety of industries—from sporting goods to agriculture and beyond—FrogDog has always had a lot of clients in the health care sector.

And in recent years, the United States has held detailed debates in the news media, at dinner tables, and in work places about health care across all sorts of themes.

Great, right? Everyone is talking about health care. It is the national conversation in homes, businesses, and government. Media outlets seek experts who can speak to the debate every day. This should be a perfect opportunity to get clients coverage.

And we’ve had clients in the health care sector think this way. However, whatever your political bent, you can concede that the public debate has been heated. And you can concede that, for most companies, entering a polarizing, confusing debate on one side or another—even if attempting not to take a side—may not be the best for business.

Ready for another example? Many of you remember the huge kerfuffle in Spring 2017 when Pepsi launched a video advertisement featuring celebrity Kylie Jenner joining a protest taking place in downtown Anywhere, USA. In the ad, she defuses tensions by handing a police officer a can of Pepsi, which he accepted and drank to applause with a smile.

For good reason, many people in the public sphere interpreted the ad as Pepsi making light of the issues surrounding police misconduct and overreach; as capitalizing off the Black Lives Matter, Women’s March, and other political protests; as dismissing serious concerns about current political events, and...; we could go on.

In the Pepsi instance, why? Sure, Pepsi entered a cultural conversation—foment, protests, speaking up and speaking publicly—but why? Pepsi may have intended to say that Pepsi makes even the most tense situations better, but why did it want to say that? Why would Pepsi want to link its products to current-day tension and discord? What small benefit of looking “on trend” in this area could possibly outweigh looking as clueless as Pepsi managed to look?

Wading into the conversation is delicate and tricky. Why take unnecessary risks? In most cases, your company and your brand will just get wet.

Do It: The Media Attention is Spot On

We’ll give it to you: Sometimes, wading into the conversation makes sense. (Though we don’t recommend trying it without the help of professionals.)

In limited cases, entering the conversation on a hot topic can help your company show that its offering truly solves a problem or ameliorates a situation. For example, let’s say you have a new technology that helps reduce water waste and helps treat and clean water for safe reuse. In this case, entering the global conversation about water conservation and increasing droughts worldwide can make sense.

Or if you have a solution for another type of problem—one that crops up more unpredictably and perhaps in a more limited form or fashion, such as a safety issue—watching the media for a story about that problem arising and offering your expertise on the topic may be worthwhile.

Yet in both instances, you need to plan well in advance to assess which conversations you’ll enter and how you’ll enter them. Don’t wade pell-mell into the depth of public debate. Call in the experts.

Need help determining the right positioning, voice, and message for your brand? Contact FrogDog today for a free consultation.

Image courtesy of bplanet at

Posted: Jul 10, 2017
Updated: Oct 07, 2019
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