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TAO Executives-in-Residence: What responsibility do brands have to comment on issues outside of their core competency?

Pete Jacobs EIR Office Hours 0



TAO has recently launched an exciting member benefit: Office Hours with our cohort of Executives-in-Residence. The TAO EIRs are a group of seasoned technology industry experts who are offering to share their skills with TAO members looking for guidance. We created 30-minute “Office Hours” so that TAO members can get to know each EIR, get a taste for their areas of expertise, and then follow up with them directly to schedule one-on-one support.

Coming up next week, TAO Executive-In-Residence Pete Jacobs will lead an Office Hour on “Social Media & Consumer Engagement.” Pete is a marketer and content creator with 20+ years of experience from time spent working at EA Sports, Ubisoft, Viacom, and Univision.

Click here for more information and to register for Pete’s Office Hours on June 30th.  

In preparation for Pete’s event next week, we asked some of our EIRs to weigh in on this question: What responsibility do brands have to comment on issues outside of their core competency?


I have become a fan of the “anti-CEO playbook” by Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya. The new way of business: It’s your employees you take care of first. Not the profits. With this ethos, I think the “employee first” doctrine guides organizations to assert a public position that speaks to and on behalf of its employees.  Few of us want to work for an organization that is tone-deaf to what is happening in the world right now. —Steve Pao, Hillwork LLC


Brands have the ultimate responsibility to be authentic, willing to listen and respectful of what their consumers have to say if they want to stay in business during these shifting times. ‘Following the crowd’ on daily issues could be perceived as social ineptness and rejection from the various communities the brand wants to embrace. Understanding how a consumer approaches your brand by continually tapping their insights, monitoring new buying preferences and being flexible enough to change what the brand offers will contribute to a healthier relationship. —Greg Jorgensen, Startup/Board Advisor


Culture trumps strategy and one should “assert a public position that speaks to and on behalf of its employees.” That said, your company should be founded on a culture that represents your brand and your thinking towards society. Quote this week from Brene Brown “Daring leaders are never silent about hard things.” As a leader of a company, and organization, and presenting yourself to your customers, you have to dare to be brave. Along with that will come those in the stands, the critics, the timid souls who won’t be daring, who will not always agree. Your authenticity in who you are grows trust with your true customer base. I agree that you should also be humble enough to truly educate yourself on the issues, and your stance, before you take one. — Lynn Sheehan, Business Strategist


It’s all about authenticity. —Jim Switzer, President of LaunchPath Strategy Consulting 


I believe that a “brand” is simply a (one of potentially many) manifestation of the values/culture inherent in and of the organization.  If an organization values diversity, equity, inclusion… if it speak up on issues about fairness, volunteering, activism and truly is a place where all viewpoints are considered… then by all means speak up since doing so will resonate with your employees, customers and other stakeholders.  Using social media to simply look politically correct in the moment is not only tone deaf, I think it shines a light on the failure of a senior leadership team to truly lead. —Erick Petersen, Renewable Energy Executive


A company or brand needs to demonstrate empathy.  Empathy towards:

  1. Employees : when they have to be a part-time worker, taking on a full load being a teacher, coach, mom/dad, son/daughter etc.  especially in these pandemic times.
  2. Customers :  when they can’t pay on time or need more time to pay. If you have the muscle, keep servicing them. It will more than likely pay long term dividends in terms of loyalty.  
  3. Suppliers / Partners : when they can’t supply on time or can’t supply enough, be empathetic to their situation.  It might be raw materials or a consulting partner having difficulty garnering the right resources. —T.R. Srikanth, Banfield Pet Hospital


“Whatever the company / brand does, they have to do it with sincerity.” In the semi industry, most of the companies had an equity position with respect to women and people of color, but they would not put in place changes in their operating culture that enabled them to get hired or to be successful once they were hired. Its still happening today. They want diversity, they advertise diversity on social media, but they want the diverse people to be just like them. —Jackie Seto, Side People Consulting 


Companies have responsibilities to all their stakeholders that include shareholders, customers, employees, and suppliers.  Most importantly, especially in the era of social media, is walking the walk rather than just talking the talk.  Insincerity and dishonesty are readily exposed.  Companies want to be the true leaders in equity, inclusion, and diversity, and have that echoed by all their stakeholders. —Mark Neuhausen, Startup Advisor

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