This one is tricky.
First, selling beds to the border camp was a move that Wayfair should have expected criticism for, yet it did not appear to be prepared internally or externally to communicate its values as an organization, including why it chose to facilitate the sale.
Second, a donation to the American Red Cross is arguably pretty vanilla and generic. How come? The Red Cross’ direct involvement is questionable, therefore their direct impact is largely unknown. Other organizations, like RAICES, the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas, was argued by employees as much more appropriate to receive support.
Finding the Right Balance:
The border crisis is a HOT issue. But… let’s leave politics out of it. When a company is about to introduce itself with a position—directly or indirectly—on a societal issue, it must be well-prepared. It cannot be naïve to backlash and it must be ready for a thought-provoking conversation on social media.
- Define your company values to define your actions. Clearly there was a disconnect among Wayfair employees and leadership on this decision, with criticism that the action went against the company’s belief that “everyone should live in a home that they love.” These values became further diluted and complicated when Conine agreed with employees’ feelings about the camps. Better preparation in illustrating values as it relates to a company action is critical.
- Be transparent with your stakeholders. For such a controversial topic, taking the lead on why this decision was made may have mitigated the alarm by employees who were caught off guard. An internal memo detailing reasons why, reinforcing the company’s mission, and leadership’s own detest for the camps would have gone a long way.
- Realize who your customers are and what is important to them. Research shows that most consumers want brands to stay out of politics. It also shows that the majority of consumers now buy on belief, which causes issue for brands that take controversial stands.
- Be thoughtful with your damage control tactics. Wayfair’s swift decision to donate to the American Red Cross was not well-received, yet the tactic was strong but wrong. Don’t move too fast on reputation management efforts that you overlook as small, but important details.
Wayfair is doing more to respond since its initial donation with an employee matching program to @RAICESTEXAS. But is it too late? What do you think?