Should brands take a position on the conflict in Ukraine?
And while the classic PR guide for brands is to wait, what is happening cannot wait.
Brands know that taking a public stance is the right thing to do. They also know that in doing so they risk alienating audiences who may disagree with their position. They know it is a risk. A risk worth taking.
True brand purpose requires leaders to take a stand and stand by the values that anchor their decisions, words and actions.
The story is happening right now. Hundreds of Ukrainians have died and more than half a million are seeking safe haven from Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustified” attack on Ukraine.
Tragically, many more Ukrainians will die or be displaced.
Whenever there is a catastrophic event many brands pause their social media, advertising campaigns, promotions and public relations for fear of being perceived as insensitive and deaf.
And some publish statements of solidarity.
What if brands applied the same calculation and effort to situations like the Ukraine attack as they do to ESG?
Is it a new dimension to the ESG concept?
Is it time for brands to take a stand on geopolitical issues in the same way they do on the environment?
Are they willing to risk capital in exchange for humanity and values?
Boycotts remain a purely symbolic expression. Russia’s invasion and aggression in Ukraine has shown that global consumers are not all the same. And they will increasingly choose brands that reflect their beliefs.
Could agencies, brands and communications technology companies have voluntarily helped to combat disinformation coming from the Russian government?
Is this all a step too far for brands?
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, agencies and vendors have been talking about the efforts they are taking in relation to the war, including support staff in the region and the disruption of business with Russian entities.
Americans overwhelmingly want companies to take action against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
3 in 4 US adults say they support brands cutting trade ties with Russia after its invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
All potential actions were widely supported, regardless of political party. Clear majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents said they support companies taking such action, a rare example of broad bipartisan support.
Nike Inc has made purchases of goods on its website and app unavailable in Russia, Apple has also announced similar moves. These are among the responses of US companies to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Hollywood studios Disney, Warner Bros and Sony Pictures Entertainment saying they would pause theatrical releases of upcoming films in Russia.
Airbnb offers accommodation for Ukrainian refugees
Airbnb offers free short-term accommodation for up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country and will work with neighbouring European states to provide long-term stays.
Leaders of the San Francisco-based company, including chief executive Brian Chesky, wrote to the governments of Poland, Romania, Germany and Hungary offering support to host refugees, according to an Airbnb statement.
The housing will be funded by the company, donors and hosts on the platform. While the crisis is still ongoing, more than 300,000 Ukrainians have left in the wake of Russia’s invasion and the European Commission predicts that the number could rise to millions.
Disney, Sony and Warner Bros. suspend movie releases in Russia
Disney, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures have halted film releases in Russia. Disney stated: “Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of motion pictures in Russia, including Pixar’s upcoming Turning Red. We will make future business decisions as the situation evolves”.
Warner Bros. halted this week’s release of “The Batman” in Russia, while Sony halted releases including “Morbius”,
NHL halts ties with Russian companies
The NHL is pausing Russian-language digital and social media sites and suspending relationships with Russian business partners, the league announced. It is also “discontinuing any consideration of Russia as a venue for any future competition involving the NHL”. The moves include pulling games from Russia-based internet company Yandex, which streams NHL games in a partnership that began in 2019.
Ford stops Russian JV
Ford is suspending operations with joint venture partners in Russia. “As part of the global community, Ford is deeply concerned about the invasion of Ukraine and the resulting threats to peace and stability. The situation has forced us to re-evaluate our operations in Russia.” the automaker said.
“While we do not have significant operations in Ukraine, we have a strong contingent of Ukrainian nationals working at Ford around the world and we will continue to support them during this time,” Ford added, noting that its Ford Fund will generate a $100,000 donation to Global Giving’s Ukraine Relief Fund.
Ukraine gets Starlink satellite terminals from Elon Musk
A shipment of Starlink terminals arrived in Ukraine after the country’s digital transformation minister asked SpaceX CEO Elon Musk for help.
“Starlink: here. Thank you, @elonmusk,” tweeted Ukrainian minister Mykhailo Fedorov alongside an image of the back of a truck loaded with terminals.
Musk responded on Twitter: “You’re welcome”.
The terminals look like domestic TV dishes and can provide relatively fast Internet service by residential standards by connecting to a fleet of low-orbiting satellites.
FIFA/UEFA suspend Russian clubs and national teams from all competitions.
All Russian clubs and national teams are suspended from participation in FIFA and UEFA competitions until further notice.
DirecTV removes Russia’s RT channel from its satellite TV programming.
DirecTV, one of the largest pay-TV providers in the US, is withdrawing the Russian government-controlled RT network from its service, citing that country’s invasion of Ukraine. An agreement between DirecTV and RT was set to expire in the second half of 2022, but the invasion forced the company to act sooner to end the deal.
Disinformation is also part of war. Fighting it is essential.
Publicis guarantees Ukrainian employees’ salaries for the year
Publicis CEO and president Arthur Sadoun sent an internal memo to the holding company’s 350 Ukrainian employees, assuring that all Ukrainian employees will have a guaranteed salary for the remainder of 2022. All salaries will be paid in full every two weeks throughout the year, along with an advance payment of their March salary. The wage move was made in addition to the safety, health, housing and relocation measures Publicis has already implemented according to the memorandum.
“While these financial measures can only help a small part of the turbulent reality you face today, we hope they will provide you with some sense of security, help provide for your loved ones and allow you to plan and regain control of your life. Sadoun wrote in the memo.
Silence is not an option, nor is inaction.
In these times the wise words of Elie Wiesel reverberate: “I vowed never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Good brands must support peace in Ukraine: Silence is aggression…
Is it time for all of us to stand up and step up?
Is the defence of freedom, of the West, of our values, of our principles, of our democracy something optional?
Is silence an option?
It no longer is.