Election Day has come and gone, but the cycle is nowhere close to an end. Many results still hang in the balance and as information, misinformation and everything in between flies around, the next few days—and even months—become more crucial.
Edelman U.S. chair of public affairs Aaron McLear and global CEO Richard Edelman joined U.S. CEO Russell Dubner and COO Lisa Ross, as well as election expert Ben Ginsberg to discuss the day after and what brands should know. Here's what we learned.
First, the numbers:
- 70 percent of large company employees expect leaders to be ready to respond to this time, with that growing among those aged 18-24
- Nearly 50 percent of employees aged 18-34 would protest in the workplace if they disapprove of how leaders are handling the situation.
- Nearly 50 percent of employees will advocate on behalf of the employers that speak up
- The big question: Where is the line for companies?
What you need to know right now: As Richard Edelman outlined, the big picture looks like this. We are going to have a period of stasis that could last a long time. There's an information void that needs to be filled, which means a growing role for the CEO. Brands have a special role to play in the coming weeks. And there is no option to doing nothing—especially with other issues like diversity and inclusion. And most importantly, employees need to be supported to be civically engaged: Give them time and space to participate.
What to do now: Lisa Ross said the first step is to acknowledge that people are struggling and showing empathy toward that struggle. At the same time, some people aren't struggling today — this is part of what life is and they're taking it in stride. Don't put everyone in the same category. People are different and diverse.
- Our workplaces are our Thanksgiving table, where you may want a break and may not want to talk about politics or religion. But at the same time, we are all activists. Which means the responsibility of the CEO is to put their arms around everyone and show stability and empathy. Think of the process, not the outcome: 50 percent will be happy with the outcome, roughly, and 50 percent will not. That means creating a narrative that lifts people up.
What's happening out there: Brands are recalibrating for a moment in time, said Dubner. Some are moving forward with business issues and some are stopping. The question is what to do as the holiday season comes up. Here's what to think about:
- People will be tired and exhausted due to Covid-19 and pandemic restrictions, said Richard Edelman. So, the employer must step up.
- The CEO needs to tell them why the company's values and mission matter and how they will be acting on those.
- CEOs should talk about public transit and safe streets and health & safety—and how the corporation will be the connective tissue for these key services. Be a partner and a friend.
- No need to go too silent on social media or publicly for too long, said Dubner. Just be conscious of where your brand fits into a person's life. There is room to be a bold and helpful partner.
An example: In the U.K., after Brexit, Heineken recruited people from a university who were on both sides of the issue having a conversation over beers. The result: A video about coming back together. "I urge you, brand marketers, to be an example of how to come together," said Richard Edelman. As Ross puts it: Solve, don't sell.
As a reminder, this was a historic election: As Ben Ginsberg points out, there was a historic turnout here, with the pandemic forcing the country to adapt to new ways of voting and working. The recounts will continue and each state will have its own procedures. The key facts to remember:
- December 8 is the Safe Harbor deadline for electors
- In a recount, the campaign that's ahead will say "the vote's over, it's final."
- The Biden camp is likely to look at disqualified or spoiled ballots to get more of them brought in, under the theory that these would lean Democrat.
- Precise procedures during recounts will vary but there may be checking of machines as well as absentee ballots.
Ultimately: "There is great uncertainty, but the process is tried and true. It's a democracy so it can get messy, but institutions have always held and they will this time too," as said by Ben Ginsberg.
A hopeful note: It's in everyone's best long-term interest to come together, said Ginsberg. "I hope there is a growing realization of involvement at the local level. If we are to restore the nation away from its highly polarized state we need to think of it on the local level and solve problems in the community. We are going to have split control of the Congress... one can hope it will provide a spirit of unity."
What of the pollsters? The massive misses in polling are a reflection of how polarized the country is, said Ginsberg. There is an undervaluing of Trump voters whereby people called by a pollster won't say they're voting for Trump because there is a cancel culture there. It's a warning sign for businesses where deep feelings aren't expressed due to a fear of censorship or judgment.
- Media is in the bad spiral: Richard Edelman said the media will continue to decline in trust because it is politicized—in the last week pushing this idea of a Blue wave that has turned people against it and even led people to vote for Trump. Companies will need to be their own media companies, pushing truth hard.
We'll leave you with this: There is an elitism in this country that often leaves people out, said Ross. Where brands have a responsibility is to bring people together, and when they do, hear them all out.