Why brands should be careful about pre-emptive boycotts

It isn’t necessarily wrong for brands to take action in a crisis, but PR pros and managers should consider the precedent they’re setting.

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Boycotts were once a protest tool wielded by consumers to prompt a business to change a certain behavior that, in practice, generated a largely spotty track record of success. Today, that paradigm appears to have shifted considerably.

The number of preemptive product boycotts—now being led by businesses—has become an almost predictable PR response to an ever-expanding range of situations. There has been a variety such proactive actions from a wide range of major corporations in recent years including Walmart dropping merchandise from Paula Deen, Cracker Barrel temporarily halting sale of Duck Dynasty merchandise, TV Land pulling The Dukes of Hazzard from its line-up and Macy’s abandoning Donald Trump-brand merchandise.

The seemingly overnight adoption of this measure should give PR professionals pause. Here are three reasons why:

1. Sacrificing strategy. Strategic communications counsel requires a thoughtful approach to handling potential issues. Using the preemptive boycott as a first-line response often fails to consider why that particular action is in an organization’s best interest. In properly defining a strategic approach, it is helpful to take stock of the situation by asking a series of questions, such as:

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