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BOHNEN Public Affairs

Political Branding

How to operationalize CPR

All companies are concerned with their corporate culture, their values and also their brand core, which encompasses various dimensions. So far, the political dimension has been underexposed.

Despite their factual public role, companies often find it difficult to recognize the opportunities that lie in developing their political brand. For this, it makes sense to enter into a structured process. 

The basic prerequisite is a company's conviction that a political stance is necessary. If this is the case, the first step consists in taking stock of the political resources, topics and activities that already exist but are still underdeveloped or not linked to one another. The next step is strategic. It is about condensing these loose elements into a coherent political stance. In doing so, it is recommended to focus exclusively on corporate strengths. Filter criteria would be: Is the company really true to itself with the strengths identified? Are the strengths differentiating vis-à-vis the competition? Are they relevant to the target groups? And what is their socio-political added value? Especially the last criterion is crucial for the formation of a CPR attitude. Based on this filtering process, a political mission statement can be formulated, which serves as the starting point for internal and external positioning.
The final step involves planning and implementing concrete CPR activities in selected fields of action.

1. Responsible Lobbying

Lobbying is generally perceived in a negative light. In a democratic, pluralistic society, however, it is important that companies - like other social players - bring their interests into the political process. Responsible lobbying means organizing the representation of interests on the basis of the principles of transparency and orientation towards the common good: This entails clearly stating goals, communicating consistently to stakeholders and aligning one’s positions with overarching societal interests.

2. Political Statement

Positioning is achieved through public statements on business-relevant political topics and trends, especially by CEOs ("CEO activism"). In order to be able to speak out in this regard, companies should build up analytical capacities with which they can assess political opportunities and risks for their business. To this end, it is advisable to have a CEO planning unit that acts as an internal think tank to put political issues on the agenda, prepare stakeholder dialogues and present recommendations for action.

3. Participation Projects

Companies can strengthen civic initiatives. One compelling approach is community organizing, in which companies use capital and management expertise to promote local dialogue platforms where social groups discuss their suggestions for improvement with politicians. Similarly, companies can support educational work, investigative journalism or calls to vote.

4. Public Goods

In view of the challenges posed to the state's political steering capacity by the phenomena of globalization and digitization, companies are called upon to contribute their own governance solutions. After all, in the long term, public goods are the prerequisite for economic goods. Examples include investments in digital infrastructure, sports facilities and education, e.g. company kindergartens or libraries. 

From CSR to CPR


CPR Glossary

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“Low-hanging fruit”: What all companies can do

  • Public Affairs Training: Understanding the intersection of private and public sphere. How are economic activities framed by political decisions and social demands? How does private entrepreneurship depend on public goods? And what can companies do to shape their environment and enlarge their room for maneuver? Courses can be held virtually, but also in-house as well as externally – organized by professional cooperation partners, e.g. political foundations and civic education agencies. To ensure acceptance among employees, the training should be conducted on a voluntary basis. 

  • Debate Training: Practicing a vital debating culture as the driving force behind innovation in society and business. This could include courses on how to deal productively with dissent (“agree to disagree”) as well as to identify, prevent and counter online hate speech, disinformation and conspiracy narratives. Companies are ideally positioned to negotiate socio-political controversies because they bring together people from a wide range of backgrounds on a daily basis (learning centers).

  • CEO activism: Business-related socio-political comments by corporate executives who have wide communicative reach and can put a face to corporate engagement. Personalization strengthens the credibility of CPR actions and helps to throw the political brand dimension into relief. Professional coaching, which can be carried out by a (prospective) CPR planning unit, can support CEOs in finding the right topics, formats and messages – and thus ensure overall strategic coherence.

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