Written by Darin Broton, senior consultant, @DBroton

If you are a company with a household name, engaging in public policy and political discourse has become more complicated than ever.

Last month, Facebook’s decision to donate $10,000 to the Attorney General of Utah turned a lot of people’s heads, including some of its employees. Attorney General Sean Reyes has been supportive of several of Facebook’s priorities, including free speech online and anti-piracy efforts.

Reyes also is defending Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling. It is that policy stance that has caused some to question Facebook’s commitment to LGBT issues. This perceived mixed message is a challenge that corporations and industries are facing every day.

Does that mean companies should not engage in public policy and political debates?

No, to the contrary: Companies and associations must further engage in the political arena to ensure their organization’s priorities and goals are met. The biggest challenge — and opportunity — for organizations is helping their employees and stakeholders understand those goals. According to a Weber Shandwick study, only 37 percent of employees report that they actually understand their employers’ goals and one in four receive frequent communications from the company and association. Here is the opportunity.

Most organizations are sitting on untapped resources — employees or association members.

Today’s employees are waiting for their employer or association to ask them to get engaged. Approximately 50 percent of employees post content on social media about their employer, and 39 percent are posting positive comments. When the employer encourages their employee to make positive comments, more than 60 percent take action. Yet most organizations do not engage their employees on issues important to the company.

Strategic organizations also recognize the immense value of understanding their employees’ attitudes and values. Companies and associations can make more informed decisions on how to engage in public policy issues and, most importantly, who they can ask to advocate on its behalf.

It’s time to rethink advocacy.

Corporate culture should not stand in the way of engaging employees and asking them to help their company. Your employees have real, authentic relationships with policymakers. You just have to ask.

That’s why Tunheim recently launched PropoNET, a new innovative service that helps organizations discover their hidden political relationships, better align their community engagement and develop new public policy champions. PropoNET finds your employees’ public relationships and, most important, makes employees an advocate for your business and your political policies.

For more information about PropoNET, contact me at dbroton@tunheim.com.

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