- Stephen Lovegrove is a life coach who works with billionaires, Hollywood stars, and hundreds of international clients. Lovegrove is an international bestseller and the host of “Change The World with Stephen Lovegrove.”
- Last week, Hallmark received complaints over an ad depicting two brides kissing. After taking it down, they were inundated with backlash – and apologized.
- The controversy shows that Hallmark wasn’t clear on what they stand for – which is why they are so easily swayed.
- It’s critical for companies to know who they are, and Hallmark went against the identity they’ve established. They should never have compromised that.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It’s that time of year when cheesy Christmas movies fill the airwaves for nearly two months straight.
Whether you feel delighted or queasy (I’m in camp delighted), there is no denying that the head honcho of Christmas is not Santa. It’s Hallmark. Hallmark is the undeniable keeper of Christmas.
And even if you’re a grinch, there’s no denying that the number of people who watch is nothing short of staggering. Last year, 85 million people tuned into the Hallmark Channel at Christmas. The Hollywood Reporter just revealed that they’re on track to surpass that number this year. That adds up to more than one in four Americans turning to Hallmark for some holiday cheer.
But now the keeper (and creator) of the modern Christmas miracle is hoping for a Christmas miracle of their own – one that requires Hallmark-level magic (and possibly help from their writers).
Last week, Hallmark experienced possibly one of the biggest company crises they’ve faced in the last decade, if not in the company’s lifetime.
Activist group One Million Moms (which, it should be noted, has less than 100,000 fans on Facebook) complained about a commercial from wedding-planning company Zola, which featured two brides kissing at their wedding.
Around 40,000 people signed One Million Moms’ petition asking Hallmark Channel to remove the ad, and they did.
One Million Moms reported proudly that Hallmark had agreed to remove the ad, and that they had “personally spoken” with Crown Media Family Networks CEO Bill Abbott.
As soon as this news was published, there was immense backlash online.
The Human Rights Campaign brought attention to the issue with their own petition – which garnered over 75,000 signatures – asking Hallmark Channel to reverse the decision and take a stand for equality.
A few days passed with radio silence from the company. They were unable to post anything on their social media without generating thousands of angry comments from viewers.
Finally, on Sunday evening, a statement was released from Hallmark’s CEO, Mike Perry, which read in part:
“The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused … Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions, and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused. “
If Hallmark was hoping for the backlash to stop, it didn’t. The outrage is still pouring in — and now from the other side.
Hallmark’s announcement of the apology has 5,000 angry “reactions” on Facebook. One Million Moms is back with a new petition stating, “It is clear that Hallmark is no longer family friendly, and parents will need to exercise caution before heading to the channel.”
And it seems like the Hallmark social media world is still a field of landmines on every platform.
So, from a business perspective, where does Hallmark go from here?
As someone who has coached CEOs and top corporate executives for the last six years, I would urge Hallmark and all other companies to move beyond the “petition wars.”
When companies get caught in petition wars, it’s a sign that they themselves are not clear on what they stand for as a company – so they’re easily swayed at the first sign of pressure.
Ironically, the “petition wars” that we actually hear about and cause the biggest fuss come from the companies who refused to take a stand and straddled the fence for far too long.
Now, this doesn’t mean your corporate culture has to transform into an activist organization, but it does mean that it’s critical that you know who you are. Who you are is reflected in everything you do at your company: the partnerships you make, the advertisers you work with, the charities you donate to, how you respond to an email.
If a petition hits your desk and it goes against your values, you’ll know. And because of this, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find yourself in the wishy-washy, vulnerable spot of trying to please everyone all at once. You’ll know the legacy you want instead of trying to make everyone happy; Hallmark has proved that that is a one-way ticket from the fire into the frying pan.
Hallmark should have known what they stood for as an organization and been willing to stand up for that even in a moment of controversy. The decision to pull the ad is wishy washy because it goes against what they’ve demonstrated in the past.
The company has been sending quiet messages of equality for years, including same sex relationship themed greeting cards and a commercial where a dad accepts his son coming out to him the night of prom.
Hallmark’s family of talent certainly believes in the rights and dignity of all families. From outspoken LGBT allies like Dolly Parton and Kristin Chenoweth (both featured in this December’s movies) to openly gay leading men like Luke Macfarlane and Jonathan Bennett, the people who make Hallmark movies certainly believe that everybody is equal and deserves to have a love story of their own.
Nevertheless, Hallmark feared losing a very vocal sliver of their audience, so they weren’t willing to stand up for their people or their core values.
Unfortunately, online petitions and social media outrage can easily make it seem like the entire world is against you simply because there is a lot of noise.
There may be a transition period where some people who cannot stand the idea of LGBT people may boycott the network or temporarily stop watching. I can see how a potential drop in ratings would be enough to disturb Hallmark’s leadership. But taking a stand for equality will ensure that their network is still relevant decades from now – and will keep them on the right side of history.
According to the latest CBS News poll this year, 67% of Americans support same-sex marriage. That’s 220 million Americans we’re talking about. And now that mainstream America is watching Hallmark Channel, they really can’t afford to cater to the opinionated minority from a business standpoint. They will quickly lose tens of millions of viewers who believe in equality, along with the stars and crew members who wouldn’t want to be associated with perceived hate and ignorance.
Hallmark should never have allowed one petition to cause them to question or waver from who they are.
Neither should you. Know who you are, what you stand for, and what core values make up the foundation of your business or company.
Then refuse to compromise your identity, regardless of the controversy or pushback you receive.
While the social media trolls might get a little crazy temporarily, you will build something that lasts – and can be trusted over the long haul.