Boycotting is a way to let businesses know that they need to perform better or differently. Pretty much everybody has had an experience where they walked out of a store or restaurant and decided they are never going back there. This post will help you take your boycott to the next level to enact more effective change.
Boycotts are effective because they hurt a business’s revenue. When revenue decreases or fails to increase, businesses must either adjust or fail.
Therefore, boycotting – impacting a businesses ability to sustain itself – is the most effective way to change its practices.
The bottom line is you want a business to change something. Its product, its management, its marketing, its sourcing, anything.
Here are just a few examples:
Politics: The #GrabYourWallet campaign targets companies that do business with Donald Trump or his children. The campaign encourages boycotts of these companies as a way to encourage them to sever ties with the Trump family. The boycotts hurt the companies’ revenue and their public image. The campaign has been very effective in 2017.
Misconduct: Bill O’Reilly was the face of Fox News for over a decade. Then stories emerged of his sexual harassment of employees. Outrage fell on deaf ears at Fox headquarters. But boycotts targeted his TV show’s sponsors. Many sponsors rapidly distanced themselves from him and he was soon booted from the network he helped to build.
Discrimination: The Civil Rights era of the 60s has passed down iconic images of young people taking action. Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus. She was arrested. Then tens of thousands of people responded to her arrest by boycotting the Montgomery bus transit system. This led to the Supreme Court ending segregation on public transit.
The key to making any boycott effective is to let the business know why you are boycotting. Don’t leave business owners or executives guessing why they lost you. If you give them a plan to winning you back, that makes their job much easier.
Here is how you get there:
1. Stop giving money to the business
Sounds obvious, right? Except the boycott only works if you make no exceptions. No bypassing the chicken fast-food place except on Tuesdays. No refusing to shop at the retail outlet except for Christmas. No special occasion exceptions. If you want the boycott to succeed, you have to sacrifice something too.
2. Articulate what you want to change
This is very simple and straightforward. Come up with a sentence that says why you are boycotting.
“I am boycotting [business name] because [reason].”
Then articulate what the business can do to win you back.
“I will support [business name] again when they [take action].”
“I am boycotting PanAir because they advertise on Racist TV.”
“I will support Pan Air again when they pull all advertisements from Racist TV.”
See? Now you can communicate why you are boycotting and what target needs to be met for the boycott to be resolved.
It may help to fill out a brief script for yourself to prepare for calls and letters. To do so add some ancillary information about yourself. Examples would be your relationship with the business prior to boycotting and/or why the issue is important to you. Also remember to introduce yourself to open any phone call or letter and thank the person you speak with to end the interaction.
3. Communicate your reason via phone
If the business is local, you can go into the establishment and tell them directly. Or you can call their business number and tell them.
If the business is larger, like a retail chain or multi-billion dollar company, call their corporate headquarters. Large companies often have customer service lines set up. Don’t bother with those. If you want change, go to the top. The corporate headquarters is where decisions are made and your call will be taken more seriously.
The quickest way to finding the appropriate phone number is to use a Google/Bing/Yahoo search. Type in “[Business Name] corporate headquarters phone number.”
This should turn up a link to the business’s website with contact information. Sometimes you’ll find the info on a third-party page, like Bloomberg, which lists this information but is not associated with the business.
Call the number that will get you to the headquarters. It could be listed as “Headquarters” or “Corporate Office” or “Main Office.”
When you call, express the statement you prepared above. You may be re-routed or the person taking the call may respond to you directly.
Thank them for listening and end the call.
4. Write to corporate headquarters
You can also write an email or letter. Snail mail has a tendency to be passed up to the addressee. Therefore, address your letter to the CEO. Bypass the bureaucracy on this.
Letters should be brief, less than a page. Sending the statement you prepared above is sufficient.
If sending snail mail, make sure you follow the proper formatting. You can find quick formatting information here.
Make sure you letter contains all of the following before sending:
- What you are boycotting
- Why you are boycotting
- What action you would like the business to take
- Relevant ancillary information
- A header including who the letter is addressed to
- Your contact information so you can receive a response
- The date
Locate the address by using Google/Bing/Yahoo to search for: “[Business name] corporate headquarters address.”
5. Social Media @Them
Lastly, use social media to reach them. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Large companies have social media managers whose job it is to respond to customer complaints.
Again, you just need to include why you are boycotting and what you want done.
In addition to communicating with the business, you can use Twitter to communicate directly with the person who has power to make those decisions if you know their handle.
6. Bring others on board
Boycotts are more effective as more people join. Start with friends and family. Then expand your network from there. The more people you bring on board, the louder your voice will be. This is especially important if targeting large companies.