1-1:45 p.m. Breakout Session 5: Polarization and the Erosion of Trust

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Breakout Session 5: Polarization and the Erosion of Trust

Adam J. Saffer, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication

In a polarized society, brands are increasingly forced to take sides on controversial issues. Think of Nike’s support of Colin Kaepernick or Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision to scale back gun sales. Brands have taken bold stands, but they have also been publicly called out for their wrongdoings, inactions, or misinterpretations of societal expectations. Much of how we understand the ways brands should navigate our polarized society centers on the organization. But what if we shift the focus to individual stakeholders and consider how they navigate our polarized society?

In this session, we will consider the ways individuals’ social environments have implications for organizations. For example, people’s social networks create opinion climates where they make sense of political and social issues, as well as brands’ positions on these issues. This can influence stakeholders’ perceptions of brands and likelihood to engage in activism against brands. By focusing on stakeholders’ social networks, we can also explore why brands have an economic interest and social responsibility in rebuilding stakeholders’ social capital in order to repair the erosion of trust in institutions.

Adam J. Saffer, Ph.D.

Adam J. Saffer (Ph.D. University of Oklahoma) is an Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication at the University of Minnesota’s Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Saffer’s research revolves around a core interest in understanding the ways individuals, groups, and organizations use and are influenced by communication networks. His recent work is studying how the social ties individuals turn to in response to particular messages and specific events have hidden influences on activating certain identities, processing messages, or perceiving events.