What Public Figures Can Learn From Elon Musk’s Statement On Cannabis Reform
Prominent figures with massive fanbases are often able to create real, legal change due to their fame. Elon Musk, for example, has been making quite a name for himself by stirring just about every pot he can find. For the most part, it’s working wonders for his company’s social media and organic marketing campaigns, while fueling both fans and the general public to speak out against political issues.
On June 8, Musk tweeted: “Selling weed literally went from major felony to essential business (open during pandemic) in much of America & yet many are still in prison. Doesn’t make sense, isn’t right.”
Within days, the tweet reached over 175,000 retweets and more than 700,000 likes.
This kind of social push just might spur activists to put enough pressure on politicians to enact real change. For better or worse, many people see fame and fortune as a sign of expertise—and we all know Musk has plenty of both. This kind of clout and credibility are of the utmost importance when persuading politicians.
How past celebrities have changed politics
Elon Musk is far from the only celebrity to have ever pushed for change. In fact, a celebrity has been the president of the United States since 2016. Countless others have also taken political stances that pushed politicians to make positive change.
In 1991, Oprah Winfrey vowed to take a stand against child sexual abuse. She leveraged her clout, power and charisma to help draft the National Child Protection Act. Two short years later, the bill became law. Within months, the new national registry of convicted child abusers helped prevent thousands of abusers from obtaining jobs at childcare facilities.
In 2009, Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness pioneered the removal of restrictive and oppressive adoption regulations in Australia. Jackman took to the press to explain the harmful effects of the current law while Furness created a pro-adoption lobbying group. Soon after, the Prime Minister became involved and dedicated himself to changing the law.
Today, Elon Musk is putting his power to work just the same as these other celebrities—if not better. According to Forbes, Elon Musk is the sixth most powerful entrepreneur in the world. In the words of Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Musk certainly seems ready and willing to put that power to use.
One person’s statements can lead to another’s actions
Public figures don’t have to do too much themselves in order to affect change. All Musk had to do to get hundreds of thousands of people talking about cannabis reform was to tweet one simple idea. His followers did the rest.
According to Social Bakers, as of June 24, Elon Musk has more than 36 million Twitter followers and is adding about 3 million more every month. Through organic posts, word-of-mouth marketing and plain old controversy, he manages to keep that growth going steady.
This massive public following gives him the power to affect politics with the click of a button. By tweeting from an account with massive media influence, celebrities like Musk can inspire people to look into pressing issues. For many, that means examining political opinions that they may never have even thought about prior to the tweet.
When hundreds of thousands of voices (and keyboards) hear a celebrity’s call for change, lawmakers often find it impossible to ignore. After all, 100 or even 1,000 votes won’t make much of a difference in an election, but 700,000? According to World Population Review, the likes on Elon Musk’s single tweet outnumber the registered voters in several states.
Consumers have the power to incentivize celebrity opinion
Celebrity influence isn’t a one-way street. Consumers are just as capable of influencing celebrities as celebrities are of influencing consumers. As the saying goes, “Vote with your wallet.”
Just look at the outpouring of support from celebrities following the George Floyd protests. Just about everybody who’s anybody from Hollywood to DC has chimed in with support for the protestors and denounced police brutality. Even people who have never before discussed police brutality are commenting after hearing the uproar of their followers.
When enough consumers unite and demand action, those celebrities that take action are the celebrities that keep their careers. The same goes for businesses. When enough people want to see change and a business fails to make that change, people “vote with their wallet” and take their money elsewhere.
On the other hand, you have businesses like Ben & Jerry’s, which has been one of the most vocal businesses in support of the protests. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2020, Ben & Jerry’s is on the right track. In fact, 74 percent of consumers agree that CEOs have a responsibility to lead change rather than wait for the government to impose it.
When you lead change, you lead your firm’s growth and success. Businesses that survive don’t do so just by being in the right place at the right time, but by also making the right moves.
Making the right changes can be tough. If you change too soon, you could lose it all, but if you change too late, you could be dismissed as a bandwagoner. The best thing you can do is listen to your community, leverage what resources you have and keep on moving forward.
Brian Hart is the founder and president of Flackable, a national public relations agency headquartered in Philadelphia. Follow Brian on Twitter at @BrianHartPR.