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Photo: AP

Forget politics. The culture wars are raging in corporate America, and many CEOs and businesses are grossly unprepared. The war gets ignited by employees, shareholders, customers and social media. The wave of sexual-harassment scandals shows that companies have crime in their workplace. And the new, high-stakes collisions CEOs are getting pulled into include immigration, climate change, diversity and inclusiveness, and whether their ads run on controversial websites.

The problem: Most big companies are run by straight, white men who are unaccustomed to navigating a fast-changing America. And most comms departments were built for 1990s media, with 1990s speed.

Why it matters: In the social-media age, corporate reputation and corporate image matter as much (sometimes more) than the delivery of your product or service.

A behind-the-scenes adviser to some of the world's largest corporations told me: "The amount of time that these companies now have to spend on non-market [non-revenue] issues has increased exponentially."

  • Some of the newer topics, like climate change, affect both a corporation's culture and bottom line. "Sustainability has become a business requirement, not a political statement," the adviser told me.
  • Any business that cares about younger demographics has to ask: "Do you want to be associated with my company when you're making a purchasing decision?"
  • More companies, including entertainment and utility companies, are becoming more consumer-facing (for example, selling movies or phones directly).
  • Social media lets anyone call out a brand, in a way that can instantly metastasize.

Be smart: Axios CEO Jim VandeHei had vital survival advice for every organization in his post on our secret sauce and corporate culture, "The Axios Way: How you do it":"Think of your brand as a political candidate. You need to be hyper-aware of how you're seen by your core constituencies (employees and customers) and by the broader public.""How you do it: Be vigilant for signs of erosion in your base; or failing to respond forcefully to negative attacks; or under-utilizing technology to connect with your people in authentic, compelling ways."Sign up for Axios newsletters to get our smart brevity delivered to your inbox every morning.

Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
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Go deeper

A new Washington

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Image

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the city should expect a "new normal" for security — even after President-elect Biden's inauguration.

The state of play: Inaugurations are usually a point of celebration in D.C., but over 20,000 troops are now patrolling Washington streets in an unprecedented preparation for Biden's swearing-in on Jan. 20.

Mike Pence calls Kamala Harris to offer congratulations and help

Mike Pence. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty

Vice President Mike Pence called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Thursday to congratulate her and offer assistance in the transition, the New York Times first reported.

Why it matters: The belated conversation came six days before the inauguration after a contentious post-election stretch. President Trump has neither spoken with President-elect Joe Biden, nor explicitly conceded the 2020 election.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

The coronavirus variants: What you need to know

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New variants of the coronavirus circulating globally appear to increase transmission and are being closely monitored by scientists.

Driving the news: The highly contagious variant B.1.1.7 originally detected in the U.K. could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March if no measures are taken to control the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.