I was recently having a conversation with a friend that’s in the community affairs department of an organization. This person feels discouraged and disillusioned because they accepted their current position with a desire to make a difference. They now find themselves in a role that’s less focused on impacting people and obsessed with telling their organization’s story in the most compelling way. How do we get the right photo at the event, find the right student with the sad story, or talk about the project in a way that we get the most credit for what we’re doing?
This is not the first time I’ve had a conversation like this. In fact, this is the classic battle of cause-related marketing.
If you’re new to this term, let me explain. Cause marketing, or cause-related marketing, is when a business or organization puts resources into charitable projects and then tells that story to consumers.
This is important because individuals are drawn to companies, brands, and organizations that stand for things that are bigger than themselves. However, within each of those organizations, there’s this constant struggle to focus on making a difference while also telling the story of impact without being disingenuous, manipulative, or self-serving. This is not an easy thing to do.
At its core, cause marketing is meant to promote your brand, and that is not a bad thing. But within organizations, there are those who simply want to help others but can’t always articulate the value of their business. On the other hand, there are people who only care about their business message and story, and they miss an opportunity to make a tangible difference in somebody’s life.
I believe our organization, ADDO, has found an honorable and strategic way to do both—make a difference and tell our story effectively. One of my favorite ways we’ve done it most recently is with the Atlanta Braves.
Any time we design a program, project, or initiative that is meant to make a difference in other people’s lives and build a brand, we take these three steps in this order:
1) Impact. The first thing we think about is how we are going to impact the person we’re trying to help. For the Atlanta Braves Leadership Institute, we first considered how to equip student leaders to live and lead at a higher level.
2) Integration. Next, we determine how to integrate the brand (or brands) in an authentic way. If a bank is a sponsor, how do we discuss the importance of finances in leadership? For the Atlanta Braves Leadership Institute, we wanted to integrate professional athletes, but we needed it to have broad application to all students. We decided to focus on “Leading Yourself” and asked professional ballplayers to talk about the discipline it takes to play baseball at the major league level. We then applied those principles to other lines of work.
3) Influence. Once we have carefully considered the impact we want to make and integrated the brand in an authentic way, we work to articulate the influence that this program is making to the broader community. Then, and only then, do we work on public relations, storytelling, and how to measure impressions of the program or product we’ve put in place.
Cause marketing might seem simple, but if you don’t follow these steps in this order, it won’t work.
The cause marketing initiatives that focus first on impact, have authentic brand integration, and share their influence in the community are the ones that are most effective.
The cause marketing initiatives that focus first on impact, have authentic brand integration, and share their influence in the community are the ones that are most effective. @KevinPaulScott
Working on a cause marketing play? Try these steps.
Need some help doing it? Reach out to us at ADDO.
Our communities need you to make a difference, and we also need you to tell the story effectively, so there are more businesses like yours where we work, play, and live.