Whether you believe that charity begins at home or that we should all be more mindful of the bigger picture, when it comes to giving, we all have an opinion.
Over the years it has become expected that brands will contribute to good causes. This could be a local charity or a very specific fund that has personal ramifications for those involved. At the same time, it has meant that businesses need to be more mindful of cause related marketing.
Since the launch of Open Comms back in 2008, we have supported many different organisations for the simple purpose of giving back.
Most of these are based within the Yorkshire region and we have chosen them as they are relevant to the business and our wider team. At the same time, we have also supported our clients to do the same. In some instances, this has meant setting a strategy which allows these companies to put cause related marketing into practice.
Finding a cause
How a business chooses a cause is the first step. It may be that there is a shortlist of initiatives and organisations that employees can choose from. The benefit to this being that a company gets the support of its colleagues.
Alternatively, there may be someone with a very personal reason for proposing an initiative and the company agrees for this to become the charity of the year.
Many organisations have a specific schedule in place when it comes to charitable donations. This means they can raise donations and offer support over a given timeframe. As well as creating focus, this provides a chance to review the partnerships.
Some third sector organisations have very structured programmes in place, whereas others are less formal. The best approach for all depends on what each brand wants to achieve as a result of the association.
What contribution to make
There are organisations that will donate a percentage of takings or associated resource from staff to their chosen cause.
We’ve noticed a shift over the years. Once upon a time, companies would give employees the chance to offer their services for free. Now, more than ever, a financial contribution or help with a specific project have become more beneficial.
Like many things in business, it goes back to setting objectives. Although giving to charity can create a warm buzz, it also needs to deliver a result. Working with the right charities means organisations can have a longer-lasting impact for that cause.
Communication surrounding cause related marketing
There is no doubt that when it is right, a partnership between a private company and charity should be communicated. Where this becomes a problem is when the shift is clearly more about promotion than genuine philanthropy.
Any organisation that wants to get involved in cause related marketing needs to do so for the right reasons. If making a real difference to the charity is what the activity is about then the PR will follow. Genuine and honest communication always delivers greater results than forced associations and stories.
Not only do journalists see through giving for the wrong reasons, but consumers do too. The last thing a business needs is to give to a charity and lose customers as a consequence.
This is why planning is so important, starting with choosing the right cause for all involved. The biggest mistake we see from brands is jumping on the band wagon. It is dangerous and often a knee-jerk reaction to something that has already run its course.
Being mindful of these pitfalls is a must when putting cause related marketing into practice.
Getting the messaging right
During the planning stages being specific about the messaging for each audience will help. This gives people a clear understanding of why a business is getting involved in cause related marketing. It will set out the rationale, objectives and what the company hopes to achieve at each stage. Also, whether the partnership is longer term or a one-off.
Providing a context for internal colleagues, stakeholders and customers will create focus for each.
It is likely the messaging will change slightly for each audience, but the objectives should remain the same. The tone will also need some consideration as it will change from more general comms that are shared. Often we find the tone is lighter when it comes to charitable giving and community based work.
Leveraging PR around cause related marketing
When we work with our clients, we create a strand of activity that focuses on community work and charitable giving. This sits very squarely within cause related marketing. It means that when the brands we work with are involved in a charitable activity, we ensure everyone involved gets the profile they deserve.
A number of years ago I met with a charity that explained they were struggling because businesses were scared to promote their associations. The feeling being that if they were to secure coverage then customers would think this was the only purpose behind their partnership.
We supported the charity with a document which they shared with all corporate partners. It made the point that many third sector companies struggle to put the resource in place that will generate regular PR. As such, they rely on associated coverage from partners.
Far from PR being a negative when it comes to charitable giving, it was a positive for all involved.
What goes around comes around
We’ve always felt that giving was the right thing to do. This will continue at Open Comms as it is one of the values of our business. As just two examples, we are a corporate partner of the Theatre Royal Wakefield and we donate to St Catherine’s in Wakefield each Christmas. We have even been known to take to the fields and to roll in mud for a good cause (picture attached from an event a number of years ago).
As well as knowing that we are doing our part, we make it our mission to encourage others to do the same.
If you are a business and you want to think about how you can give back, then give us a call. We can discuss what causes align with your brand and how you can leverage this to the benefit of all involved.