Audiences Respond as Organizations Include Them in CSR Campaigns

The public is tired. It’s tired of lip service from public figures, politicians and companies and hearing “thoughts and prayers,” or “we promise to…” The public wants change. As PR pros know well, words without action no longer cut it.

Several organizations are engaging audiences and other stakeholders as they seek to effect social change and work on humanitarian issues.

Inspiration from the Audience

Creator of video game "League of Legends," Riot Games has an audience of 150 million registered players. It viewed players as an untapped resource in the company's push for social justice.

Two campaigns, “Dawnbridger Karma” in 2020 and “Sentinels of Light” the following year, benefitted local communities while players enjoyed global, in-game challenges.

Rather than target charities, Riot Games let the players choose.

The campaign was communicated seamlessly through game portals. In the Dawnbridger Karma effort, more than 7 million players logged into "League of Legends" and voted for one of three local nonprofits in their region. “We've found that players like to have a say as to what cause-area or charity their money goes to,” says Jeffrey Burrell, Riot Games’ head of social impact.

Players raised more than $6 million in four weeks "to support 46 nonprofit organizations across 15 regions…” Burrell says.

Winning organizations in each region received half of a prize pool. Other organizations split the remaining 50 percent. Each charity was guaranteed a minimum donation of $10,000.

The next year, in the Sentinels of Light campaign, Riot Games encouraged players to join an in-game fundraiser, which netted $5.8 million, again benefitting local groups.

In addition, more than twice as many players participated in it than in the Dawnbridger Karma campaign.

Maintaining the audience-engagement theme, Sentinels’ 15 million players had a choice of activities. They could purchase a charity bundle of a costume, border icons and other items featuring Sentinel Olaf, the bearded berserker in "League of Legends." In addition, they could complete in-game challenges in other titles.

But the campaign didn’t end with character customization.

“In addition [to the] charity bundle…players had the opportunity to nominate a local nonprofit that was meaningful to them.” Nonprofits had a chance to receive a $10,000 grant.

The result was 30 nonprofits across 18 countries receiving grants. Sentinels’ success has prompted Riot Games to make charity campaigns an annual event.

“Because we do these in-game fundraisers every year, players know it's coming and they always get excited about it,” Burnell says.

Power of Partnerships

Marriott decided it wanted to battle human trafficking, an important issue within the lodging industry.

“Marriott has a goal to ensure that 100 percent of on-property associates have completed human trafficking awareness training by 2025," says Garrett Zink, Marriott’s senior manager, social impact. Training equips them with "the skills to recognize and respond to potential situations of human trafficking within hotels.”

For its original training, in 2016, Marriott collaborated with ECPAT-USA and Polaris, leading anti-trafficking organizations. The company also talked with other stakeholders, gathering additional facts and information.

“Engaging the community that is affected most by the issue of human trafficking in hotels, including Marriott associates, industry associations and our peers, anti-trafficking organizations and working groups, and survivors, has been essential to this work,” Zink says.

In addition, Marriott embraced competitors. It donated the original training to the hospitality industry. This enabled 670,000 hotel workers to obtain training (as of April 2022).

In 2021, the company decided to bolster its effort and included hotel guests. Again, it collaborated with Polaris, which operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the U.S. The American Hotel & Lodging Association also came on board.

Zink says storyboards and select scenarios were created based on calls to the Hotline and consultations with survivors. This provided meaningful input and ensured the training was survivor-centered.

The group took this information and developed posters for public-facing areas of Marriott hotels—the first time a major hotel company focused on building public awareness about trafficking through signage.

“[We wanted to help] educate guests on common indicators of human trafficking, and how to respond if they suspect a potential instance,” Zink says.

Marriott also makes the posters visible during high-traffic times in cities, including recent locations hosting the Super Bowl and World Cup. The posters may also alert possible victims.

“Posting these signs and including these indicators may be a way for a potential victim to realize that someone may be taking advantage of them, and that there is a resource out there that can help when they are ready to leave,” he says.

Following Up

Involving audiences is just one step. Like any communication campaign it’s important to measure results and garner feedback. Zink says measurement plays a large role in goal setting and ensuring the work is impactful. Marriott closely monitors the anti-trafficking training and related efforts, he adds.

Riot Games' Burrell says the organization finds sharing results with players beneficial.

Once a campaign ends, it “update[s] external-facing articles” on its website and social channels with results. This lets players “see the impact that they were able to have,” Burrell says.

Riot also connects the nonprofits with players who nominated them, so they can express their gratitude.

Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal