"Social good" is a buzzy phrase that has been circulating for years, but what does it mean in a communications practice? It's a broad umbrella term with different meanings in various contexts. For instance, some brands use it as shorthand for "a philanthropic effort conducted through social media outreach." Others might consider their entire CSR program a form of social good.
Semantics aside, brands must devote some of their business to the common good in an era when a majority of consumers demand ethical practices and value-based company missions. It's in a communicator's best interest to promote and champion her company's causes. This can build loyalty with audiences and improve trust among consumers.
Here are four ways to build a successful social good program at your organization.
Keep it real. Today's digital natives can sniff out disingenuous campaigns in a heartbeat. When announcing a social good initiative on social media or in a press release, focus on the community your organization is assisting. Resist the urge (or a senior executive's ask) to pat your company on the back, or piggyback a product launch on an outreach effort.
Find a good match. "Don't team up with a nonprofit or create a cause that doesn't share key values with your company's philosophy," says Tod Plotkin, principal at Washington, D.C.-based agency Green Buzz. Plotkin's firm, which specializes in video, has worked on many social good campaigns, including videos for Upworthy and Ancestry.com.
Upworthy has distanced itself from its initial model as a viral content aggregator. In part due to Green Buzz's efforts, Upworthy has become a platform for "stories that connect us and sometimes even change the world."
On the other hand, Ancestry.com seeks uncover customers' personal stories and family histories in its messaging. This makes the two organizations a perfect pairing.
Celebrate the top CSR and social good campaigns of the past year at PR News' CSR & Nonprofit Awards luncheon, March 15, in Washington, D.C.
Determine your messaging's key players (hint: it shouldn't be the brand itself). "Make sure you honor the stories of the people you are impacting," says Plotkin. A video Green Buzz produced for Johns Hopkins, for instance, casts students as environmental protectors. The video intercuts classroom and laboratory action shots with nature footage. Rather than touting the university's post-graduate employment record, faculty or alumni, the video argues that students are effecting positive environmental outcomes at the local and even global level.
Involve your employees. If your company participates in an annual day of giving or volunteering, spread the news through the lens of employees. Plotkin recommends asking staffers what the company's community work means to them. "The stories of your employees resonate with the average person or journalist more than talking points from your CEO," he argues. Try interviewing employees about your campaign launch, and incorporate their answers into social media or press outreach.
Follow Tod: @PlotkinT
Follow Sophie: @SophieMaerowitz