Why brand cause shouldn’t be thought of as a responsibility or an obligation
Here’s Paul Fisher’s advice on choosing a cause for your brand to support.
This article originally appeared in The Versus Issue, our February/March issue of Marketing mag. New issue coming soon!
These are just some of the ‘dilemmas’ (come on, first-world issues or what?) I hear from many individuals across the entire media and marketing industry.
And in all the conversations I have that begin with each ‘side’ of the above statements being opposing, through discussion, examples and eventually reframing, we get to a place where the ‘versus’ becomes an ‘and’ or a ‘together with’.
The beneficiaries of this reframed approach to commercial and individual needs and creating real social impact are many. For the organisation, staff attraction, engagement and retention have all been shown to increase when a brand commits to a purpose beyond the primary commercial purpose of profit, market position and shareholder return.
Additionally, we see more and more brands promoting their own commitments and contributions to social purpose and corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a competitive position, to attract, engage and retain the best staff and also to attract, retain and grow commercially-beneficial partnerships.
A number of UnLtd’s Social Impact Partners illustrate the above admirably. GroupM has expanded its globally successful Power of One Day into the more ongoing Power of Giving for its hundreds of Australian staff. OMDonates champions the causes most important to the hearts of its Australian staff and in so doing creates enormous social impact in the lives of many young disadvantaged Australians.
TEN Gives continues to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash, contributes value for its charity partners and inspires its staff nationally to get involved in fundraising and other value creation for charities, including Musicians Making A Difference (MMAD), batyr, Youth O The Streets, R U OK? Day and many more.
For these brands, their social purpose is no longer a ‘responsibility’ or obligation. It’s no longer juxtaposed to their commercial imperative. It’s no longer an either/or, or a ‘versus’. It is now seen from the board and C-suite through management to the future leaders as an integral and mission-critical value to their commercial purpose, one that they proudly yet humbly promote.
Aside from internal staff engagement surveys indicating uplifts from active involvement in and contributions to social causes, there are some heart-warming personal stories. There’s the commercial television network producer who has produced program ‘promos’ for years who scripted, storyboarded, shot, edited and produced a video for one of UnLtd’s charity partners, claiming it was the most rewarding thing he had produced in his career. Or the individuals and collectives at Bauer Media and OMD who delivered more than $1.5 million of media that attracted 200 additional volunteers to read to children in foster care.
Or the media industry cyclists who raised $30,000 for their charity of choice by riding 160 kilometres through the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
A number of our industry rising stars have also honed their ‘day job’ skills for the benefit of charities and young people and, in so doing, won industry awards. Nicki Willoughby and the team at Initiative Media won a 2016 MFA (Media Federation Award) in the pro bono category for their campaign for HeartKids.
Mindshare’s John Dawson and Mark Golafshan also won the NGEN category in the 2013 MFA Awards, for their Lace it UP campaign for Youth Off The Streets (YOTS).
In the same category, 2016 winner William Berner and his Mediacom team created an award-winning idea that ‘Every Word Counts’ to raise much needed funds to provide more reading opportunities to children in foster care.
In tackling the very real conflict in allocating time to their ‘day job’ and some time to their social passion, purpose or cause, these and so many others have found sufficient time and sought out and secured the support of their own employers to pursue their ‘purpose greater than simply making money’.
In so doing, they are measurably and anecdotally happier, more content in their role, more loyal to their brand and, when you meet these people, they are beacons of energy, passion and creativity. To them, there is no ‘versus’… only ‘and’. I even hear them introduce themselves as such – ‘Hi I’m Kate, I work at (insert well-known media brand here) and I also work with/for/contribute to (insert either the name of their own organisation’s social purpose committee or their charity of choice, or both).’
If you are reading this and your thoughts turn to how you could help, but you don’t know how or where to start, be comforted by knowing everybody who helps and gives starts in the same place.
The start for you has probably already happened. That thought in your head, that feeling in your heart, that conversation you had that lingered longer than most, that image that you can’t quite get out of your mind all had an impact on you for some reason, quite likely a reason known only to you.
The ‘why’ is important. Try to understand the ‘why’, as this is essentially the driver for you. The ‘why’ for us here at UnLtd is ‘so no child sleeps in fear’. Our ‘why’ drives us to support charities that deliver programs and services that change young people’s lives in the key areas of mental health, literacy and education, homelessness, violence, abuse and neglect, and crisis care.
When you discover your ‘why’, you will have probably already chosen the cause and maybe even the specific charity you want to contribute to. If not, don’t get stuck in the ‘which charity do I choose’ conundrum. You love animals, children and think we aren’t doing enough to nurture our planet.
Look around, go to various websites of causes that interest and inspire you. See and feel which ones touch your heart. And then choose. One. Maybe two. Maximum three. And approach them.
Or come through us. UnLtd functions as the marketing and media industry foundation and social purpose organisation uniting our industry’s people, skills, time and talent to support what we call ‘off-Broadway’ charities working with children and young people.
In words attributed to American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (though possibly owing much to Bessie Anderson Stanley), the definition of ‘success’ is: “To know even one life has breathed easier, because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.”
Paul Fisher is CEO at UnLtd
Marketing is proud to have UnLtd as its Content Partner. UnLtd brings the Australian media, marketing and advertising industry together to tackle a big issue: undoing youth disadvantage. We urge you get involved.