Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How to Grow the Business Bottom Line

Jennifer Hartz and Lisa Tilt
Companies should use marketing communications strategies that leverage their social responsibility investment

There are two critical business imperatives that drive corporate operations—revenue enhancement and human resources. If both of those business levers could be augmented and sustained through one program, would you apply it? That is the outcome when organizations purposefully align corporate responsibility with marketing communications (MarComm).

According to the Committee for Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy’s Giving in Numbers 2016 report, business performance is tied to social responsibility. This finding presumes that companies are connecting their public and business strategies and they are skilled at sharing that information internally and externally. If either of these presumptions is untrue, then a great deal of time and money is being wasted.

Paralleling CR and MarComm allows a business to derive the full value of its civic investments. This symbiotic relationship touches every level and function of the organization—from operations to sustainability, or from regulatory practices to growth.

Once a leadership team decides to leverage CR with intentionality, it’s time to develop a platform and programs that support organizational opportunities to engage the MarComm team to amplify success in that area. There are revenue enhancement through three performance areas: brand differentiation, new products and services, and new markets.

Brand Differentiation 
By demonstrating strong values and a commitment to the community, a company will strengthen its reputation, and differentiate its brand from competing brands. The result is increasing customer/client attraction and loyalty, which drive sales.

Effective CR MarComm depends on how the organization’s internal and external messages align with each other and with its core values. “Think of cause marketing as you would any other brand collaboration with for profit companies,” Brooke Golden of Clif Bar said in a Forbes article. “Find a cause whose advocates share your consumer’s profile, understand their networks and strengths, and identify where you can come together around a shared voice and message to amplify both your efforts.”

MarComm for in the social responsibility realm should fully commit to the non-profit relationship. Strategies include:
  • Developing relationships with the non-profit’s other (non-competitive, but like-minded) partners to build your company’s brand reputation; and 
  • Creating content about the partnership and its cause that features your employees and/or products side-by-side with the non-profit’s beneficiaries to tell the story.
New Products and Services 
Businesses that identify and satisfy a need—be it allergen-free snacks or expert accounting service—are beneficial to society. Performing this action requires an active presence to learn and understand market demands and bring opportunities to the surface.

Expressing a charity’s vision and mission effectively is an important task for MarComm teams to keep in mind as they build partnerships with non-profits for the benefit of both organizations via two predominant strategies:
  • Sponsorship – ongoing or event-driven alignment of the business with a non-profit via the donation of funds, products, services, access to donors, and volunteers; and 
  • Co-branding – found often in consumer products, a non-profit can endorse goods or services in exchange for money and/or exposure on products, signage, or ads.
New Markets (Locations and Audiences) 
Volunteering alongside residents and activists, politicians and professionals, and parents and teachers, creates awareness, goodwill and trust within the community or demographic. The MarComm team should participate actively in message development and deployment, since most non-profit organizations function with lean teams.

It’s best to market involvement to new geographies and audiences with a light touch—coming across as self-congratulatory negates the good work the company does through the partnership. Enable non-profit partners to advocate for the collaboration through marketing initiatives such as:
  • Activate email marketing from the non-profit to its supporters that profiles a case study of the results both entities are achieving together; and 
  • Use pictures, testimonials, and data to tell the story in the traditional and social media channels of both organizations. Also disseminate via internal communications that connect with employees.
It's important to recognize that CSR is multi-faceted. Money matters, ergo people matter. Inform and engage employees and customers so they know why the company is investing in this cause, how to participate, and how their involvement changes the world.

—Lisa Tilt and Jennifer Hartz

Tilt is president of Full Tilt Consulting, a content and communications strategy firm founded in 2006 that works with momentum organizations to grow their business through marketing and employer branding programs. 

Hartz is president of Corporate Hartz, LLC, founded in 2000 to counsel companies on high-impact Corporate Social Responsibility and advise families on philanthropy.

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