A Word from Javan Van Gronigen
The benefits of a social impact campaign
Social impact campaigns can be a powerful way for companies and organizations to make a positive difference in the world while boosting their brand image with employees and customers. At Fifty & Fifty, we focus on finding the perfect fit between brand and purpose so that users see the value of a company jumping into the social impact space in a way that builds credibility, employee engagement, and consumer staying power.
However, these campaigns can also be fraught with pitfalls if not executed carefully and in alignment with a brand’s mission. So, before we run off and craft our next do-good digital campaign, let’s discuss some of the risks organizations face when jumping into social impact.
When social impact goes wrong
We’ve all seen the campaigns play out where brands jump into political conversations only to get blasted by the media for doing so. We’ll get to how we can avoid that situation, but first, let’s explore what’s at risk if you do a social campaign wrong:
- Blowback: When you jump into social good conversations without a historical track record, you often see customers and employees raising the red flag. That’s because they are all too aware of the corporate desire to greenwash their business with a little bit of good PR. So, people are on the lookout for that and won’t hesitate to mention if they think you aren’t genuine about your efforts.
- A risk to brand credibility: When a brand aligns itself with a cause, then customers and employees want to see a commitment. When Patagonia says they are going to protect the environment, it’s not just a post on Instagram but a full commitment to protect parks, join the political discussions, and see change take place within culture. If you don’t, people will question your motivation and likely lose credibility and trust in your brand.
- Culture strain: Employees are like family, and when you communicate a desire to support social good, they are going to want to join in. But, with promises must come opportunities and action, or people will feel like you aren’t making good on your promises.
Now that we’ve seen the risks let’s take a look at five common mistakes to avoid when launching a social impact campaign:
- Insufficient Research: Another critical mistake is launching a social impact campaign without conducting adequate research. The messaging must understand the issue at hand to avoid the mark, or worse, it can cause harm or offense to the communities the campaign is meant to serve.
We love to see thorough research conducted by our partners. Ideally, this research is done in advance of a campaign so that we can clearly define the issue you are trying to address, including the perspectives of the impacted communities. This research will inform the messaging and ensure that it resonates with intended audiences. We can assist with this research, particularly when launching a new brand or re-branding alongside campaigns.
- Inappropriate Timing: Social impact campaigns that are launched without regard to timing or context can result in insensitive or tone-deaf messaging that misses the mark. Timing is critical, and launching a campaign during a time of crisis or when the news cycle is dominated by other issues can result in the campaign being overlooked or criticized.
As mentioned earlier, things happen, and times change. It’s important to leave room for pivots as current events and cultural and historical significance create reasons for adjusting your campaigns. It’s also worth noting that some topics, often the ones that take up the majority of conversations online and in the news, are very divisive and may not be worth joining the conversation. You may be excited to express the views of your leadership and staff only to be met with a wall of pushback from your supporters. That’s why we typically guide organizations toward subjects that are easy to recognize as beneficial for society, such as the environment, equality, sustainability, poverty, and human rights.
- Lack of alignment: One of the most critical mistakes that companies make is launching a social impact campaign that does not align with their values or mission. Consumers can quickly pick up on this inauthenticity, and it can hurt the brand’s image.
To avoid this, we encourage organizations that we partner with to identify your brand’s values and mission very clearly so that strategizing campaigns directly ladder up to your brand’s pillars. If you want to support the environment, ensure you aren’t utilizing harmful chemicals in your supply chain. If you want to support equality, ensure you have the hiring practices in place to guarantee it within your company’s leadership. Want to support lower-income initiatives? Start by supporting your own staff with payroll and benefits that exceed industry benchmarks.
- Insufficient Engagement: Campaigns that do not actively engage with employees and the communities they aim to impact may fail to gain traction or have the intended effect. Without meaningful engagement, the campaign may come across as inauthentic or with ulterior motives.
In most, if not every situation, when an organization brings us into the fold, they have already begun the work in their targeted communities. This will help guide the brand’s mission, research, positioning, and future goals. We encourage our partners to keep these communities close and involved regularly as we launch campaigns and anticipate necessary pivots due to ever-changing issues and needs within a given impact area.
- Lack of Follow-Through: Initiating a campaign but not following through with measurable actions can lead to distrust and cynicism towards the brand or organization’s intentions. Consumers want to see real progress toward addressing social issues, and failure to deliver on promises can damage the brand’s reputation.
Every campaign differs in its goals. Where there is a call to action, we encourage our partners to continue their efforts beyond the timeline of a campaign. Commitments made are important to communities, and the work of social good is to ensure that people know the impact of the work being done over time. Don’t just give yourself a six-month run; make it year-long with quarterly check-ins that establish your organization in the space. If you don’t have a regular social impact metric you are reporting, does your organization really care?
As Creative Director here at Fifty & Fifty, I like to ensure that our client’s campaigns are in line with a brand’s vision and can make a valuable impact in a given social space. Our mission is to help tell the stories of those who are changing the world, and we’ve been able to do so with hundreds of amazing companies – such as Qualcomm, Sony, Verizon Foundations, and more – committed to using their businesses for good. If you’re gearing up for a new campaign and need a bit of guidance, click the link in our bio to snag a session with us!