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Expert Panel, Forbes Agency Council.
Successful PR, media strategy, creative and advertising executives from Forbes Agency Council share trends and tips.
A study has shown that significantly more than half of consumers will patronize—or avoid—businesses that share their social and political viewpoints. In addition to wanting to attract “values-based” consumers, many business leaders want to join the conversations around causes they believe in.
However, without careful consideration or with a heavy-handed approach, businesses might alienate some of their regular or potential customers. Below, 11 members of Forbes Agency Council share their advice for companies considering highlighting their social and political values through their branding or marketing.
1. Keep It Simple
Keep it simple and don’t try and overpromote or overexplain. The most effective brands build authenticity and credibility with their audiences by saying what they mean and meaning what they say in the simplest ways. Make the good work part of your core DNA and the rest will fall into place. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not, and always rely on actions to tell the market what you are about. - Chris Cavanaugh, Freeman
2. Be Authentic And Embrace The Outcome
Be bold enough to be authentic—including publicly standing behind your core values. Never embrace or scorn a social issue to gain a market advantage. Do so to be authentic and transparent and to connect with customers in a deeper way. And the customers who do not share your views? Let them self-select out and embrace their exit as the costs of having a deeper relationship with those who remain. - Patricia Rioux, Team ODEA
3. Try To Stay Neutral
When it comes to promoting social or political views from a brand perspective, you are likely to offend someone no matter how carefully you craft your message. While you may want to take a political or social stance, if your products or mission don’t directly tie to one, it is probably best to err on the side of caution and keep your position neutral. - Scott Kellner, GPJ Experience Marketing
4. Let Your Employees Deliver the Message
If a company has a strong mission and values it should attract employees who share those beliefs. Let them speak. Let them share their thoughts about working for this value-rich company, how the company lives those values in its daily decisions, how the way it delivers its products/services reflects those values, and how employees are empowered to bring them to life in the community around them. - Jim Heininger, The Rebranding Experts
5. Utilize Influencers
At our agency, we’ve had tremendous success with a number of clients who have engaged influencers to promote their company social initiatives with little to no product mentions in the content. We’ve found these mission-based content messages to be an incredibly effective way to reach and engage a brand’s target audience, and the brand can focus on promoting product benefits. - Danielle Wiley, Sway Group
6. Make It A Part Of Your Mission Statement
Part of the best way that a company can show who they are is to share it with their mission statement. Companies should share these and get press around them. After that, it is a matter of sharing this information with the entire world by making contributions that back up their mission statements. People respect and buy from brands they admire, and that is based on commitment and belief. - Jon James, Ignited Results
7. Show What You Stand For
It’s not enough to take a stand. Today, you have to show your stand. Companies must demonstrate their alignment to a value—be it social, political or otherwise—by showing consumers their position aligns with their purpose. Take concrete and measurable steps in the service of the cause to prove the stand is genuine. Make long-term commitments—don’t give token “cause of the month” support. - Stephen Rosa, (add)ventures
8. Be Inclusive
Promote your company mission by expressing your values in an inclusive way. Support what you believe in without being negative toward the opposite point of view. You can stand behind your values without excluding other opinions that differ from your own. Leadership teams need to steward the company values, ensuring they consistently practice and reinforce them. - Katie Schibler Conn, KSA Marketing + Partnerships
9. Ignite Action
Harness the power of social media to ignite action. By partnering with real-life consumers and establishing a clear call to action, savvy brands are aligning their initiatives with a heightened level of authenticity and meaning. For example, outdoor gear retailer REI saw millions participate in its #optoutside campaign, which urged people to get outside and enjoy nature instead of shopping on Black Friday. - David Shadpour, Social Native
10. Keep It Separate
Having values can be a core of who you are as a brand, but that does not mean you need to shove it down every consumer’s throat. If you want people to know what you stand for, create a space on your webpage where consumers can investigate it. Do volunteer work within your community. But when it comes to your work, you don’t need to brag about your stances. Be confident it’ll come out on its own. - Zachary Binder, Bell + Ivy
11. Don’t Do It Just For The Story
“Authentic promotion” is notoriously tough because the act of promoting something can dilute its authenticity. To master it, the value has to be built into the company’s DNA (e.g., Patagonia)—including its hires, the culture it cultivates and the actions it takes in pursuit of that value. If it’s something your company preaches just to land a story or ad from it, you definitely shouldn’t do it. - Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications