Communicating on Purpose
I am often asked by clients if it is inappropriate to communicate about philanthropic activities or if it is seen as opportunistic. The answer, for the most part, is no…it is not inappropriate as long as you are telling the full story of who is benefitting from the donation and WHY your company is aligned with the cause.
Some other guidelines to consider when choosing a cause to support:
One that is related to the history of your company or its founders
One that supports the category in which you do business
One that supports your consumers, business partners or other stakeholder priorities
Though it's reactive, an important part of restitution is to show meaningful support and action of a related cause
Communicate Early and Often
Whether you are communicating about your purpose initiatives or responding to an issue, communicate early, and often. In each communication, share details as best as possible, talk about what has been done, the results and what is coming next. Give your audience an opportunity to ask questions and share ideas and concerns, listen carefully, and be responsive to them. Be mindful of the general mood…and don’t be tone deaf. To take a page from the crisis communication playbook, enlist a team of people at different levels, across different departments inside and outside the company to get a good sense of sentiment outside the leadership bubble.
Personalized messaging that conveys understanding of what is important to your audience is far more powerful than dry, corporate narrative repeated over and over. You may have a pool of go-to messaging or talking points but be sure to adapt them as needed and address each of your stakeholder groups.
Employees want to know where companies and their leaders stand and expect purpose and values to reflect their own. They want to feel that they have a safe environment to voice concerns, to ask questions and that their opinions and values will be respected. They want to feel proud of being associated with the company and part of its efforts…and can be the company’s greatest brand ambassadors.
Consumers and media also want to know a company’s position on an issue, its plan, results and commitment to the issue in the future.
Customers expect a company’s purpose and values to reflect their own, and they reward that with brand loyalty and their business. We’ve all heard of #cancelculture and #bandwagon activism … both can happen when expectations are not met.
Investors / Board Members will need to understand the risk and reward of action and inaction and how the businesses can be impacted for the long and short term.