Ask the PRincipal: How to Employ Socially Responsible PR When You’re Not a Non-Profit

Philanthropy: Not just for Mother Theresa

Photo via  Unsplash

Photo via Unsplash

Dear PRincipal,

I’ve been advised that my brand should take on a social cause, but I’m afraid of isolating and irritating people who don’t believe in it. How do I get around this?

Yours Truly,

People-Pleasing Project Manager

Ask the PRincipal.jpg

Dearest Manager,

It comes at no surprise that at Press Pillay, we are firm believers in the idea that philanthropy can boost your competitive advantage - but there’s a method to the madness. 

This thinking train isn’t about the brands themselves as it’s about representing audiences and their values. 

It’s no secret that a lot of big brands and little brands alike are taking on social causes of their very own. If you’re a Canadian, there’s no way you’ve missed the Bell Let’s Talk campaign - one of the most effective, yet polarizing campaigns this side of the border. 

And of course if you’re a human living on this planet, there’s no way you haven’t heard of the  controversy over Nike’s partnership with Colin Kapernick, or one of my personal favourites - their ‘Dream Crazier’ campaign. 

The millennial generation has grown up a little bit, and we’re now spending our own money (thanks mom and dad, I got this). This generation has encountered their fair share of hardships through economic recessions, global terrorism, and an uncertain political climates. As a result, millennials care about more than just money - they are enthusiastically willing to place their dollars on brands whose ethics and values mirror their own. By treating their bodies, their peers and their earth better than previous generations, millennials are fueling the current global shopping trends. 

How do I know? Well, I’m a millennial, silly.

This is why it’s so important for your brand to take a firm stance on social issues. The beauty part? It’s TOTALLY okay if not everyone is happy with what you’re saying - it’s better to have a negative reputation with a few customers (whose blood money you probably wouldn’t want ANYWAY) than no reputation with anyone at all. This is especially important because those who do agree with you are more likely to be loyal to your brand than a blasé customer would be otherwise. 

There are two kinds of socially-conscious brands: those that have incorporated social values after the creation of their company (Think Bell Let’s Talk or Nike), and those whose company was created based on a specific set of social values (Think Craig Kielberger’s ‘WE’ or of course, Press Pillay). It’s true: the former runs a much higher risk of having its authenticity called into question, especially if it’s a large, established corporation. However, both business models communicate that a brand is making a concrete effort to align itself with its audience’s values. 

Ask yourself - “Do I want a customer who is anti-education or anti-equality?” These opinions aren’t especially charming, so I would hope not. If I haven’t convinced you already, just look at the statistics. According to a 2017 study, 78% of consumers want companies to address social justice issues and 87% will purchase a product based on a company’s advocacy efforts. 

So to answer your question simply, there is no way to satisfy every single one of your audience members. However, by focusing on quality rather than quantity of audience members who resonate with your brand’s values, you’ll build a following of passionate, loyal individuals - while making the world a better place!

Got a PR question for our PRincipal (and fearless founder) Nesh Pillay? Tweet us @PressPillay!

Read more: How Do I Handle a PR Disaster?