How to create successful CSR efforts

Cause marketing is a tool used to connect a corporation and nonprofit through a mutually beneficial partnership that exchanges goods, services, and/or donations. When used effectively, cause marketing can grow sales, brand awareness, and goodwill.

Cause marketing is a tool used to connect a corporation and nonprofit through a mutually beneficial partnership that exchanges goods, services, and/or donations. When used effectively, cause marketing can grow sales, brand awareness, and goodwill. But if used ineffectively, it can lead to industry criticism, acrimonious relationships, and consumer backlash.

In the current economic climate, cause marketing is a great tactic to grow your brand's goodwill, as well as the bottom line. These five simple steps will help you develop strategic partnerships and create winning campaigns for both organizations.

Create authentic partners. Your relationships must be transparent and authentic in consumers' minds and hearts. Create unions that are aligned to your organizational values and mission. Make sure there is a clear connection between the cause, the corporation, and the consumer, who is savvy and knows when a company is trying too hard. If you talk to moms, don't use Gen Y language or products, and vice versa.

Enlist and develop internal brand ambassadors. Employees, associates, and crew are your “un-official” official brand ambassadors. Do not underestimate or undervalue the “message multiplier factor” with these internal stakeholders. Like consumers, employees feel good about working for organizations that are creating positive change in their communities and the world, rather than those organizations that focus solely on making money.

Cause efforts must reach the bottom line, otherwise it is philanthropy. Do not be afraid to ask yourself, “Will this sell another?” The goal of cause marketing is to create a winning connection between organizations. Companies win by increasing market share and corporate goodwill. Nonprofits win by raising money and awareness for their cause.

n Monitor and evaluate your partnerships. Organizations change leadership, revise their mission statements, and create new partnerships every day. Solicit timely and consistent feedback from your consumers and partners. Do not compromise your brand for the sake of a partnership. If the organization has changed, or the partnership did not work as planned, then amicably dissolve the relationship. End the partnership with the same level of integrity, professionalism, and transparency that you started it with.

Tell your story. Utilize all your PR tools to “tell your story” and keep your brand close to consumers' hearts and minds. Announce the partnership and integrate the results into ongoing advertising, media events, board meetings, and employee newsletters. Encourage your partners to do the same.

You can do well by “doing good.” The key is staying focused and developing authentic campaigns that create value in the minds, hearts, and wallets of your customers.

Shannelle R. Armstrong is director of PR and cause marketing for Sears Holdings.

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