For its first-ever Cause Roundtable, PRWeek assembled a group of agency, corporate, nonprofit, and media professionals to discuss the state of cause marketing and its future.
Mike Swenson, president, Barkley PR
Carol Cone, chairman and founder, Cone
Eva Blum, SVP and director of community affairs, PNC Bank
Stacie Bright, senior communications marketing manager, Unilever
Greg Zimprich, director of brand PR, General Mills
Kathy Rogers, VP, cause initiatives and integrated marketing, American Heart Association
Doug Staples, SVP, strategic marketing and communications, March of Dimes
Jennifer Maher, VP, marketing and corporate alliances, Make-A-Wish Foundation
Stuart Elliott, advertising columnist, The New York Times
Wendy Naugle, deputy health editor, Glamour
Erica Iacono (PRWeek): Where we are in the life cycle of cause marketing? What makes a good cause marketing program these days?
Stacie Bright (Unilever): If we could also cover what we believe is the definition of cause marketing. I think that, over the years it's taken a real shift. I was wondering, particularly from the agencies, how are you defining cause marketing for your clients?
Iacono (PRWeek): I think that's a good question. How are we defining cause marketing?
Mike Swenson (Barkley PR): The way we've always defined it is we talk about there being three levels:
There are cause events where you get involved and that can be more local or one time, a single event. That's very important because companies can do that and still be involved in a broader program.
Cause marketing is where the corporation and the nonprofit work together for something that becomes the marketing effort of the company.
And those evolve hopefully into what's become known as cause branding work — [something] the corporation really believes it in. There are people involved, all of the partners are involved and it becomes part of the brand. It becomes who they are and it defines them.
That's the simple approach that we look at. The key is longevity. Are you committed? On the cause event side, you can do that every year, but that's a one-time event. What kind of commitment do you have in doing something to give back. So longevity is one of the keys when moving along the continuum from event-driven philanthropy to cause branding.
Kathy Rogers (American Heart Association): From a nonprofit perspective, I think it's very similar, looking at three different levels. I think the language is different; in the marketplace, cause marketing is just seen as a product promotion versus how you just explained it, which I think is helpful. The way nonprofits look at it now is more integrating into the entire marketing platform, not just the one-time promotion.
Bright (Unilever): I agree; that's where we come from. I also think social responsibility falls under cause marketing today. I think the two cross over quite often.
A lot of it is longevity, the authenticity, and the relevance that you can bring to whatever the audience is to get them excited, dedicated and make a stand for something that is larger than the scope of the work by itself.
Carol Cone (Cone): Since we've been doing this for 25 years and our research has been since 1993, we're seeing the spectrum that Mike talked about, but now we're also seeing something where consumers are saying that they want to see an alignment, moving towards the [corporate reputation] side. How does it align with the business? It could be one objective, it could be multiple objectives. What we called in ‘99 cause branding, we're now calling it socially aligned business initiatives.
You can see Microsoft partnering with the community colleges because there are 450,000-plus open positions for engineers and technology workers. And it's in Microsoft's interest to make a larger pool of employees, not just for Microsoft, but for others. That's just one example of a socially aligned business initiative.
The programs today need to be more sophisticated, authentic, [and] sustainable. We're seeing five- to 10-year commitments now, $50 million cash, products and services, $100 million commitment. It brings the company's values to life, it shows their humanity. And it becomes a deep part of the brand as well.
Bright (Unilever): I think authenticity and getting to the heart of a brand [are key]. Those are the programs that make the most sense because they have a license to talk about [the issue] and they have a trust already built into their consumer because they're still doing something they stand for.
I don't know that I fully agree with the dollar amounts. There are lots of programs that don't have a dollar figure but still show responsibility. We've got programs about social innovation that are about re-packaging the way we market our products or the supply chain.
For instance, in one community where hand washing is a life line of the people, they couldn't afford larger packages of soap. So we restructured how we sell those products so that it would better serve the community. It's about being socially responsible and cause-related to help better humanity.
Stuart Elliott (The New York Times): On the other side of that dollar question: I was surprised the other day, there were ads in the Sunday coupon inserts where it said, “10 cents of the sale of potato salad or whatever will be donated.” On the bottom was the caveat “Up to $250,000.” I was like “Are people still doing that?” The ad that they took out is several times the value of the donation. That's why some companies have to agree to donate $50 million because you have the cheapskates on the other side of the spectrum that are generating the skepticism consumers have about this.
Rogers (AHA): When you're the nonprofit, you're entertaining the discussions with all those companies. It's hard to meet the needs of those companies.
When you talk about what's the future of where this is going, it's still a new area for many companies. The companies sitting at this table are obviously sophisticated in their approach and there are a lot of companies that are sophisticated. We get a lot of companies that haven't even put their toe in the water. There's a level of growth and sophistication. Like Carol was saying, does it become a part of who you are? And I don't think that all companies are there yet.
I think it's a growth opportunity for more and more people. But it has to be authentic. We get companies that want this high integration, but they're not there yet on a culture level.
Eva Blum (PNC Bank): When we decided to focus our philanthropy— we're in our third year— we announced it as a 10-year, $100 million program. We wanted to send a signal to our community and our employees that we were in it for the long haul. We thought that it was important that it wouldn't be viewed as the flavor of the year.
Bright (Unilever): I think that there will always be the need for caps. I think that's a reality of programs. But when you put a stake in the ground, where it's multiple programs or where you stand for the long-term, that's where the difference in that credibility comes from. If the brand or company is doing a lot of different programs versus doing [something] as just an in and out marketing technique, I think that's where the credibility comes from.
Elliott (NYT): But the perception is that they sprain their arm patting themselves on the back. There is the perception where they go in and do something for a month and then they disappear. This seems to be the only thing that they're doing.
Wendy Naugle (Glamour): I think it has to be core to the brand. You have to relate to the consumer in an emotional way and in a way that's a touchstone. What makes programs so effective is when it makes sense and it adds to that authenticity. [It's] what I call, the “of course moment.”
We have a program at Glamour called “Reel Moments.” Right now, we're at the peak of celebrity culture and we know from ongoing work with celebrities that only 7% of the directors in Hollywood are female. Females are always clamoring for good stories. We tapped into our readership [through] an essay contest … and the winning [ones] were made into scripts, which were directed by some A-list people in Hollywood, like Jennifer Aniston. They've been debuting at film festivals across the country.
Glamour is the Coca-Cola brand of empowering women. So of course we would be the right brand to step forward with this program. You can see that in a lot of the best cause marketing programs. Those companies have taken the time to look at their own brand— who they are, what kind of heart they have— and then that authenticity is there even if there's a limited budget.
Bright (Unilever): Dove for 50 years has always been about real women so at its core— this is what the brand is about. [Dove's “Campaign for Real Beauty”] was based on three pillars: Listening to women, which is why we did all these global studies; then engaging in a dialogue to widen that narrow stereotypical beauty; then what's most important, Dove set up the Self-Esteem Fund, which is 100% funded by Dove, providing workshops and programming around the world. At its very core it remains true to the message about real women and building their self-esteem.
We hear from consumers all the time about the support. But we've also heard from the media saying, “I'm going to buy Dove and you should support Dove.” Everyone who works on that campaign becomes incredibly loyal and excited. That's where you have a really rich program.
Blum (PNC Bank): Sometimes that “of course” moment is tougher. When we were looking for the right place, as a bank, we wanted to focus the power of our company in one area. We asked our employees, “If we did something like this, where would you want us to be?” They said unequivocally, “children and education.”
And it was not obvious from the beginning, even to our community, why a bank would put this time and money into promoting universal high-quality preschool education. So we had to work hard to integrate the issue both within our community and within our own employee population to understand that the future of our community and our workforce starts at birth organization. We've always said “A strong bank can't exist in a weak community.”
In integrating the programming throughout all of our businesses and making our volunteer piece so important —we currently have 5,000 employees now actively volunteering in Head Start programs and other programs for children—our employees and community started to understand why. It was the right cause, but we had to do some work to make everyone understand that.
Naugle (Glamour): I think you did what a lot of companies have to do first and foremost and that's to educate the consumer why this was important to your bank. We're past this age of just consumerism for a cause. We're moving toward activism, which you do with your employees and the communities around you.
Iacono (PRWeek): How important is employee engagement to cause marketing efforts?
Rogers (AHA): It's almost the number one thing that we're being asked when companies come to the table—“How are we going to first focus on our employees?”
[In] our relationship with Macy's and [the] Go Red for Women program, their “Aha!” moment came because 80% of their workforce is women. How can they not take the most heightened issue and drive that across their employee base?
It's good because it goes to the core of their brand. The employees have to be as passionate about that issue as the brand because the employees are the brand. That's a huge trend that we see in a lot of the discussions that we have, which is a unique change for us. As a nonprofit, how are [we] going to include that in [our] approach back to them, to include their employees?
Jennifer Maher (Make-A-Wish Foundation): Employee engagement is on the rise. It's the epitome of people starting to realize that these companies have to walk the walk. It's not just about the promotions and the retail campaign, but standing, believing, and giving back. And it's always going to be hard because there are some buzz words and while we can try to define the buzz words, I think the majority have no idea how to define it, or they're just confused, or they have a definition stuck in their heads from the 1980s.
Another challenge [is that] there are few [people] sitting around the senior leadership table saying, “Let's make a commitment; we have to make a commitment.” Instead, you have a group of individuals at the company but they have to sell it; they don't have the ability to make a decision to commit to making a strategic communications alliance.
We talk about five star alliances at Make-A-Wish. So forget about fundraising. We want promotions, communications, leveraging networks, leverage your employee base… [a]ll the way down to in-house printing, shared research and focus groups, all the different hallways that could be part of this partnership. When you're talking to people, they're saying, “That's great, but I don't control HR or communications vehicles, so I can try to introduce you, but good luck.”
Bright (Unilever): I work for a very large company and we have so many programs that we support like so many large companies do. We [have] supported the National Parks Association for years, [and] for our sales meeting, instead of going on a golf trip, we donate our time and rebuild communities and parks. It's something our company does all around the US and, even on the smallest level, our employees can give back. It's a great way for everyone in our organization to understand the activities that our company does and to give back in whatever way they can. And everyone that goes to them says this is how they want to continue to do our sales meetings.
Cone (Cone): We've created a new title CIO, Chief Integration Officer. We have one here, it's Eva. If you get a call from someone in the middle of the organization, they [may] have the passion to make it happen, but they may not have the political will and gravitas to really embed it. The CIO is absolutely critical. It's someone who's moving in and out of the C-suite—they've been there for a long time and they're senior.
Blum (PNC Bank): I don't think a program like we have happens unless the CEO is really behind it. He called a small group of us together about 4 1/2 years ago and said [that] we give so much in our community, but in each geographical market, what's needed is a little different. When you try to evaluate what impact our dollars have, it's very difficult to do.
We suddenly started to think how exciting it would be to put the power of our company behind one cause, that we could really make a difference as a company. And we didn't want it to be a traditional corporate philanthropy where write a check, take a picture, and say, “See you in a year and you can tell me how you did.”
Our CEO asked if I would lead it; I started 30 years ago as an employment lawyer and I have always supported our community activities from the legal side. It was important to have someone in a senior capacity who could get to the CEO at any time. I needed to handpick a team; we didn't create a bureaucracy around it and didn't want to. We have a huge program with two full-time people. It was really important to pick people in the business and each area of the company that would get excited about this and put a lot of extra time into it. We've changed our HR policy so we now grant 40 hours of paid time off a year to volunteer to this program. We wanted to be on the cutting edge.
Bright (Unilever): I think the CEO passes it but ideas can start anywhere in the company. We had a brilliant woman who helped champion self-esteem and the “Campaign for Real Beauty” and helped us bring it to our leadership board in a really creative and unique way to get their attention. You can make your executive recognize the importance of a cause.
I wouldn't want the take away for anyone that's engaging in this conversation to be that everyone can't make a difference. Of course you do need the executive board to sign the check to keep the program going, but self-esteem was not even on anyone's radar. When it first came up, people questioned whether it was an issue. It's what you said about bringing issues to the forefront and it's also about getting people rallying behind it, and that can come from anyone.
Iacono (PRWeek): What issues are resonating with consumers?
Greg Zimprich (General Mills): I think a lot of what people have already been talking about: the authenticity piece, it's got to be core to the brand. And I think more and more, listening to this discussion, it's really about the depth of the commitment, activation, and alignment with that brand.
We're in a unique situation because we have General Mills corporate that does a lot of great things through our foundation and we're a collection of brands and each one of those brands has a chance to do something great for a cause. But it has to be a good fit. Whether it's breast cancer for Yoplait or children's literacy for Cheerios, it has to be core. If consumers don't see that connection and that depth, they're going to question it or not support it.
Iacono (PRWeek): What are the reasons that companies are getting involved with causes? And how do you communicate the reasons effectively to consumers?
Cone (Cone): I heard an interesting statistic: by 2008 there will be 1 billion camera phones worldwide. One in six people will have the opportunity to be a photojournalist.
Anything that a company does is instantly on the Web. If you don't have the authenticity and reputation and trust — and you should start with employees — you'll have a breakdown of human capital which will become bigger and bigger in terms of all the relationships that an employee has.
Companies need to have that critical authenticity to conduct business, whether it's in the local communities or in third world countries. There it becomes a license to operate issue, where the government needs to welcome you in if you want to conduct business there.
Maher (Make-A-Wish): What I'm watching a lot is the rise of here and now, [consumers] want the here and now results. Suddenly they're in this space being able to share information and content and verify authenticity, but also you have to look at certain causes where they want to see the results now.
Rogers (AHA): It's interesting listening to that employees and consumer discussion and separating the two because you really can't separate them. The employees are the consumers. As more and more employees are seeing what they're companies are doing, they're expecting it from the companies that they're buying from, too.
Maher (Make-A-Wish): And if you're just logo slapping they'll see that.
Rogers (AHA): Even when you hear the story today, it's hard for companies to better communicate. You hear one offs. Consumers want immediate impact. What's the health impact, in our case, for example? We're held accountable for that just as much as the company is. There are so many companies doing so many things, but sometimes it's hard to see that 360 degree perspective.
Maher (Make-A-Wish): Sometimes you'll get calls and they're not giving that 360 degree perspective. They're only using one channel [rather than] using their resources to tell their own story.
Swenson (Barkley): People are advertising their cause, so it's getting a lot of attention. I think one of the biggest benefits for cause marketing was when Ad Age dissed (Product) Red. It got everybody talking, whether you liked it or didn't like it.
Companies for a long time were afraid to tell people they were doing good. They thought they were going to be criticized. When you have great products, you go out and talk about them. When you make great hires, you go out and talk about them. Why shouldn't you talk [in an] authentic meaningful way that [you're] doing good?
Cone (Cone): There needs to be a lag time in terms of the communications. We call it “earning accolades.” You need to have some impact in the cause and then you tell people.
Doug Staples (March of Dimes): We're making this sound like it's very logical and sophisticated. To me, it's a lot about emotion and brands wanting to put something emotional on the table as something they can differentiate with, not just benefits or features. I wonder if that isn't about the rise of women as consumers. Would cause marketing work if it was all men in society today?
Maher (Make-A-Wish): I think cause marketing is really an extension of passion marketing. So perhaps it would work even [with] men.
Cone (Cone): Consumers just call it goodness. And we believe that good is the new black. Like black, it's in your wardrobe and it's never going to go out of style.
Bright (Unilever): We hear from women all the time [about] how [they] can get involved. If there's no other theme here, I think we're saying authenticity is it. When you start with something that's big enough, you can have that 360 effect. It's not just slapping something on a one-time program because it's something you stand for and it fundamentally aligns with wherever you're going with your program or company.
And that passion— passion is what motivates people. I'm overwhelmed at the amount of phone calls that we get with people asking how they can get involved. I don't think you have to make a difference before you ask people to join the cause. They have to know that there's a program and a plan. If we wait until we make the difference, we're not going to be motivating people to bring their passion into what creates change. [People] want to be change agents. They want to be a part of the process. Anyone who partners with them and makes them feel like they're a part of that mission and that company, that's where their heart and soul is going to be aligned.
Iacono (PRWeek): What's the best way to get consumers involved? Billion dollar companies have the resources, but what about smaller companies?
Staples (March of Dimes): I think consumers are a bit more shallow. Giving them simple ways to get involved is what they really want. “Click here and pass along this message…” I don't think they crave deep involvement.
Cone (Cone): We talk about a spectrum of engagement. It's like a bell curve. In the middle, most of them just want to hear about it, maybe they want buy the product, maybe they'll pass it along, which is why the Web is so important. Then you've got that 5% to 10% that's active and they really want something on an ongoing basis.
Swenson (Barkley): We saw that with Lee Jeans National Denim Day (October 5). This is the 12th year. The first year, we made it easy. All you have to do is wear your jeans. Every year, you can do that very easily. We saw that companies would get more involved, so that would turn into a week and people would do things inside their own companies and make more out of it. But the easy way is always there. When you create a simple act for everybody to do, you can always grow that.
Maher (Make-A-Wish): Having that simple act means reaching more people. You can reach a broader base to grow from and have a lot of little ambassadors.
Rogers (AHA): We saw that with “Go Red for Women” and women and heart disease. We started off asking women just to wear red or the red dress as a symbol. We just did a survey of our database alone, about 600,000 women, 93% are engaging in something related to heart disease, whether they've started exercising more or have gone to the doctor and gotten their screenings done. They want to be engaged more and continue to ask us [not only about] the easy things, but then what are the big things that they can do.
The trend is there that you have to make it easy and make it relevant to what they're asking. Listen to what they're asking too. What are ways that they want to be engaged, and make sure that you have the ability to offer those levels of engagement.
Maher (Make-A-Wish): And that's the challenge for nonprofits. How do you take your cause and make it bite sized? Instead of having the whole brand, Make-A-Wish, [we] have categories for wishes. If you're a photographer, you see one category for those wishes. All of a sudden, people start to feel empowered. It goes back to the here and now and seeing results.
Zimprich (General Mills): If you look at one of our programs— “Box Tops for Education”— that's why I think that's so perfect. The brands have something like 98% penetration and all you have to do is cut the little thing out and bring it to school, 10 cents goes to your school. We have 62,000 schools participate, $200 million since 1996. Their core promise is “easy every day ways to earn cash for your schools.” That's as simple as you can get.
Bright (Unilever): What's also great about that program is its consistency. It's simple and it's consistent and you've been true to that program. People know about it because [you] haven't wavered from your message.
Zimprich (General Mills): The other piece of that is each one of those schools has a coordinator and you don't want to cross those people. We have 62,000 ambassadors out there pushing it for their schools. That gives us the opportunity to take it to the next step.
I used to work a lot more closely on that program when it was first starting out and it's amazing how people take that and localize it for their own schools. Some of the stories about where those dollars go… In Iowa, they used the money to fix the boiler so the kids don't have to wear mittens in class. You take those kinds of stories and that's what activates those 62,000 people.
Cone(Cone): I believe that people stories are the new advertising content. Everyone [is] looking for that story that is so compelling you can't make it up. That's the emotion that we're talking about that creates brand evangelists with the employees [and] the glue with consumers and your communities, even your investors.
Swenson (Barkley): People, and especially Gen Ys, are starting to make their stock decisions using that as one more criteria. The key for a smaller company is [allowing] employees access to give back. They may do something different every month, but it comes back to starting inside. Maybe you will land on a single cause that you can find a way in your local market to get involved or get engaged.
Staples (March of Dimes): I think it's a great opportunity for mid-sized companies because there are these companies that can't afford a national television buy, but if they can do something small supported by magazine advertising, or community activity that's really impactful, then it allows them to compete with the bigger [companies].
Maher (Make-A-Wish): I don't think that the message is to say that it's hard for them to do it. We're launching a small business advocate [program for] all those small businesses to say if you can walk the walk and be authentic, you won't be all over the television but [it doesn't matter].
Bright (Unilever): Many people at this table have used the word “ambassador.” How you disseminate your message and the people that you use to help champion that message, whether it's the consumer or end users or influencer [has changed]. Things are spreading more rapidly through grassroots initiatives today than ever before.
Elliott (NYT): It's a world where a guy sitting in his basement shoots a video and it goes on YouTube and more people see that than a middling cable television program. That power is so decentralized and so bottom up instead of top down. When people pitch these stories, they say “We want you to do an exclusive on a $250 million advertising campaign.” I ask what it's composed of and they say television and print. I say, “And…” They say “Television and print.” And I say, “Goodbye.”
Somebody else will come and say they're doing a $43 campaign with YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook, and viral and if it's a giant marketer that hasn't done it before or speaks to some new ways to reach consumers or reflect how consumers want to be talked to now, that's newsworthy.
Maher (Make-A-Wish): Quite frankly, everyone's beating down your door. Five years ago, you were frustrated because you didn't have professional photography or videography. Now [we can] take out [a] video camera and put it on YouTube and we're doing better.
Iacono (PRWeek): For nonprofits, what are some of the considerations for linking with corporate partner?
Rogers (AHA): I always say that it takes a village as a nonprofit. It takes everyone —the companies, the strategic alliances —to get your cause out there. There are definitely pros to that. We have to be weaved into the fabric of the consumer's life. That's where the company helps us to do that.
From a nonprofit perspective, we have to be just as careful as the company does about aligning with the right partners and being authentic with those partners. What are the criteria for partnerships? What are our values? Who do we want to partner with to make sure those goals are aligned? You want to make sure it's making sense from a nonprofit perspective. Our credibility is at risk just as much as any company is so you have to be smart and sophisticated.
Having policies upfront before going into the marketplace is so important. We have a task force that has to approve everything we do before we move forward with it. How we take advantage of all of our assets and bring that to a table for a company is important.
We've developed and become sophisticated in our corporate partnership models. We've taken many for-profit models to manage our relationships with companies. We have teams that work on those companies similar to account teams in companies. It's become sophisticated because we have to protect ourselves as nonprofits to make sure we're looking at it from all the right angles.
Blum (PNC Bank): From the corporate point of view, partnerships are incredibly important. When we started thinking about why a bank was going into early childhood education and how anyone would believe that we understood it, we had to form partnerships with organizations that would give us credibility. Our partners are Sesame Workshop, Family Communications, which is the parent company of “Mr. Roger's Neighborhood,” and Head Start.
Maher (Make-A-Wish): One of the biggest challenges, not so much with the blue chip causes that are at this table because we have been able to build the policies, but [with others] we're challenged with [having] the infrastructure to deliver what the companies are looking for. So to your cause readers, get your house in order. A lot of that infrastructure isn't built within a lot of the charities and it becomes a struggle in your partnerships.
Blum (PNC Bank): One of the things that experts in early childhood education were telling us was the importance of the first five years. The research was done, they said they knew how to solve it, but they couldn't get anyone to listen. [They'd] been waiting for a corporation to come into this space to open doors. We told them that we have the buying power and we'll buy time but we want you to produce PSAs and if you have local magazine stories we want the issue to be featured. We created about 1 billion impressions within first two years of the program, which raised the debate about the issue in our communities.
Iacono (PRWeek): For marketing, advertising, and PR, measurement and ROI is a huge concern. How are you measuring the success of the program? Is it because it's impacting reputation, impacting purchasing decisions? What kind of research are you doing?
Zimprich (General Mills): It's all of those things but it also has to build brand equity and brand loyalty. If we're just going to talk about the business impact, we're in it for the wrong reason and you shouldn't be doing it.
Cone (Cone): I think it goes back to the question of where it is coming from in the organization. We have seen more programs die when they come from the middle of the organization because you don't have the institutional will. It has to come from the CEO who says, “We have to be a good corporate citizen.” There are two things you research – the social impact and the business impact.
Blum (PNC Bank): Measurement has been the most difficult part. We ask each of the grantees to have a measurement component in their program. We fund demonstration projects, attempts to put through innovative curriculum, and we ask them to measure the impact on the children. We watch the effect of the dollars.
We also look at the impact on employees [through] a survey we do every year. And we collect anecdotal evidence. It's the intangible things as we move into these new communities to be able to relate to communities because we can talk about what we stand for, which is not as easy to do when you're doing lots of little things philanthropically.
Bright (Unilever): It's always difficult to measure, but there have to be new benchmarks. Some may be anecdotal. There are a lot of different ways to look at it, but it's for companies or nonprofits to look at it and say, “What are the new parameters to measure?”
Rogers (AHA): The reality is sometimes you go into these partnerships and they don't know what their goals and objectives. It's so important, that first conversation, sometimes that second and third conversation, trying to nail down what they're looking for. We have to train our staff to go in and say, “What are your goals and objectives?” And be honest with the nonprofit. We want to know what you're measuring against because it's going to have an impact on how we work with you. That's a difficult conversation sometimes. If they're still doing product promotion and trying to drive sales, just tell us that and it will determine how we're going to partner with you.
Maher (Make-A-Wish): You're talking about peeling back the onion; tell us so we can be a good partner. I almost wonder if it's not a fear that it's supposed to be all about philanthropy. That's a misunderstanding.
Rogers (AHA): What we do is every partner develops a shared agenda. Sometimes they don't match up. I don't know that anyone's been turned away, but I think it's a conversation about does this meet our objectives as a nonprofit and your company's agenda and how to meet that shared agenda. There are times when it doesn't work out because it's not a good fit.
Cone (Cone): We have two different lists [showing which causes are pertinent today], one for adults that we did in May, which hasn't changed that much over the years, health education, environment, and the new one, economic development.
For millennials, it's a little different. The number one issue is education by a long shot. No matter what socioeconomic background, [they] recognize that the way to uplift your life is through education. Then you have poverty, the environment, and health and disease.
With multinational companies, they're looking at the UN millennium goals and aligning themselves with those in terms of their global programs. So there are different issues in terms of whether you're a US or global company.
We have a lot of situations where we're working with a company and we ask who they're trying to reach and they say, “Everyone.”
It takes a lot of effort by both sides of the equation to say this should be approached strategically, and that's the core message of this roundtable. This is about corporate strategy, brand strategy. Otherwise what you put in, you get out. It becomes a goulash. But it's an arduous exercise, to prioritize who you want to reach with communications and who's the recipients of the cause, which can be very different.
Swenson (Barkley): That's the biggest breakthrough, that it's now being treated as strategic. There are still companies that don't understand it and still believe it's philanthropy and write a check. And that's important, but now it's the next step. As the senior leadership of the company starts to understanding the value of it, it becomes like every other strategic plan.
Zimprich (General Mills): General Mills is going to be about nourishing lives, everything we do from product development to cause. So the corporation is committed to that and the individual brands get on board with that same view. So they're not exclusive— they play well together— but that gives the individual brands space to find something that fits with their brand equity.
Swenson (Barkley): The strategic approach allows you to look at a big cause, like breast cancer, that has a lot of people involved and still say, “How do we fit?” There are a lot of people who still want to be involved with the big causes because it fits the brand.
Naugle (Glamour): Small brands and small companies shouldn't be afraid of other causes. There are so many big ones and there are some causes that are forgotten that might be a fit for a smaller brand. There's nothing wrong with looking on a very small level.
Glamour has its “Women of the Year” awards that we've been doing for years. We honored a woman last year who was a sex slave in Cambodia when she was a child and has gone on to save 2,000 girls. At our event she mentioned that she saved those girls on just $150,000. Queen Latifah, who was also nominated, gets up and says she'll give another $150,000 to save 2,000 more girls. Granted, you're not always talking to a Queen Latifah, but there are ways that you can take a very powerful story and make a huge impact that's very measurable in a small way.
Maher (Make-A-Wish): It's about mission marketing: find a nonprofit that aligns with your mission [and] has similar parallel strategies. They can be small, you can be small, and you can have an impact.
Zimprich (General Mills): Hamburger Helper, going back to its core, has the Helping Hand Award, where they give local causes grants from $500 to $15,000. They started it last year, kicked it off about a month ago; they've already had 3,500 requests. These are small, one-off requests – We need to clean up the river, equipment for ambulance, we need a new fire truck - but that's true to the essence of their brand which is very grassroots and local. For those people, it can make a bigger difference doing it one at a time.
Iacono (PRWeek): Where do we see cause 10 years from now? What do we hope for the future?
Cone (Cone): Every company will have some program that helps define what they stand for.
Swenson (Barkley): It's becoming the norm. Ten years from now, easily, that could be the case. And for those companies who have already been involved for 25 years, they may be on to something we can't predict here. What's the Facebook of cause?
Cone (Cone): Socially aligned business initiatives. You'll see a lot more CR operational issues that cross over into cause issues. To make these programs sustainable, they have to impact the business some way.
Bright (Unilever): We‘ll continue to become more sophisticated because the people around us are becoming more sophisticated. We'll be more dedicated, becoming single-minded and you'll know what people stand for.
It'll be our responsibility to create products, programs, missions, that are around social responsibility, cause-related initiatives, and sustainability. All of these things are becoming more important to our world and for our very survival we'll have to collectively become more dedicated to these projects.
Staples (March of Dimes): I think causes [that] are built on powerful emotional insights with women will be successful. It's tapping into something emotionally powerful with women.
Naugle (Glamour): It goes back to [the point that now] women have so much buying power and women buy on emotion. It may not be because the product has a pink ribbon on it, but because they know what a company stands for.
Cone (Cone): Business schools now have curriculum for corporate responsibility. “Go Red” is [a case study] at Harvard Business School. We asked the question of the group [and] 98% of the group said they want to work for a company that's going to provide purposeful work. They're so smart that they're going to impact their organizations and push upwards to the C-suite.
Swenson (Barkley): There was a time when, to get involved in good work, you had to work for a nonprofit. Now people are coming to Barkley because one of the things we do is cause. Unfortunately, now we're competing with [nonprofits].
Blum (PNC Bank): Once you do one of these [cause programs] and it's successful and it permeates the companies and the communities, there's no going back. I cannot imagine [a day when] our philanthropy will be done the way we used to do it.