Big Idea: Andy Pray, Praytell Strategy

Andy Pray, founder of Praytell Strategy, advises companies to cut through the noise with CSR pitches.

Not so long ago, pitching a brand's cause-marketing story felt like a layup. Brand plus cause almost always equaled a quality placement. Today, pitching CSR angles is often more difficult than a traditional brand pitch.

CSR campaigns are trickier than ever thanks to an incredibly welcome trend: more brands are doing good things. It's a trend worth celebrating, but it brings competition to the table. Furthermore, internal stakeholders need proof that greater-good efforts are worth it, and a stack of media impressions never fails.

Strategic planning
Here are a number of strategies to consider: Evaluate before adding to the noise. Don't draft press releases for minor product upgrades as we know it isn't news. That same pragmatism is needed when deciding if a CSR event is worth a media campaign.

Devin Thorpe, social good contributor at Forbes.com, shared how he cuts through the clutter: "I look for two things when I pursue a CSR story: appropriate scale and commitment. Regarding scale, a Fortune 500 company will not get my attention with a $50,000 gift; a small business might. Then I look for some evidence that the CSR effort comes from the heart and that there is some genuine commitment to the cause."

It isn't enough to pitch a new grant or initiative. We have to think bigger. Add context to the greater issue surrounding your CSR program, be prescient about what it means down the road in five, 10, or 20 years, and go beyond the self-congratulatory rhetoric to show real involvement in the issue.

Elevating your story
Use strength in numbers. Adding context via other firms or similar causes can elevate your story and garner national interest. Don't be afraid to add others in your space to make a more compelling package.

Take a look inside. Don't discount the power of internal audiences. Connect with your communications and social teams and work together. Create content to distribute in your newsletter and blog, encourage employees to post, tweet, and pin. Employee pride can be key drivers in both retention and sustained brand commitment to a cause.

Also, plan for a company bear hug. Often, employees pour their hearts and souls into a cause program. Yet, after all the work is done, staffers may feel unrecognized.

Your PR plan should include a way to celebrate good work and illustrate the cause impact through video, photos, and press coverage and serve as a reminder of why the company invests in the program.

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