Porter's MacAfee: It's expected that corporations participate in #GivingTuesday 2019

Porter Novelli CEO Brad MacAfee on how he is calling on PR pros to get involved with the movement.

NEW YORK: #GivingTuesday is no longer just a nice thing for companies to do.

Brands will be expected to participate in #GivingTuesday 2019, predicted Porter Novelli CEO Brad MacAfee. That’s why he teamed up with the campaign’s founder, Henry Timms, to call on PR pros to get involved.

MacAfee said Giving Tuesday participation by corporations has been "spotty" since the campaign was launched in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the U.N. Foundation. When brands do take part, he said, they do it as a "check-writing exercise" for a cause-related activity.

"We had a meeting with [Timms, who is also president and CEO of 92nd Street Y] and asked how we can promote this to corporations," he said. "They have massive consumer bases, reach, and scale."

With more brands taking on causes, and consumers' expectations that they should do so on the rise, it makes sense for marketers to get behind Giving Tuesday. WE Communications’ Brands in Motion 2018 study found that three-quarters of consumers (74%) around the globe expect brands to take a stand on important issues, up 4% from last year.

"As much time as a corporation is putting into Cyber Monday and Black Friday strategies, they will start putting more time into Giving Tuesday strategies," said MacAfee. "More consumers are expecting brands to be more engaged in causes."

The greater the social impact a brand is able to deliver, the larger the effect for the brand itself, helping it to be seen as "a good citizen, as part of the community, and as an organization that cares," MacAfee explained.

To get word out, Porter has partnered with Giving Tuesday’s leadership team to share "free consultancy" via two webinars to clients, corporations, and nonprofits so they can carry out their own PR work for Giving Tuesday initiatives.

The first webinar, "The Impact of New Power and How Your Organization Can Become Part of the Movement," aired on October 15, and was hosted by One Hundred, a purpose-driven practice within Omnicom's DAS division; MacAfee; and Timms.

The second webinar, titled, "#RealNews: Tell Your Story and Get Covered by Local Media on #GivingTuesday," aired on November 1. It included Susy Schultz, president of Public Narrative; Hailey Thompson, associate at One Hundred and a VP at Porter Novelli; and Jamie McDonald, a #GivingTuesday representative.

Asha Curran, chief innovation officer and director of the Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y, said that Giving Tuesday partnered with Porter to help communities tell their own stories.

"It’s about recognizing that not everyone has the budget for PR firms or PR people," said Curran. "Sometimes even questions like how to pitch ourselves to a morning show or how to write a press release are really relevant."

Porter is encouraging its own staff, alumni, and clients to participate in Giving Tuesday. The firm is supporting the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, CARE, the Anti-Defamation League, and Action Against Hunger.

"Comms pros have a key role in helping corporations think about how they express what they as businesses care about and the impact they want to have and the social responsibilities they feel," said Curran. "People really care about that now. Corporations have to be innovative and creative about how they tell their stories."

The evolution of Giving Tuesday’s comms strategy
Giving Tuesday started as a "big experiment" in 2012. So did its comms strategy, said Curran.

Kathy Calvin, president and CEO of the U.N. Foundation, and Aaron Sherinian, then-chief communications and marketing officer for the foundation, led comms for Giving Tuesday in the early years and did "amazingly creative and innovative things," Curran said. For example, they created a "communications core," a.k.a. a collection of PR agencies working to publicize Giving Tuesday.

"Comms core is not in existence anymore, but it led to a lot of PR firms working on behalf of their clients to do great Giving Tuesday work," said Curran.

In 2013, Giving Tuesday also launched the Unselfie Movement, an ongoing campaign in which people take pictures of themselves and their favorite charitable causes.

"Comms in the beginning was about pushing out the voice of Giving Tuesday to the people and the organizations who are participating in it, not telling people what Giving Tuesday was, but letting them co-invent it with us," said Curran. "That really broke ground and ruffled feathers in terms of thinking about branding in different ways."

Giving Tuesday has become a global movement in part because the 92nd Street Y and the U.N. Foundation have not taken credit for it, Curran said.

"We wanted to co-own it with people who cared about it as much as we did, and that has allowed individuals, organizations, corporations, and entire countries and small towns to take it and make it their own," she said. "So it looks like a unified movement, but also looks very unique depending on the organization or the locality and that has a lot to do with how fast and widely it has spread."

The comms team has changed its focus to helping people understand that Giving Tuesday is not synonymous with Fundraising Tuesday.

"One of the benefits of Giving Tuesday is that it raises money for nonprofits," said Curran. "But it is much bigger than that; it is a global generosity movement that celebrates giving in all forms."

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