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Gathering for Good in the Windy City

Am here in Chicago for the annual Cause Marketing Forum Conference.   Theme this year: “New Approaches for New Times.” Sat through a terrific working session today led by Jason Saul of Mission Measurement, LLC on — you guessed it — mission measurement   Jason, who has an endless font of knowledge from all the work he’s done helping organizations measure the social impact of their programs, was able to make the session relevant to the diverse lot of us: directors of non-profits, corporate types and — like me–agency players straddling both worlds as matchmakers between worthy causes and marketers yearning to do good (or fix a business problem…or both…)

I blew through an entire Westin notepad in my effort to capture all the flashes of insight stimulated by the discussion:  here are some of my many a-ha moments:

1.  Good marketers think in terms of strategy of course but the ones I work with, even those committed to doing good, have not yet defined their social strategy. There’s a useful conversation to initiate with a client.

2.  You must create a common language of impact and desired outcomes when engaging in cause.  This avoids reinventing the wheel of what success looks like with every change in brand management.  And avoids conflict with your nonprofit partner, who may be a development person fluent only in the language of fundraising — not of marketing.  

3.  A valuable role for us as PR people is to help introduce our clients to this common language and broker an equation for success that all can align on.

4.  Jason discussed flipping the planning process on its head: don’t start with tactics (“Let’s have a walkathon!  Let’s sell a pink/red/yellow doo-dad!”), start with the big picture impact you want to make (eradicate a disease, create a healthier society, feed hungry families).  Then retro-engineer your campaign by identifying the theory of change required to accomplish that goal.  This gets you to the priority objectives of the campaign. 

5.  Leverage the business!  We talk about causes that are “organic” to our clients’s brands (e.g., a Pantene cause campaign that focuses on donating healthy, beautiful hair to create wigs for cancer patients). But is there another way to think about organic? A more helpful way to frame that question (at least for me) is, how do we put the brand’s stock-in-trade at the heart of the campaign?  Great example: OfficeMax gives away free office supplies in an ongoing effort to eliminate teacher-funded classrooms (nod again to Jason, who presented the case study for this amazing program).   In what way can a marketer leverage its business assets to create an order of magnitude beyond what a mere financial donation could accomplish?  

More on this later.  Tomorrow our break-out sessions include a talk from Unilever’s Stacie Bright on the ubiquitous, love-it-or-hate-it Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.  I feel at this point I’ve heard, watched and read all I need to on this campaign in its various permutations — perhaps I’ll use that 45 minutes to sniff out a Starbucks on Dearborn Avenue — or perhaps I’ll stay and heckle Stacie about the retouching scandal.  Or would that be tacky?

Kidding.

Final note as I sign off for the night: am giddy with excitement, Netflix alert just popped up informing me that George Romero’s “Diary of the Dead”  is on its way — I’ve had that bad boy pre-ordered I swear for a year. (That’s right — I just segued from cause marketing to zombies.  Got a problem with that?)

 

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