The Illuminist Blog

Cause to Tell a Story

Posted by Jon Thompson on May 16, 2016

story.jpgCorporate Social Responsibility has been found time and again to be the leading driver of how Millennials choose to consume and find employment with 84% of them reporting it affects what to buy or where to shop and 78% reporting it affects where they choose to work.

Let’s say a brand has a strong commitment to giving back but has never put any resources into telling their unique story of charitable giving. Well, if a tree falls in the woods…you know the rest. Too often, brands have some form of community giving built into their DNA but have failed to capture the compelling stories that emerge as result of that commitment to social good.

Some feel promoting their cause work can feel self serving, and indeed if executed poorly in a manner that centers the message on the brand - this is a valid concern. However, when the story is framed around the community need and is communicated in an authentic manner, it can bolster both a cause and the brand in energizing new ways.

There are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind as to avoid the common missteps brands have made when communicating their commitment to CSR:

  1. Align Strategically: If you’re not built like TOMS Shoes, who has giving built into their DNA (they give away a pair of shoes for every pair purchased), then you’ll need to find a nonprofit or cause with which to align your brand. You’ll want to ensure it matches your mission and helps to prove out your stated Purpose and Values. Avoid something that could be seen to conflict with your core service offerings (see KFC & Buckets for a Cure).
  2. Involve Employees: Rather than writing a check for a foundation, create a program where employees can bring their creativity to giving back. People will be able to feel the commitment in the resulting human stories more than they would as data points on a corporate giving report. A great example is Bell Banks & Trust who gives their employees $1,000 to Pay It Forward once a year and has begun documenting the results. They have amazing stories to tell.
  3. Capture Resulting Stories Authentically: Documentary filmmaking has been referred to as cause marketing’s best friend. As an authentic, compelling, web-ready medium - true stories, told cinematically can inspire brand respect in a way commercial advertising rarely does. So rather than create an ad that artificially inflates the company’s image, why not make a film that tells the story of a worthy effort - in the words of those on the front lines? Rather than a push message, why not craft a story that serves as an invitation to make a positive impact along with your brand? Take a look at the cinematic trailer for Deluxe Corporation’s 100 Hours Initiative. They invested in capturing 17 unique employee-giving stories that now serve as a company-wide inspiration.

Telling stories at the intersection of purpose and profit can be a win/win/win - for the cause, the brand and the employee who has found deeper meaning in giving that’s aligned with their employer’s purpose & values. Launching a new charitable initiative? Find out how to capture the story of how you’re "doing good" in an authentic way that will inspire even more good for years to come.

For another case study featuring the principles above, take a look at our recent work with Morgan Stanley highlighting their Healthy Cities initiative here.

Bolster my brand


Topics: Cause & Community, Storytelling