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A common problem for brands, campuses and government volunteer engagement programs in cause marketing is how to scale to new audiences.
Is it possible to extend a campaign from one audience – say, employees or professors at a university – to engage students or the general community as well?
Or let’s say you have a consumer cause marketing campaign and you really want it to succeed: Can you increase the chances by including the employees at the company that owns the brand?
At VolunteerMatch, we’ve worked with partners that have scaled campaigns with missions as diverse as helping sheltered pets to find a home, increasing food security for hungry families, and supporting education in schools, libraries and literacy programs.
In these and other programs that “cross the great divide” there tend to be three huge benefits: smarter testing, more affordable creative, and great social impact. But although we’ve seen some success in these partnerships, the concept isn’t well understood. Even when I mentioned this to cause marketing whiz Joe Waters he agreed: there are few examples of audience-integrated campaigns in cause marketing.
So this feels a like an emerging trend that has yet to emerge, which is why we’ve been talking a lot recently about audience scaling/integration (such as this panel at our recent Client Summit).
On May 30, I was fortunate to lead a discussion on scaling to new audiences at the 2013 Cause Marketing Forum conference. Because it brings together brand marketers, corporate philanthropy, campus community involvement and nonprofits, among other practitioners, the Cause Marketing Forum is the perfect place to explore the potential risks and rewards of “crossing the divide” of audience engagement in causes.
I thought I would share some of the highlights of the discussion.
Bridging Internal and External Populations
Among other ideas, at CMF, we explored the major questions of audience integration, including:
- What types of campaigns are best suited for internal/external integration?
- How do we get Marketing and HR teams to buy-in?
- How can we leverage campaign assets most efficiently?
- How do we define success in an integrated campaign?
Most conversations about scaling in marketing focus on shoring up your web presence to handle a crush of unexpected visits. But technology is only one major consideration. The other big issue is how to go from one audience… say, typically, from an “internal” one where relationships are well established and supported, communications channels are already in use, and processes exist to deliver incentives of different… to an “external” audience such as consumers or students for whom this infrastructure isn’t already in place.
Warning: brainstorming underway
Some 50-60 people joined me at CMF for two sessions of discussion. I thought I would share of the ideas that bubbled up.
One note: it’s hard enough to get buy-in for a single audience campaign, much less for multi-audience campaigns. And every company or campus is unique. Needless to say your mileage may vary. If you try something and it works, let us know:
- Campaigns that connect all the audiences of a brand, including internal, are more likely to reflect the true values and personality of both company and its customers.
- By leveraging budgets, relationships, people and creative resources across audiences, integrated campaigns have a greater chance of deep impact in both marketing ROI, employee engagement, and social impact.
- Especially in retail situations, staff training about a campaign can be a brilliant opportunity for engagement. For its Brazilian Amazon Rainforest protection project, Macy’s mobilized teams from its partner The Nature Conservancy to educate more than 10,000 Macy’s staff members on how to talk with consumers about the Macy’s campaign – effectively creating an army of qualified spokespeople.
- If you can make audience involvement transparent to participants, they’ll have a deeper and richer campaign experience knowing that they are connected to other population who are committed to the same cause.
- To break out of silos, try to find, identify, and nurture champions internally at a company or school who will be inspired enough to carry the torch to various stakeholders during early proposal stages.
- By testing your consumer campaigns with your employees – who are more likely to really know the values and personality of the brand – messaging and overall campaign elements will more easily pass the “sniff” test.
- Don’t deprive your employees of engagement opportunities. Try to give them as many entry points as possible and similar access as consumer audiences.
- Look carefully for audiences that can be easily folded in. Retired employees, for example, have the money and time to get involved but are often overlooked. Other companies are engaging suppliers and vendors in their cause programs. Caesars Entertainment has a great campaign built around its partnership with Rebuilding Together. Customers can donate loyalty points and other rewards, while Caesars employees with trade skills are encouraged to visit communities to teach home-based energy efficiency
- Let technology do its part. Diverse online social actions, social networking, content distribution, gift matching and game-ification can all be supported by readily available platforms. TripAdvisor worked with Kiva.org to enable both its customers and its employees to make loans to alleviate poverty.
- Recognition and incentives don’t – and perhaps shouldn’t – be the same for all audiences. Employees can earn matching grants, volunteer time off, or awards from the boss. Consumers can win prizes, discounts or get public recognition for their involvement. But while incentives can be a little bit different for each group, the brass ring (i.e., the most efficient solution) is to use friendly competition or some other tactic across all your audiences.
- Some nonprofits are better with engaging employees through company programs. Other nonprofits have the perfect message for consumer engagement campaigns. If both nonprofits work in the same cause, why not partner with both? Campaign managers sometimes forget that there’s nothing stopping them from doing several partnership activations in a campaign.
- Know what success looks like from both the internal and external audience perspective. For internal audiences it may be about participation rates and employee satisfaction; for external audience success will likely be measured by brand awareness, sales or content generated.
- Equip your activists, ambassadors and evangelizers with tool kits or other self-service media programs to give them the ability to carry the campaign to audiences you might otherwise never connect with.
- If you have budget for it, put the power of major media to use reaching all your audiences at once – it’s a great way to keep the campaign story unified and straight.
Finally, capture involvement stories from all sides of the campaign. Storytelling transcends audiences, reminding people that we all have something in common – the desire to make a difference.
Are you involved in a cause campaign that integrates audiences? Share your experiences with us.