Communication is the Pulse of Life!

Charity

Activism – The New ‘Sex’ that Sells

activism

It’s out with sex and in with activism; marketing and branding specialists alike have dubbed 2017 as the year that “activism comes of age”.

Following a series of polarizing elections and debates, it’s clear that the world is now more divided than ever. Demonstrations, protests, and marches fill our streets and dominate the conversations on our social media feeds – there simply is no avoiding the topic of activism. Fuelled by millennials – who see themselves as active agents of social change – this wave of social activism has set off new ripples in the marketing world.

It’s gone beyond supporting a cause – audiences are now demanding that everyone else does the same. And while this may present a risk of alienating segments of their consumers, brands are beginning to dip their toes into politics. The potential virality of brand activism in the era of social media marketing has helped brands gain more exposure, attract new customers and cement old loyalties. In most cases, the benefits far outweigh the harm.

No longer excused from sidestepping conversations about pertinent socio-political issues, it does little good for a brand to remain sitting on the fence. Take Uber for instance. Earlier this year, the company suffered a major setback after the hashtag #DeleteUber trended worldwide on Twitter. Close to 200,000 users deleted or deactivated their accounts within minutes, following allegations that the company was endorsing Trump’s controversial immigration policies by remaining neutral during protests. Meanwhile, in announcing its $1 million donation to the American Civil Liberties Union, Lyft (Uber’s competitor) received high praise for its denunciation of Trump’s outrageous executive order. By the thousands, angry consumers began switching their allegiance to Lyft and within hours, the company saw a drastic expansion of its user base – exceeding the numbers of Uber for the first time.

Riddled by heightened emotions and drastic political changes, consumers want to be more involved – associating themselves only with brands that share the same ideologies and values. Consumers are making their voices heard with their wallets: every purchase is a political statement. Thus, explaining the biggest rise in brand activism observed in the history of marketing and advertising. But riding this wave seems a lot easier said than done. While brands like Heineken and Dove have successfully crafted campaigns around the importance of unity and feminism respectively, others like Pepsi have completely missed the mark.

Heralded as “The Great Pepsi Shakeup” the three minute Ad was quickly pulled following the global #boycottPepsi on Twitter. Commentators on social media were understandably aggrieved – accusing Pepsi of appropriating imagery from the real protests and completely undermining the dangers and frustrations of these group of people. In attempting to resonate with the millennials, Pepsi completely neglected the most important aspect of brand activism: sincerity. Attempting to “join the conversation” (as preached) without discussing real issues, portrays the brand as opportunistic and more detrimentally, offensive.

Following this fiasco, Heineken, on the other hand, made a political statement of their own with a video titled “Worlds Apart: An Experiment.” Six strangers, each with diametrically opposed socio-political views were paired and encouraged to foster an understanding and open friendship despite their differences. Where Pepsi enraged, Heineken pulled at the heartstrings of its viewers. In this, there are two key differences:

(a) Heineken’s Ad discussed real controversial issues concerning transgender rights, climate change, and feminism while Pepsi adopted a more generic claim for unity and peace – whilst appropriating the imagery of real protests.

(b) Heineken proposed an actual, practical solution of encouraging discourse and fostering understanding despite our differences, instead of portraying themselves as the miraculous solution to all problems.

Gone are the days where sex was enough to sell. In the advent of progressive political changes, consumers and audiences alike have become more politically engaged, often interacting on social media where reputations are made or lost within a matter of minutes – aka the age of the millennials. Ultimately, as much as consumers love thought-provoking ads that tackle the real-world issues we face today, brands should always remind themselves that sincerity and authenticity should underlie all efforts geared towards harnessing the power of brand activism.

Posted by Roselynda Afandi, CorpMedia


Gen Z: The Voice of a New Generation

Humans have long corralled themselves into generational categories with the belief that one’s social, economic time-period and environment will effectively shape them into individuals with similar interests and behavior. Baby Boomers were conceived in the muddled post-World War II canvas and groomed into nonconforming liberals whilst Generation Xers alternated between their divorced parents’ homes apathetically. Online marketers in recent years have shortsightedly been clamouring for the attention of Millennials, aka Generation Y, who represent the highest proportion of online spending compared to any other cohort. As pioneers of the most disruptive invention of all, the Internet, they were the ones who molded it, and in return, it ultimately molded them.

With the spotlight trained on the founders, many have missed the opportunity that lies in the hands of the next generation, the same smartwatch clad hands dexterously juggling a tablet and a mobile phone while taking a selfie. When companies started recruiting 19 year olds as the foremost experts on this outspoken generation, we know that we are witnessing the dawn of a new age. Gen Y slowly incorporated the web into their lifestyles, but Generation Z (Gen Z) was born, fully submerged into the assimilation of notifications. Eighty-one percent of these aptly named “digital natives” are on social media at least three hours a day, making success more contingent on competent digital marketing than ever.

Gen Z are rapidly becoming a critical audience for marketers and brands to understand. Even if they aren’t your target group at the moment, they soon will be. In a couple of years, nearly 4 in 10 consumers will be from Gen Z, and their purchasing power will rise exponentially over the next 5 to 7 years as they grow to be the single largest group of consumers worldwide. They are forming their spending habits now which can influence their habits into adulthood. Appealing to this group can have a huge impact in a company’s long-term customer retention and brand loyalty.

So what does it take to really capture the attention of Generation Z? Let’s take a closer look.

Snap, Swipe, Share

Gen Z thrives on the edge of fast communications. Six second Vines, 140 character tweets, emojis and Snapchats – tapped once and gone into the ether. For brands, this means creating bite-sized, visual content that Gen Z can quickly digest and process. The more bite-sized pieces of information you can get to Gen Z, the further along their path to purchase you can push yourself.

The one thing Gen Z appreciates more than succinct communications is curating their own content. As a form of self-expression, these individuals enjoy taking charge and personalising their own content. Additionally, brands that utilise or acknowledge these consumer creations portray themselves as active listeners and genuinely caring about their customer’s wants.

Purchasing Power

Gen Z may not have a lot of its own money (yet), but this doesn’t necessarily mean they lack purchasing power. According to brand strategy firm, Sparks and Honey, the average upwardly mobile Gen Z receives an allowance of $16.90 per week, which collectively adds up to $44 billion a year. In addition to pocket money, they exert considerable influence on household purchases and family spending compared to previous generations.

What this means is that marketers need different approaches to gain the attention of the Gen Z. In the past, most ad dollars were spent on TV, radio stations, and newspapers. But to reach Gen Z, companies will need to spend more to create videos and other content that provides useful information, entertains, and otherwise impresses them enough that they share with families, friends, and followers.

Making CSR the Norm

An Inconvenient Truth” opened the eyes of unsuspecting Millennials but Generation Z grew up in an already unstable world of conflict. Fuelled by current events, they seek to create value and social change for the world through the products they purchase. This group places a higher priority on the quality of a product and how environmentally friendly it is rather than being blindly loyal to a brand. As most Gen Z research products and services prior to purchase, they become privy to the company’s practices, history, and reputation.

After too many lapses in safety and accounting, businesses must now prove themselves by being transparent and relatable. One way is to allow real customers themselves to create content, feedback, and reviews as a means of advertising the company authentically. Following in the footsteps of TOMS Shoes, businesses must start incorporating a social aspect to their business whether it be employee community service or through the triple bottom line approach in order to penetrate these increasingly knowledgeable and ethical customers.

Embrace Diversity

Gen Z is expected to be the most racially diverse generation. While Millennials in their own right are a pretty diverse group, Gen Z will view the increasing diversity in a more positive light. With more friends from different ethnic backgrounds than older generations, brands will have to amp up their multicultural marketing strategies to make their brands relevant to a wider range of ethnic groups.

Gen Z are growing up in a post-9/11 world and in a global economic recession, resulting in a demographic that is very socially conscious. They will expect nothing less from brands. Brands that can form a connection with this diverse group will have the most success. To do this, brands will have to incorporate various, yet consistent, messages that highlight diversity across a variety of platforms.

Point to Note: Gen Z’s everyday lives blend seamlessly with their lives on social channels, and many of their defining characteristics stem from this continuity.  Marketers will have to try harder than ever to interact authentically with this generation of consumers, but if they do, they’ll be rewarded by an audience that loves engaging with brands and championing their products.

Posted by Arwika Ussahatanon, Corporate Media


Nonprofit Communications: Surviving the Frontline

Preparing_for_Battle_2_by_d671

In this age of information clutter, the concept of marketing communications for nonprofits seems all too sales-centric and too fuelled by money. Many nonprofits struggle with this concept, asking themselves “Is it too slimy to apply?”

Branding for nonprofits can be a challenge. All we want to do is focus on “doing good” and the last thing we want to worry about is our brand and voice. We are not selling anything so why worry about it?

As much as we would like to deny, the nonprofit market is saturated. With today’s superbly competitive fundraising environment, nonprofits are selling something. They are selling their mission, convincing those with resources to choose them over another deserving nonprofit. It is precisely this that makes communications all the more important to help you to effectively promote your cause.

Naturally, we, as a sector, don’t like talking about competition and certainly not about fundraising as sales. But, if we are going to survive the challenges facing the nonprofit sector, we have to admit that marketing and sales are essentially the same as communications and fundraising. We’re operating our business in a tough world, folks and we’ve got to prepare for the battle.

Brand Building for your Nonprofit

The onslaught of the digital age has put us all on a new footing. As the media environment buckles and shifts, as new forms of technology emerge and mutate, the business, ethical and creative challenges in communications are formidable. How do we connect with audiences who feel there is too much to take in and do anything about when everyone can have a channel with tools that are readily available, cheap and easy to use?

The fact remains: nonprofits have valuable assets to deploy in the digital environment – knowledge and content, trust and brand. They are becoming news and information providers, linking directly to their audiences, building social networks and partnering with different stakeholders.

The Key to Winning

If we continue to get smart together and reinvent our nonprofit organizations to that of communicating organizations, then each of us, in our own way, can help determine the shape of things to come. The key to success is thinking strategically and communicating clearly to stay ahead of your competition.

1. The Early Days of Battle – build your identity and spread your story

Fortify your brand image, communicate who you are and what you stand for, to stand out from the crowd; inspire people and connect with them to amplify your journey towards success.

Update your website and social media pages regularly, convey your BIG Story at community events; send thank you letters; and weave aspects of your BIG Story into your appeal tactics to remind people why they love your organisation.

2. Create a Strong Web of Alliances – focus on your targets

Each organization is fighting for its share of donors and supporters. You must find out what is really important to them. Success stories must connect emotionally and the call to action must be distinct.

Put a face to the problem. Use succinct and compelling messages to highlight your cause, stress the urgency of giving now, why they matter and why you need them. Always keep them engaged and be consistent but different!

3. Tactical Manoeuvring – explore all outlets of communication

Now that you know what you want to say and why, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to broadcast your message. No matter the outlet, there should be a common thread or theme that pulls all of your communication efforts together that embeds itself at the heart of your cause.

Utilize traditional and social media to communicate with your stakeholders. Once you’ve exhausted traditional media, focus on a select few by planning media-free communication activities, such as wall magazines, social dramas and targeted awareness drives.

Just like a battlefield, nonprofit communications should be about achieving change with minimal resources employed. But with the aim of creating social change, at the heart of nonprofit communications lie transparency, consistency and sincerity. So, never plan for a single shot; think of a series of continuous communication activities which should be tied together as part of a comprehensive strategy. That’s the formula to winning the hearts and minds of millions all over the world.

Posted by Stephanie Robert, Advocate(PR), CorpMedia


‘Tis the Season for Giving Back

The year is winding down, Christmas is around the corner, and everyone’s slowing down to catch their breath as the year comes to a close. With festivities buzzing, we tend to get lost in the excitement of the season. But as always, we ought to take time out to reflect on the year, acknowledge and appreciate the good things, little or big that have touched our lives.

Think of how great the entire year could have been if had we practised the appreciation spirit throughout while applying it to the working atmosphere instead of just accumulating everything in just one space in time. I am talking about a concept that is not new, though it definitely should be more widely practised – corporate social responsibility or CSR as it is commonly known as.

So exactly what it CSR and why is it an important component of our work life?

Defining CSR

“The business of business should not be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.”

The definition of CSR is ironically never definite. This time though, the lack of definition could actually mean a good thing. The fact that it even falls under the guise of different names – ranging from corporate volunteerism to corporate philanthropy to corporate citizenship – goes to show just how broad a scope it encompasses. But ultimately, they all stand for the same thing and the common linking factor that ties them together is the intention.

The aim of most CSR programs is quite simply to collectively do good as a business unit. It is an initiative undertaken by a company to encourage a positive impact on external factors outside of the business, like the environment or community. Different companies have their own initiatives set in place which could have been formulated inhouse by a committee or by employing external consultants to draw up appropriate plans for them. Others may just nominate a cause or charity during the year without any long term plan.

If the noble cause hasn’t won you over yet, here are more reasons why CSR should be a mandatory part of any company. Not only would the benefactors of your CSR program gain, it would do wonders internally for your company too!

article-4568-img2

The honeymoon may be over..

A recent survey conducted by Gallup showed over 70% of employees do not feel engaged in their current positions. According to the Economist, 84% of senior leaders reported that disengaged employees were one of the biggest threats to their business.

By doing meaningful work outside of the context of work, company pride would be developed and nurtured. Having employees who feel actively engaged would also, in turn, assure employee retention – which is invaluable in the long run. With an increased number of people realizing the importance and value of being socially responsible, implementing a CSR program makes more business sense that dollar signs.

.. but we have a new generation to tap

The millenial generation, otherwise regarded as the overly tolerate 20-35 year olds, tech-savvy, pop culture obsessed generation. They play by different rules – usually wanting to create their own. To many, they may be a frustrating bunch, especially in the workforce, but they are an untapped market with big potential. They are by far an extremely socially conscious generation and wil play an even bigger role in how companies handle CSR by being good corporate citizens.

So how can we engage them in our corporate giving efforts? Here are three simple tips:

Connecting: Millennials get most of their information about a charity or cause through a nonprofit’s website or social media channels. Whether you have an advanced software system that tracks employee giving and volunteerism or you have a smaller company that may email a volunteer or giving opportunity, make sure that appropriate links about the nonprofits are provided. This allows millenials to do their own research and feel connected with the cause the company is supporting.

Involving: Often, companies focus too much on putting their senior executives on boards and don’t engage other employees to represent the company in the community. Millennials usually want to get involved and feel utilized.  To maximize their time, work with your charity partners to determine what type of individuals they are looking for to serve on their boards or committees. Are they looking for individuals with leadership traits or volunteers who can help with events?

Giving: When millennials give, it’s important for them to know that their contribution is making a difference and they can see tangible results. When deciding to get your employees involved in a giving campaign, be selective in the project you are funding. Make sure you are able to tie back the giving to tangible results that resonate with the millennials and share those results with them.

 

Millennials can be great ambassadors if your company’s giving includes and caters to them.  Focus on these three areas and you’ll have a millennial workforce who is engaged in your company’s philanthropic efforts.

To all you folks out there, let this be the season for a little more giving back.  Here’s wishing one and all every success in the brand new year!

By Yasmin Md Basir, PR Associate @ Corporate Media Services


Communicating with a Purpose: Generating Publicity for Non-Profits

Despite the impending double-dip recession and talk about doom and gloom – there seems to be no let up in the number of charitable organizations and non-profits popping up across the globe. From building roads, houses and schools, to providing safe food supply, to cutting carbon emissions – these organizations are multiplying as we speak. Perhaps we are becoming a kinder, gentler generation.

With this surge, how can a non-profit rise above the din and communicate information in an effective and meaningful way?

Public relations (PR) is vital to the success of non profits. It offers a low-cost means for gaining public attention for non-profit organizations. Through media relations (not limited to press releases), speaking events, networking and fundraising events, non-profits can rise above the fray and become noticed by the people who matter: potential clients, donors, volunteers and employees.

So where do we begin?

As the saying goes “Charity begins at home.”  First, staff members and volunteer leadership will have to be educated about the value of marketing and public relations programs. It is important to underscore the connection between the public relations strategy and the organizational mission.

Determine and evaluate what your public relations needs are and tailor your plan to meet the objectives. Prioritize your communications messages. Who is your target group? This is important as the messaging may differ for different fund raising efforts.  What do you hope to achieve – donations, call to action, event participation? These are questions that must be answered.

Next, aim to match the PR strategy with your budget. If creating a public service announcement takes up the bulk of your budget, it makes sense to first analyze and determine if this is the most effective way to communicate your message. Have you thought about co-marketing activities with other non-profits or partners? This will not only help to maximize resources (including cost sharing) but also help to spread the message to a wider network of people.

Approach the media! The media is always looking for new and exciting people or stories to cover. Don’t be afraid to utilize the media (through story placement, interviews, expert comments, article contributions) as often as possible. Non-profits are never short of impactful, human-interest stories. Take the time to get to know the journalists/editors who cover specific features or CSR type news, and pitch them with your ideas and potential story angles.

Communicate to the leaders on a regular basis the results of your public relations plan, such as press clippings and target exposure.  Through media monitoring and analysis, you can re-evaluate and fine-tune your media strategy.

Some useful tips for non-profits:

  • Make sure your public relations plan is in line with the organization’s long-term strategies.
  • Keep your volunteers, staff and donors informed of your organization’s activities on a regular basis.
  • Identify a trained volunteer or staff person to serve as the media spokesperson.
  • Become the information resource for the media.
  • Pitch story ideas about your cause.
  • Clearly define and communicate your organization’s objectives and results.
  • Have a media handbook handy to deal with any potential crisis.

Remember, no matter how important your cause is, you shouldn’t assume that everyone would know about it or even about your organization. Proactive communications is essential to success. From building awareness and credibility to supporting fundraising efforts, a well-executed, strategic public relations program can make the difference between achieving your goals or falling desperately short of them.