5 Steps To Successful Purpose-Driven PR

Consumers spend money with companies that are making a difference.

Adam Fridman is the founder of Mabbly. (image courtesy of mabbly.com)

Customers aren’t just looking to buy something. They are looking to buy into something — and that something is your brand. But they need more than just a good product to develop brand loyalty: 64 percent of consumers point to shared values as their main reason for working with a brand, and 90 percent expect companies to operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues. Eighty-four percent of consumers say they purchase socially responsible products whenever possible.

As a result, many companies have executed purpose-driven PR campaigns. Some, like the ALS “ice bucket challenge,” were extremely well received. Others, like Wal-Mart’s food drive to feed its own (seemingly underpaid) employees or Kellogg’s “retweet for a breakfast for a vulnerable child” campaign fell flat and actually did harm to the brand.

In an effort to understand the nuances of purpose-driven marketing and PR, Adam Fridman, founder of Chicago-based digital media firm Mabbly, recently interviewed 500 companies over the past 14 months. From their responses he determined that execute successful, purpose-driven PR campaigns are using the following steps to discover, believe, ignite, express, and improve the stories they tell.

Discover who you are.

In his 2009 Ted Talk entitled “Start with Why”, motivational speaker and author Simon Sinek defined a concept he called the “Golden Circle.” Working from the outside in, the circle has three levels: what, how, and why. Sinek explained that every company knows what they do, and some companies even know how they do it. However, very few companies know why they are in business.

The “why” speaks volumes to your product and brand, and authentically discovering your purpose for existing is the fundamental step to executing on a successful campaign. “Purpose-driven PR is kind of like going on a date,” Fridman said. “You want to build an authentic relationship with your audience, but how can you do that if you don’t even really know who you are?”

Believe in your purpose.

Before you begin to tell your story, you must discover your purpose and believe that what you are providing can bring value to others’ lives. A mark of commitment is a readiness to communicate your company’s vision instead of a description of what your company is actually doing.

“You have to make the conscious decision to communicate what you believe,” Fridman says. “If you are finding it hard to believe in it yourself, perhaps it’s time to go back to step one and discover a new purpose.” This strategy will not only tangentially sell your product, but it will help build long-lasting relationships with and earn trust from your customers.

Ignite your team.

If purpose is a candle, then company culture is the flame. To be able to execute a successful PR campaign, you must be able to ignite the talents and passion of your internal team. Companies with engaged employees outperform the competition by up to 202 percent; that’s an advantage you can’t afford to miss out on.

“It’s important to get your company — your tribe — on board with your purpose,” Fridman said. “If you can’t communicate your passion to your tribe, how can you communicate it to the public?”

Developing a culture of brand confidence is just another way to ensure that people associate quality and credibility with your company. Besides, if you can’t sell your own employees on the cause, how are you going to sell it to your audience?

Express your purpose.

Once you and your tribe are aligned in purpose, you are ready to tell your company’s story and initiate a PR campaign. However, expression of purpose is a dead-end task if your message falls on deaf ears. You have to be aware of who’s listening to you and, more importantly, who wants to listen to you.

Aside from your baseline strategies, there are a few things you should ask before and after you run a PR campaign:

  • Are we approaching the right audience? Know who’s paying attention to your message and whether or not the message is right for them.
  • Are we communicating through the right channels? Identify the highest concentration of your target audience and where they are looking to get their information.
  • Are we communicating a message that is resonating? If you’ve identified the first two points but are still not producing results, your story may not be compelling enough.

The goal of all successful PR campaigns is to tell an innovative story that creates a human connection with your potential customers.

Improve your results.

Actualizing your brand’s purpose is your ultimate key to success. But there is no finish line to this endeavor — maintaining belief in your purpose is a task that calls for continuous improvement. It’s a never-ending cycle of asking “Do I still believe?”

Throughout the course of business, you may even find yourself needing to tweak what your “why” is. It could be that your audience’s interest in what you have to say is waning. Perhaps you were never expressing it right in the first place. The challenge is to be constantly adapting to your environment, understanding where your customer’s values lie, and then aligning your purpose or cause to those values.

Customers expect a great deal from the companies they support. This creates an opportunity to make your PR campaign wildly successful as you make a real difference in the world. “The way companies market themselves is completely different now,” Fridman says. “Today, the key is approaching how you shape the world to make a difference instead of how to sell product.” Take the time to discover, believe, ignite, express, and improve your brand story, he says, and you will find that it eventually tells itself.

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