Starting A Social Initiative? Consider Impact And Sustainability, Not Just PR
Another day, another eye-catching headline: this time, it was about X number of women being trained on how to market their businesses online. It seems that some of us can’t help but draw attention to what they’re doing- of course, there’s nothing wrong with talking to the media (after all, this is my job), especially when it comes to using public awareness to promote a good cause. However, what I do take umbrage with is how brands decide they need to PR their efforts.
Firstly, there are the embellishments, the need to use big numbers to draw attention to what is being done. This isn’t anything new; I remember one tech firm bandying around investment numbers which were in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and which included reference to an entrepreneurship center. While we seem to believe that journalists love numbers, this approach can often do more harm than good. When conceiving an initiative, brands can look to scale without actually understanding how they best achieve those numbers. And, unfortunately, there’s little transparency as to whether these targets were ever met.
Then there’s brand alignment. Brands will often jump onto a concept without asking if the concept actually aligns with the brand’s business or values. You’ll often see brand managers jumping on the bandwagon because it's cool and relevant– the smart marketers will ask themselves how can they support the concept in a sustainable fashion. And when it comes to cause-related marketing, the only way to do it right is through having or creating a relevant connection between the concept and the brand/business.
Rather than a short-term approach, which underlines the scale of an initiative (bigger numbers, cooler ideas means more coverage), brands need to think of impact and sustainability. Is the idea relevant to the business, will it help both the target audience as well as the organization, and will the organization be able to share the progress made publicly? If the answer is yes on all three counts, then by all means go and share the initiative with the media, through social media platforms, and even from the rooftops. If you can’t answer yes, then you really do need to ask yourself why you want to not only talk to the media, but even undertake the project.
Alex Malouf is a marketing communications executive who has spent the last 17 years in the Middle East. Alex has lived across the region, in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. He is the Corporate Communications Director for the Middle East and Africa at Schneider Electric.
A journalist by training and with a cultural mix that is both European and Arabic, Alex’s expertise spans communications and media, public relations and marketing for both multinationals in the energy, technology and FMCG space as well as several Gulf-based government institutions. An entrepreneur in his own right –along with his wife, Alex founded the first business-to-business magazines in Saudi Arabia– Alex’s experience includes corporate communications, media relations and outreach, content development, crisis/ reputation management, and digital/social media. When he’s not putting pen to paper, Alex can be found advocating for the region’s media and public relations industry.
Alex is passionate about promoting sustainability in the communications sector by highlighting the industry’s potential to GCC nationals. He works with not-for-profit organizations such as the Middle East Public Relations Industry to shape and support training and awareness initiatives for both those wishing to pursue a career in public relations