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Starting A Social Initiative? Consider Impact And Sustainability, Not Just PR 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.

By Alex Malouf

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


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.

Related: Less Talk, More Action: It's Time To Inject Some Reality Into The PR Blitz Around Entrepreneurship

Riyadh-based Alex Malouf is a marketing communications executive and expert who has spent the last two decades in the Middle East. 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. He has led communications for multinationals in the digital, electric mobility, energy, sustainability, technology, and fast-moving consumer goods space, while also advising  ministers and entities in the Gulf's government sector.  

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 as the best way to tell the region's story and build national brands. 

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