Advanced Placement Cause Marketing

J. Walter Thompson’s white paper, called 'Social Good,' has attracted a fair amount of attention, including (critical) mention in these pages.

Most of the press has taken some variation on a theme of how consumers are increasingly critical of cause marketing, a conclusion I was critical of based on several loaded questions JWT asked in its survey. But buried farther down in Social Good survey was a question that I think is very credible.

Some 75 percent of those surveyed in Canada, the UK and the U.S. agreed that “brands and companies don’t disclose enough information about their charity/social cause programs.”

This mirrors exactly what Cone found in its 2010 study. Seventy-five percent of Americans "want to hear about the results of corporate/nonprofit partnerships."

Few cause marketers, corporate or nonprofit, get this right. But it couldn't be more vital to giving successful cause marketing the transparency it requires.

People want to know that progress is being made. Cone says this means that people want to know about "the positive effect on the social issue, the money raised."

And that's true. But it only scratches the surface. People want to know if companies actually kept their pledges, and wrote the checks they promised. They want to know if the nonprofit actually built that playground, or helped that veteran's group. They want to sense that progress is being made.

And, fear not, they understand that intractable curing diseases or ending poverty in the developing world...require long-term approaches.

Part of the challenge of course is that the mainstream media won't often bite on a story that tells how a campaign did. The mainstream media requires novelty. And a story about a sponsor who kept their pledge or a nonprofit that effected some change probably doesn't meet that requirement.

No matter. You must still send out that press release to demonstrate transparency, to keep your company or nonprofit in front of editor's eyes, and to underscore that your firm or nonprofit has integrity.

Of course you can also buy media. If purchased media is already in your budget, be sure to carve out a piece of it for the follow-up efforts.

If your budget doesn't include purchased media, remember that we live in an era when any nonprofit or company can be its own media outlet. There should be a prominent place on your website or Facebook page that declares just what the campaign accomplished.

Shoot on results on your Flip-style camera and post on your website and Youtube/Vimeo some video of the meeting wherein the check is presented. Post pictures from your digital camera on your site and on Flickr of the events related to the campaign. Record and post a radio-style audio story on the who, what, when, where and why of the campaign. Put together a post-campaign Powerpoint and post it to Slideshare. Etc.

Emily Post famously said: "manners grease the wheels of social interaction."

In a like way, transparency greases the wheels for cause marketing effectiveness.

Or, at least, that's what three-quarters of Americans, Brits and Canadians say.