You my readers are a sophisticated audience so there’s no need to detail the differences between advertising, public relations and social media. Suffice it to say that while PR has greater credibility, it’s challenging to get the frequency using PR alone that you can get with advertising. Advertising offers frequency and repeatability, but it can be expensive and it’s less credible than PR. Social media can have both frequency and credibility; Kony 2012, for instance. But I think we can agree that Kony is the rarest sort of exception.
So how do you activate your cause marketing story using social media and PR?
One answer is that the story you tell the media has a boy and a puppy like the story that appeared in People magazine last year about then 7-year-old Evan Moss. Young Evan wrote a picture book called “My Seizure Dog” about an epilepsy-detecting dog that he wished his family could afford. In the book Evan imagined he and his seizure dog in various settings, including going to outer space together.
The book… sold at a local café and on Amazon… generated more than $41,000 and now Evan and three other children have their epilepsy-detecting dogs.
(The only other thing Evan could have done to get better publicity is to marry a Kardashian!)
But maybe your cause marketing story doesn’t involve Kardashians or really cute seven-year-old authors with service puppies. How do you do activate your cause marketing using PR and social media?
Remember the acronym SPAT.
Well a spat is a fabric or leather covering worn over your shoes and pants legs to protect them from mud and dirt and such. That's a spat on the left.
And while the word and the item are rather antique… high school and college band color guards are about the only place you’ll see them in common use in the United States these days… using SPAT will help to convey you your cause marketing idea intact while minimizing the chances that it gets too muddied by the press or the social media.
Summarizable. Even if the dictionary in my word processor doesn’t believe it, summarizable is the adjective form of the word summarize. In this context it means that your basic cause marketing campaign has to be capable of being expressed in a concise form; two sentences or less.
Photographable. What we’re talking about here is visual 'memes,' biologist Richard Dawkins’ term for ideas, symbols or practices that are carried culturally rather than genetically. Japanese Macaques that learned to wash their food from one another is an example of memes in the animal kingdom. Not all memes require a picture. But washing food wouldn’t have gone very far among Macaques if all they could do was chatter about it. Even for literate humans pictures are much less abstract than words. It’s a whole lot easier pass on a meme with a photo or image than without. Think of the Aflac duck, Coke’s contour bottle, or breast cancer’s pink ribbon.
Arresting. The best cause marketing stops you in your tracks. TOMS Shoes buy one, give one approach (BOGO), for instance or young Evan Moss.
Transcendent. The word transcendent carries a lot of bulk around with it suggesting something outside human capacity or even divine. But the first meaning of transcendent is something superior or beyond ordinary limits. And who wants to promote cause marketing that fails to transcend the ordinary?
You don’t have to have all the elements of SPAT to effectively activate your cause marketing via PR or social media. But when it comes to activating your cause marketing via SPAT, more really is more.