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Good Cause Marketing Lessons From Bad PR

Causemarketing.biz, this humble little site you’re reading right now, is the Interweb’s largest, most diverse and comprehensive blog on cause marketing.

Maybe the site's size and renown explains the volume of off-topic pitches I get from well-meaning PR people.

There’s a name for these people. When they send me helpful pitches that are pertinent to causemarketing.biz I call them PR angels. When they pitch me ideas that are off-topic, too long, too dumb, or addressed to “Dear Alden,” I just call them clueless.

Editors and reporters have started to out the clueless. Heck, even PR people are outing the clueless. It's never been more chic than right now to complain about PR idiots.

I’m not going to out any clueless PR people by name. Not today anyway. But to prove my point, here is a short list of subject lines that have appeared in my in-box in the last week:
  • “Text Messaging: a Marketers Paradise for Increasing Brand Engagement.”
  • “Sales and Marketing Team: The Real Drivers Behind iPad Implementation.”
  • What comes after Kony 2012?
And a personal favorite from a few years back:
  • “BOARDFEST SNOWBOARD RAIL JAM GOES COED FOR BLIZZARD AT THE BEACH.”  And yes, it shouted at me just like that in all-caps.
There are lessons in all this for all cause marketers, but especially for those from the nonprofit world.
  1. Don’t Just ‘Doorbell-Ditch’ Your Cause Marketing Proposals. When I was an adolescent I was known to have doorbell-ditched from time to time. You know, where you ring the doorbell on a home and then run? The lesson is, don’t just email your proposal to someone you’ve had no contact with. Don’t spam prospects with your proposal. They have to be addressed to someone. And that person must agree to receive it before you send it off.
  2. Consider Scale and Appropriateness. If your cause is a model railway museum in Fiddler’s Bend, Oklahoma you’re almost certainly barking up the wrong tree to propose a CRM campaign to American Express. That’s not to say that all successful cause marketing relationships are purely strategic. But very few of them are openly stupid.
  3. Style Counts. In terms of the format of your proposal no type should be smaller than about 20 points. Don’t use Comic Sans or other wacky fonts or weirdly-colored type. And the deck can’t be more than 20 pages max unless you’re author/consultant Tom Peters. In which case you’re allowed 22 pages. If it’s on paper or Powerpoint; use the landscape format. Use pictures, and plenty of them. But make sure they’re dynamite and that they illustrate your cause and the campaign as well as possible. 
  4. If the Answer is No Measure Carefully Any Response. Think very hard before you fire back something venomous if all you get in response is a form letter. Maybe only a juggernaut like St. Jude Children’s Research Medical Center could get away with such a response. For everyone else, remember that cause marketing is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You attract more with flies with honey than vinegar. (Insert the morale-building cliché of your choice here.)

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