Despite the economic quagmire we’re in, consumers’ brand expectations are up – especially when it comes to corporate responsibility. Given that, marketers should capitalize on these expectations by leveraging their corporate responsibility initiatives as a means to boost brand reputation in the search results.
Why you should care
In slower economic periods such as we’re experiencing now, corporations have a responsibility to consumers to set the standards of conscientious decision-making and giving. And while some stakeholders may question the benefits of the time and money spent on corporate responsibility initiatives, consumers and investors view responsible brands as trustworthy, and are willing to put their money where their perception is.
In fact, 85% of global consumers still expect companies to maintain or increase their charitable contributions during recessionary times (Eric Mower and Associates “Cause Marketing and the Economy Poll”). Today, customers are turning to their trusted brands in hopes that they will provide a solution – or a helping hand – to the causes they cannot contribute to themselves (due to lack of time or financial constraints).
Understanding the value
Today’s headlines are rife with economic woes and bleak outlooks. One way to stand out from the negative headlines is to highlight your company’s corporate responsibility programs, such as community and environmental initiatives. By promoting such efforts, you can reinforce positive brand awareness for your organization in the search engines.
For example, a global B2B software giant promotes success stories about how their products have helped design sustainable buildings. By capitalizing on press coverage and viral messaging, the company has achieved considerable presence in the search results for green initiatives, and is now perceived to be an industry leader in green design.
Yet some companies miss the opportunity to effectively leverage their corporate responsibility initiatives for branding purposes. Financial institutions are a perfect example. While they have been harshly criticized for their response to the credit market as customers panic, many of these same organizations actively participate in social giving programs through housing assistance and community outreach groups. However, few people know about their efforts. This is a big missed opportunity for them.
But capitalizing on your corporate responsibility initiatives can do more than boost your brand in the search engines; it can also help with damage control. Given the current media climate – where news outlets and bloggers jump on the chance to report every hiccup that can be spun into a global crisis – one bad customer experience can turn into a CEO’s nightmare once captured on video and uploaded to YouTube. Given that reality, marketers can leverage their corporate responsibility initiatives to mitigate such negative press.
Making it work
Leveraging corporate responsibility initiatives to boost brand reputation is a smart move. Follow the below seven tips, and you’ll be well on your way to doing exactly that.
- Choose relevant causes
If a big-box retailer plants a few trees, it won’t make headlines. However, if this same retailer donates children’s clothing to war-torn nations, people will notice. Stick to social and environmental programs that make sense for your industry. Understanding your customer base can be crucial in choosing a cause.
- Go Green
Sustainable business practices mean stable growth to consumers and investors. In today’s oil covered headlines, environmental efforts show visionary leadership and long term strategy rather than short term gains. “Greening” your organization – from supply chains and production lines to the executive row – also conveys confidence in the future success of the business. Green is now a lifestyle, and consumers expect this from their trusted brands.
- Lend a hand; earn a link
Even when we volunteer for something, we still want to benefit from it, whether it be self-fulfillment or resume building. Let your company’s benefit come in the form of an external link. Encourage partner charities and green programs to link back to your company website. It’s a free way for these organizations to thank a key partner. These same links can also drive additional traffic to your site.
- Lighten up
When other marketing channels go “dark,” social awareness promotions can be a cheap way to stay in the news. Issuing a press release to the wire is not only a low cost publicity tactic, but also an easy way to increase your branded rankings. In doing so, you give customers an opportunity to learn about your initiatives as they shop online or compare customer reviews.
- Show off your best assets
Sell green building products? Sponsor animal adoption charities already? Make sure your website clearly links to these vital programs and offerings from the homepage. Not only does this help customers find more information, but it also strengthens internal linking credibility. Structure promotions and giveaways around green holidays and social fundraisers.
- Give customers and employees a reason to be proud
When corporations demonstrate social and sustainability leadership, customers are less likely to blog or tweet about negative experiences. Satisfied clients and employees produce credible testimonials. When resources are tight, this is an easy way to generate new content and freshness on-site. In fact, 68% of consumers say that in a recession, they would remain loyal to a brand if they support a good cause (Edelman Good Purpose Study).
- Tweet and blog
Holding a fundraising event? Invite millions through Facebook events and watch your brand advocates spread the word. Tweet when new guests RSVP or activities are planned. Tag pictures of the last sponsored beach cleanup on Facebook to encourage employees to share with friends and contacts. Keep the charity events fun for more interest. These social activities can be a free and easy way to increase organic rankings.
In an economic environment where accomplishing more with less is an absolute necessity, marketers need to capitalize on every asset they have, including corporate responsibility initiatives. Doing so is a great way to boost your brand reputation in the search results. However, failing to capitalize on the opportunity is tantamount to squandering a valuable asset.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.