Brands are seeing the importance of connecting to the community now, more than ever before.
With the rise of things like B Corp Certification, the acceptance of CSR as a necessity rather than a luxury and the understanding that consumers are increasingly wanting to buy from and deal with socially responsible companies, it’s imperative to have the community in mind for your marketing and brand strategy.
Whether it’s engaging with your local community, staff giving programs, allowing your customers to donate a portion of their purchase, sponsorships, or any other activity that supports the community, there are many ways that companies can get involved.
At Awards Australia we work with over 150 companies each year, from large corporations to SME’s to charities and not-for-profits to help them align their brand to relevant community stories.
In addition to conversations with current clients, whenever I’m talking to a potential new client, or even just at conferences or networking events, the number #1 question I get is “how do I ensure our community connection is meaningful?”
It’s a big question and there is no one answer that will suit everyone.
So instead, I’ve put together my 3 top tips to address this and you can use these to run the ruler over your own community support and connection activities.
Ask yourself if your community connection is hitting the mark and if you can apply to these tips to better incorporate the community into your marketing strategy, to make a real impact.
1) Align your community support initiative to your core business activities and values:
Sounds simple enough, right? But so often I see companies undertaking a community partnership that does not fit their brand or have any relevance.
The test for this, is for when your clients see the community initiative you’re supporting, their response is “that makes sense, I can see why they’re supporting that.”
Whether it’s an event, charity, fundraising campaign or any community program, it needs to be aligned to what you do, so that it will be relevant for your staff, your clients and most importantly, the community.
Otherwise, you run the risk of not supporting it properly because there is no clear link and it will be much harder to get buy in from all parties.
If sustainability is an important value to your business, then align your community support accordingly to a program that cuts waste, or encourages sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.
A great example of a company aligning their core business to their community connection is Elders, who are synonymous with agribusiness in Australia. They have seen that young people are less likely to take over their family farms and that agribusiness isn’t always seen as an attractive career for young professionals. To tackle this, they’ve taken naming rights of an Agriculture Award as part of the 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards, to share stories of young people under the age of 30, who are achieving incredible things in the agriculture industry and showing there is a career path and exciting prospects for young people. It passes the “does it make sense” test for their clients and it’s directly related to their business activities, whilst building trust in young people who will become their key target audience in the years to come.
2) Engage with the participants:
So, you’ve sponsored an event that will connect with members of the community, get exposure for your brand and perhaps even result in great leads!
To take your involvement to the next level, you need to engage with the participants before, during and after the event.
This is the case for any program, partnership or community support activity you’re undertaking. Engaging with the participants through personalised email communications, news articles, interviews and on social media will strike a chord.
Tell the stories of people involved (similar to a customer journey) and share what they got out of the experience, how it helped them. If your sponsorship or community partnership is well aligned to your brand, storytelling will be an incredibly powerful marketing tool and will resonate with your audience.
I’ve seen this firsthand with Prime Super arranging for their Regional Managers (RM) to hold morning teas for winners in their Prime Super Employer Excellence in Aged Care Award recipients. Sometimes only a handful of representatives can attend an awards night, so these morning teas are an opportunity for all staff to celebrate their award win and to have their award sponsor present for it, shows that Prime Super truly care about the work that aged care facilities do (and yes you guessed it, Prime Super is an aged care industry fund).
This is in addition to personalised thank you letters to all nominees in their award, regardless of their judging position.
3) Don’t be the hero! Focus on those you’re supporting:
Have you been to an event where the sponsor talks for 10 minutes about their company, their recent successes, all the new products they’re offering and then in the last sentence say “and we’re delighted to be sponsoring this event”…I certainly have!
It’s an easy trap to fall into and naturally, companies want ROI from their community support activities.
Unfortunately, it’s not a good look and can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.
The most memorable and impactful speeches from sponsors at events, are the ones where the focus is on the community members and why the community initiative or partnership is important.
By keeping the conversation centred on those who are being helped/supported/celebrated, you will be leaving a much longer lasting impression and nobody will question WHY you are supporting the community in the first place.
This doesn’t only relate to events. It’s applicable for any communications involving your community connection and especially powerful when it comes to social media and storytelling.
One impactful instance of this in play was CEO of First National Real Estate, Ray Ellis, who at a presentation dinner for Young Achiever Awards, held on the eve of the Federal Election in 2019 opted not to make his speech political, or even mention his company or their sponsorship of the awards. In fact, he stated “these awards are not about the sponsors” and went on to describe how supporting young people to follow their dreams is of utmost importance, as the future of our country is in their hands. It was a powerful message to the politicians in the room and to everyone in attendance.
How does your community connection measure up?
Can you apply these 3 tips to your community partnerships, events and programs? Are you nailing it already?
For more articles like this and resources to help you enhance your community connections to maximise ROI and make a real impact, sign up to our mailing list. We don’t send too many emails…promise!
At the link above, you can also book in a free 30 minute strategy call to discuss how you can apply some of these tips – and many more – to align your brand with the community in a meaningful way.
You can also connect with me on LinkedIn, I love chatting about this stuff!!