Doing Good is the best PR
Over the past few weeks, a lot of bytes have been devoted to PepsiCo's Refresh Project. There are many components, but the central idea is that the company will award up to 32 grants totaling $20 million to better the world.
Most of the coverage generated for the campaign has focused on it's launch at the expense of Pepsi's Super Bowl Ad - the first time in 23 years in which the soft drink company won't be present on advertising's biggest stage. This is an approach that I have advocated for previously on this blog.
Why? Is it just to alienate my friends who sell advertising for a living? Allow me to explain.
The irony is that in this world of media ubiquity, I believe that the best approach to advertising is not more, but less. I think companies would be better off to cut their advertising budget in half - spending half of it on making the world a better place and half telling the world what they're doing to make the world a better place.
Certainly, you can and should devote other portions of your company's budget to doing good, but I single out advertising for one simple reason. If the point of advertising is to tell people how good you are, it would be easier if you're actually doing something good. Besides, in the era of the 24-hour news cycle and growing consumer avoidance of advertising (see my presentation on web 2.0), advertising just isn't as effective as it used to be.
Sound too radical for you? Perhaps you should start with One Percent for the Planet or something similar.
Not radical enough? Try the approach of Ray Anderson in Confessions of a Radical Industrialist. In that book, Anderson lays out Mission Zero, his company's goal to be completely sustainable. Of the goal, Anderson writes:
Sustainability has given my company a competitive edge in more ways than one. It has proven to be the most powerful marketplace differentiator I have know in my long career...It has rewarded us with more positive visibility and goodwill among our customers than the slickest, most expensive advertising or marketing campaign could possibly have generated. And a strong environmental ethic has no equal for attracting and motivating good people, galvanizing them around a shared higher purpose, and giving them a powerful reason to join and to stay (Emphasis mine).
Doing good might actually give you more positive visibility because the potential exists to get your customers to do the marketing for you. According to PRWeek, PepsiCo has a big social media component to this campaign but it apparently stumbled coming out of the gate. If they can right the ship, it will be interesting to see how much buzz that (and the cash) get them.
Nathan Schock's personal blog, http://www.greenwaycommunique.com, is the primary hub for communicating sustainability and bringing people together who do the same.