The Relief Effort Bandwagon

Almost immediately following the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, we witnessed a swift, and universal response of support.  Companies from around the world rallied with large donations and public campaigns.  Businesses like FedEx, Walmart, Twitter and Coca Cola quickly stepped up to the plate and publicly proclaimed their commitment to the cause.  And certainly this is all good and noble.  But is it effective Corporate Social Responsibility?  Do global relief efforts present a strategic opportunity for companies to give back and drive their corporate objectives?

Sudden, unexpected global catastrophes certainly present CSR opportunity.  These events tend to attract an enormous amount of media attention, and it is understandable why large corporations might want to benefit from this spotlight.  The human suffering that follows events like earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes stirs up broad public interest and sympathy.

Furthermore, the Haitian earthquake was an event that drew concern from people of all ages, all backgrounds and all religions irrespective of gender, profession or citizenship.  It was a cause that was universally supported, and this cohesion offered the corporate sponsor/donor a rare opportunity. It can prove challenging for companies to align with causes that are going to resonate so broadly with their constituents, and global relief can fill that gap.

But does corporate relief enhance brand?  It might position the company as a ‘caring’ enterprise, one that responds in the most dire and tragic of circumstances.  But corporate sponsors of the Haitian relief effort, and especially those that make a general donation, are not likely to have their brands enhanced as a result of this cause alignment.  As is the case with most CSR efforts, support should be provided strategically and in a way that relates to the company’s corporate values and priorities.

Some companies recognize this need and a good example was Tide’s Loads of Hope initiative, launched after Hurricane Katrina ravaged most of New Orleans.  The Loads of Hope program deploys mobile Laundromat fleets to disaster sites and employees remain on site washing, drying and folding clothing for effected families.  Tide ran an aggressive marketing campaign that placed the photos of families who had been helped on bottles of Tide detergent, and featuring stories and videos on their website.  It’s a memorable effort that enhances the company’s brand and makes a logical, strategic alignment between corporate objectives and community support.

So when you make your decision to provide corporate global relief support, make sure that you do not waste an opportunity to enhance your brand, engage your employees and drive your core business objectives.

Passion Points

  • Act swiftly.  With global relief efforts, the spotlight and attention can wane with each passing day.
  • Think strategically about your support; don’t just write a cheque.  What can your business offer that will help to underscore its brand, its values and will also drive corporate objectives.
  • Make sure that you advertise and market whatever support your company provides.  Your stakeholders and customers should know that you care!
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