Forging relationships is what makes businesses succeed.
When it comes down to it, a business that supports their community through their marketing can solidify a partnership between the community and their brand.
Partnering with organizations in the community is a great way to set yourself apart from your competitors, while also building loyalty among your customers. Giving back and supporting organizations locally can open opportunities to make a real difference in your community. In fact, studies have found that people are 4 to 6 times more likely to purchase products from brands that support causes.
Let’s look at some of the ways that you can use your marketing to show your support for the community.
START BY BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
The last thing you want to do when beginning with community marketing is just attach your name to a cause without truly being invested. People will spot inauthenticity immediately and you’ll do yourself more harm than good.
“When you’re thinking about wanting to make an impact in the community, it’s best to choose something that you’re passionate about, that you feel a connection with,” says Tim Skibbe, a general sales manager for Federated Media. “When you do that, you can ingrain it into your mission statement and your company culture so you can foster buy-in from your leadership team down to your entry-level employees.”
Identifying the right cause or organization to become involved with is the critical first step. It starts with examining the mission of your business and looking at organizations that align with your company’s core values. You may also consider surveying employees to see if there is a cause or issue many of your employees support.
Once you’ve identified a cause or type of organization you’d like to support, start searching for local groups to partner with. Your employees may have recommended specific local or regional groups when you surveyed them, which can be helpful.
As you move forward, though, it’s important to keep in mind that the reason you’re getting involved is to support the community.
“There are a lot of businesses who just want that friendly feel, they want to be involved in the community,” says Kassie Taksey, general sales manager of WBYR, WFWI, and WKJG at Federated Media. “The important thing to remember is that it’s not about advertising your business, it’s about providing value to the audience and being engaged.”
Taksey points out that to build an authentic relationship you should view your community marketing as a community investment, not as traditional marketing. It should be a partnership with an organization that goes beyond simple sponsorships and donations.
“It’s a matter of sitting down and figuring out what your main objective is with your community involvement,” she says. “You’ve got to think outside of the box. Getting your business’s name attached to a cause or the broadcast of a local team is great, but you have to think about what it’s doing for your company.”
TELL YOUR STORY
If you don’t already have a blog on your website, this is the perfect time to get it started. Blogging is an authentic way to educate audiences and build trust. That’s great for your day-to-day business, but it’s also the perfect way to tell stories about your business’s community support.
Articles about the community involvement of your business are a great way to create content that can be shared via social media (or found through search engines) in an organic way. Blog posts can also focus on things your team loves about the community you’re in, employee volunteer stories or why a particular cause or organization is important to your business.
“Blogs can be a very effective way for a business to educate people and get their message out there,” Taksey says. “The cool thing is, you can write an article and six months down the road that piece will still be relevant, and it may have a new piece that can link back to it and further the discussion.”
Having a blog opens the opportunity to have guest bloggers from community organizations you support write for you, too. You can also use it to highlight local student athletes or feature community events your business will participate in. Curating and sharing content that’s relevant is a surefire way to appeal to fans.
Cause marketing — that is, marketing funded by a business that focuses on social responsibility or supporting a community organization — can also be an effective way to show community support. You can do this by incorporating an advocacy message in your marketing or sponsoring a community or nonprofit event.
Your business could also sponsor the marketing for a local nonprofit, like Home Comfort Experts in northern Indiana does. The company uses a dedicated marketing fund to pay for a marketing campaign for REAL Services, which includes radio commercials and sponsored articles about the nonprofit on 953mnc.com.
“Home Comfort Experts thought, ‘What if we took all of the money that we spend on nonprofits and just focus on one, and really make an impact for their marketing,’” Skibbe says. “REAL Services gets radio spots on the station and content pieces for them every month. We also help support the fundraising events they do.”
Using the website of a trusted organization, like a news or media company, allows you to tap into their established audience. That built-in system can help efficiently and effectively reach a broad community with your message.
National brands do this too. Coca-Cola leveraged its branding to help the World Wildlife Foundation back in 2011. The soda company launched the Arctic Home campaign to help raise awareness of the plight of polar bears — Coke’s unofficial mascot.
The alignment of Coca-Cola’s brand mascot and the mission of the World Wildlife Foundation created a perfect partnership. Cans of Coke were adorned with polar bears and they ran print and digital ads for the campaign. The result was $4 million in donations for the WWF, a 10% increase in brand love for Coke, and a 2% increase in company reputation for Coke.
SUPPORT ESTABLISHED COMMUNITY INITIATIVES
The world is becoming smaller thanks to the Internet and social media, but it’s important to remember to meet your audience where they live — online or through terrestrial sources like television or radio.
“Radio is a trusted medium, and it brings a lot of local authority along with it,” Skibbe says. “It provides business owners, nonprofits, whomever, with a companion, through our DJs, for our listeners. Radio acts as a controlled word of mouth. You can chat with Irish Dave, for example, about your business or your nonprofit, and for listeners it’s like they’re getting a recommendation from a friend about businesses and nonprofits to support.”
Skibbe points to Froggy 102.7, which has committed to serving the entirety of Elkhart County. Part of that is the decision to dedicate a broadcast each week during the school year to area high school football and boys basketball. It’s a chance to highlight the hard work of the kids and coaches, and for their family, friends, and fans to cheer them on.
“Froggy’s philosophy, for example, is that we want to support all of Elkhart County,” he says. “If you want to be seen as a business that supports the student athletes and coaches in the community, sponsoring broadcasts is a great way to do that.”
A local sports broadcast is an ideal avenue to connect with a loyal, local audience. In fact, 23 million Americans listen to sports radio weekly. It’s also a perfect opportunity to deliver them valuable, relevant information.
“When you sponsor a broadcast, you might not think you’re directly affecting the team, but you really are,” Taksey says. “You’re adding another element to the experience and providing that community support to the people listening to and attending the games.”
For example, Parkview Sports Medicine (part of Parkview Hospital) sponsors a post-game show for the high school game of the week on 1380 The Fan in Fort Wayne. They use the opportunity to air segments about educational health-related topics.
“They’re educating the listeners as well as informing them about what’s current with the organization,” she says. “At the same time, they’re connecting themselves with high school sports in our area.”
Ultimately, building your community reputation through supporting local organizations comes down to creating trust and authentically communicating with your audience. Putting the audience and your community partner at the heart of your advertising will make your partnership feel natural.