Change Course with a Mission-Based Public Relations Strategy

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Michiko Morales

Every company wants to make money. You know it, I know it and customers know it.

That makes it boring.

If your sole, driving mission is to make money, you’re no different than any of your competitors.

And with so many businesses making noise about profits and returns and bottom lines, it’s easy for your roar to come out as a whisper (or whimper).

What customers do notice is a brand with a cause.

Read on to learn how a thoughtful public relations strategy and a mission based in social good can help businesses stand out against competition, and do a little (or a lot of) good for the world.

Why Mission-Based Public Relations Strategy Works

65 percent of consumers make belief-driven purchasing decisions. Not only that, but people engage more with brand content that aligns around a higher purpose. Why? When two similar products are competing for our dollar, we’d rather pick the one that gives a purchase meaning.

Meaning matters to employees, too. Companies with authentic missions and messages attract more job applicants, drive better employee engagement, inspire cohesive, driven teams and have higher employee retention rates. Those dedicated employees then become PR agents themselves, tweeting, posting and spreading word of mouth about an employer they respect.

So, What’s Your Purpose?

Step one to aligning your public relations strategy around a higher purpose?

Define and believe in that purpose.

Overarching purpose and mission direction should come from the CEO and key company leaders. Otherwise, the message may feel forced and authenticity and buy-in will be at risk.

When pinning down big mission ideas with execs, we like to start with the question, “How and why does this brand hope to change the world?” For founders, we ask, “Why did you start this company?”

A cybersecurity company founder, for instance, might be inspired to address the source of global distrust in cyber activity. An internet service provider might be motivated to drive connectivity and bring people together. In this exercise, get your business thinking big – how does this brand influence the big picture?

Note: Ideals are growing in science and technology companies. That’s why tech PR firms use these exercises with clients; they reveal a motive beyond money that inspires and speaks to their brand.

The Importance of Authenticity

Distrust in the media and our institutions has never been so high, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. Dominating the national (and international) conversation, customers are quick to spot insincerity. Phony missions polarize audiences and ultimately damage a brand’s reputation.

Amongst these many insincere and perfunctory claims, however, a genuine intention to further a social cause is particularly inspiring, not to mention just plain decent.

The bottom line? There is no cutting corners in declaring a big-picture mission. Make sure there’s buy-in from company leadership and a promise for follow-through to ensure authenticity.

What Works?

Once your brand aligns around a core mission, brainstorm ways to promote that mission.

REI, for example, started a movement, #optoutside, to encourage people to get outside and inspire healthy physical activity. The PR campaign publicized the movement on Black Friday by using the hashtag on social media, rallying other companies and organizations to take up the movement and paying all REI employees to spend the day being active.

Why did this work so well?

REI’s mission statement is: “We inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” #Optoutside aligned directly with their mission statement, as well as with their adventurous brand persona and the altruistic value of pushing outdoor activity to boost health and happiness. This clear alignment left no question that the campaign originated from sincere concern and genuine motives.

REI was also largely successful because it leveraged employee social media activity, company partnerships, podcasts, journal content and other means of spreading the word. PR strategies work best when they creatively push beyond press releases. The lesson? Appeal to employees, clients, partners and other connections to create a broad net of genuine advocates.

However, this doesn’t mean standard PR activities should be ignored. Strategic press releases and media pitches should form the backbone of a PR plan to publicize philanthropic activity.

Align with Marketing Communications Strategy

Public relations strategies shouldn’t live in a bubble. Rather, they should align with marketing communications strategies to ensure the overarching message is consistent and appears authentic across the board. All branding and messaging, for example, should reflect the same values. Further, technology marketing companies can create digital assets and other content to spread cause awareness and demonstrate the company’s commitment to its mission.

The result? A company that gets noticed for its dedication to bettering the world.

What’s Your Why?

When it comes to helping companies gain publicity and market traction, an inspiring brand mission goes a long way. Pair that with a winning PR plan to boost brand awareness, cultivate loyal customers, increase revenue and create a highly differentiated brand.

To learn more about defining a purpose based in social good, download our e-book, “What’s Your Why?”

From the Blog

Leah Nurik