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SHIFTING INTO SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: It’s One Thing To Be Nimble, It’s Another To Be Authentic.

September 29, 2020
Pivoting and Shifting

How many times have you heard or used the words “pivot” and “shift” over the past six months? Probably too many to count.

In March, campaigns that had been months in the making were diverted or completely halted—even those just launched. Most communication pros are well equipped to quickly respond in strategic and creative fashion. It’s what we live and breathe for. But those that don’t have crisis management built into their DNA may stumble—or already have—when trying to be first to market without a solid “Plan B.” Even if that “B” is for BRAND-AID, it can be more than that temporary fix—if the message is smart and as authentic as their brand.

Long before the global pandemic and the heightened awareness of racial injustice, there were (and still are) big-name companies that put their money where their mouths are in regard to corporate social responsibility. Whether being active in the community, contributing to charities, reducing their carbon footprint, improving labor policies, or making investments in social causes, they’re out to make a difference—and let’s not kid ourselves—a profit, as well.

Millennials are a particular group that appreciates and supports brands that talk the talk and walk the walk. They are super critical of style without substance or words without action. So, if you’re a brand that wants to dip its toe in the critical issues of the day, be prepared to take the plunge with something more meaningful than a “thank you” or “we’re all in it together” message. What are you doing that’s a real difference maker? That’s true social responsibility.

During the first wave of the coronavirus, some companies have gone dark. And some, tone deaf. If you’re an alcohol company that’s still partying like it’s 2019, you’re cut off. If you’re a cruise line that’s still forming a conga line, you’ve missed the boat. The ones who get it are the ones who can make you feel closer than ever—even when you’re six feet apart or more. Look at a company like Cottonelle. They encouraged the public to “stock up on generosity” when the toilet paper shortage was bringing out the worst in people. What was their actionable solution? A #ShareASquare campaign in conjunction with The United Way. When nature called, they answered with a great call to action.

While the past six months have been challenging to say the least, it’s been interesting from a communications standpoint to see how some brands have adapted—and in some cases thrived—generating greater awareness and favorability with new potential customers and stronger relationships with their existing ones. Feel-good content that promotes hope and alleviates anxiety will go a long way to enhancing images and securing reputations—as long as that content is relevant, in tune, and 100 percent authentic.

Will the changes that come from pivoting and shifting be temporary? Maybe. But those changes could also have a positive impact on the way brands communicate from here on out. Only time will tell.

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