Small Business Today Magazine JUL 2014 PHENOMENAL PRODUCTS - Page 31

EDITORIALFEATURE Giving Back:  An Expectation, Not an Option                       By Aimee Woodall, Owner of the Black Sheep Agency I ncluding a substantial giving component into your branding strategy is no longer an option — it is an expectation.  Just look at the success of brands like TOMS, Warby Parker, and FEED, all of which incorporate giving into nearly everything they do.  Consumers are increasingly more conscious about issues that are important to them and they want to know the products and services they use are making a difference.   I encourage everyone to not view giving back as something a brand should do but something a brand must do.  And companies should not only take note, they should take ACTION, because it’s good business and it’s also good for the world.   Here are five tips for incorporating a giving strategy into a brand:   1. Look to your community. To incorporate a giving portion into any strategy, you should first take a look around you at those who are already doing good in your community.  What are the local organizations, clubs, and institutions that are serving the area and how can you get involved?  We are ALL stronger and can do more when we collaborate.   2. Devote substantial time to focus on giving back. For any giving strategy to REALLY make a difference, you should build in enough time to think critically about your approach and what you want to ultimately accomplish.  Sponsoring a little league team, writing a check, or donating a silent auction item isn’t enough.  An effective giving strategy needs to have targeted, well thought out goals.   3. Keep your giving strategy consistent with brand voice. Let’s say, for example, your client owns a restaurant that serves delicious, fried, artery-clogging treats.  Should they be giving money to help eradicate heart disease?  Well, probably not.  That looks kind of funny.  Instead, identify a cause that is connected to your brand or one that your client is passionate about.  This will help consumers understand WHY the brand is investing time into giving back to a cause.   4. Consider creating a standardized giving program. If you LOVE to give back to the community, it may be hard at times for you to say no to worthy causes that come knocking at your door.  Creating an organized system that will allow you to filter through requests and find those that are most appropriate for your organization is critical.  Not only will it help you avoid wasting time on opportunities that don’t “fit” with your company, it will also help you maintain a positive relationship with the requestor by clearly defining your decision-making criteria.    5. Don’t fake it. Consumers are smart.  They can pick out a brand that isn’t fully invested in a giving strategy or is doing it solely for recognition.  The best way to avoid coming across as fake is to choose a mission you sincerely care about.  There are no one-size-fits-all plans for giving back.  Make it work the best way you can.   Giving back is no longer an option.  I intend for my business to be on the forefront of what marketing agencies are doing to foster this movement.  That is why I made the commitment to require a substantial giving component as a part of every marketing strategy my company develops and I encourage every company to do the same.     Aimee Woodall is the owner of the Black Sheep Agency, a Houston-based creative agency specializing in non-traditional public relations, social media, and experiential marketing.Whether the client is a nonprofit already doing amazing work in the community, a small business that has a cause-driven mission, or a larger company that wants to connect with consumers by giving back, the Black Sheep Agency has a commitment to propel positive change through the work they do with their clients.  Contact Amy by phone at 832-971-7725, by email at aimee@theblacksheepagency.com, or visit the website at www.theblacksheepagency.com. [ JULY 2014 ] www.SBTMagazine.net 29