Marketing Tools & Channels: A Cause Based Perspective

MPH Agency is an industry leader within the cause marketing and public affairs advocacy space. Understanding how to evolve commercial marketing tactics and tools to apply to the public affairs space and specifically to your issue or awareness challenge is a specialty of our team at MPH Agency and what our STAMPS Solutions are designed to do.

Effective cause marketing requires more than a social media account. The constant evolution of the algorithms that decide visibility on social media means marketers need to be keenly aware of how their content is prioritized. In relation to cause marketing, social media platforms have started to de-prioritize a lot of cause and issue content. 

A recent article took a look at these tools from the perspective of commercial marketing, Social Media Marketing — Why the world went gaga and never looked back.  While this is interesting, I wanted to share some insights on these tools  from the perspective of cause and issue marketing.

What is social media marketing in a cause/issue marketing context?

 In cause marketing we don’t need you to buy our product, we don’t need our tracking pixels to carry you through to your shopping cart. We need you to make that commitment to invest. Specifically, we need you to invest in our message with the currency of your time. 

If you think getting someone to commit money to your product or cause is hard, try asking for people's time. Every volunteer manager out there would gladly change places with the fundraisers. Understanding that we are competing for users' time and energy means we have to work more at making a value argument right out of the gate. 

How has social media impacted the public affairs and issues business?

If ever there was an example of the double edged sword, it’s social media in public affairs. The ability to build digital connections and communities is unparalleled, the platforms - by design - connect people with similar interests and opinions to each other. If you have any organic popularity it is easy to build your audience. The other side of that sword is that it is extremely difficult to push through into those communities if you are not part of them.  Marketing to these quasi-closed communities takes extensive connection, understanding, perspective, and time. 

Brand Awareness

Issue awareness isn’t just half of our battle, it’s very often the entire battle. This is an area that there is overlap with the commercial marketing world. “However, you cannot build brand awareness overnight. Consistent effort in the long term helps build trust and authority in the marketplace, and it also helps to humanize the brand.” In short, you need to start early. A digital cause movement can not be generated in days or even weeks. It will take months of growth and adhering to a cause marketing plan to build the online presence and following you need for your goals. 

Economical

Unlike commercial marketing, cause and issue marketing can cost as much or more than other marketing channels. The rules and processes around issue campaigns on social media  means that social media can not be your own source of lead generation. It needs to be part of a comprehensive strategy. The average CPC (cost per click) on Facebook in September 2022 was $0.92, but in the awareness space the CPC is now over $2.32. Cost for conversion (ie. signed up, engaged, mobilized) is now at an average of $19.68.  Building multi-channel engagement plans is the only way to bring that cost down. 

Customer Service

Businesses are now providing customer service via social media, whether its twitter DMs, Facebook chat, or even WhatsApp as their primary customer service channel. This is an area that cause marketing needs to evolve into, and quickly. The consumer market sets the public's expectations for responsiveness and customer service. The public expects your social platforms to be two-way communication vehicles, with replies and response times measured in minutes not days. 

Word-of-mouth publicity

“TikTok made me buy it” has entered our lexicon. The validation from peers, whether it's your own social network or online reviews drive such a large portion of business that there is definitely a cause marketing equivalent. Public affairs and politics have always used “endorsements” as part of their promotion strategy. Now, celebrity (or niche-celebrity) endorsements have less and less value. Peer endorsements are what drives conversion. 

Boosts sales (aka Boots engagement)

With billions of active users each month, regardless of where you are or what cause you are advocating for, most of your target audience is on social media. Any efforts to promote or develop your cause will need a robust social media presence, it's essentially the stamp of legitimacy. Yet, the nature of public affairs means that real world conversion is needed, not just online slacktivism. While social media is required it can not be the only, or even the dominant channel of activation. 

Next week we will look at how video can be used to simplify your story and message, no matter how technical, to your stakeholders. 

Communication, Determination & More Communication

This week started with Blue Monday, and while this auspicious date may have been a travel industry marketing ploy I believe that none the less it marks the darkest, most emotionally draining part of the winter season, especially for those living in Canada. So if you find yourself moving slower this week, having trouble staying focused, or getting excited about the work that usually excites you, have no fear you are among millions of people with the same problem. 

To add to this seasonal stress and anxiety I find myself obsessed about timelines. In marketing, like almost every industry, timelines are constantly the top point of discussion. This is for a couple reasons, but the most important of which is that no matter what challenge or unexpected issue your project faces, it will affect the timeline. (Yes, even talk about the weather becomes about how it impacts timelines!) 

We do our best at MPH Agency to recognize in our timelines the need for extra time for production, extra time for creative, extra time for approvals (always extra time for approvals), extra time for shipping (see last week’s post about paper supply), but when a project decides to go sideways there is never enough time. 

It’s at this point I’m supposed to share with you a “hack” or “secret” to managing timelines. The reality is in marketing and production there isn’t one. We provide timelines based on our experience, knowledge and expertise, and likelihood that some things will go wrong, and these are usually accurate. That is until lots of things go wrong. 

There are two types of timeline problems. The first is with challenges you can control. This is where our team has to put our noses down and grind out the work, work the extra shift, stay late, start early, and do our best to get back on track. There is no shortcut or easy way, just grind it out. 

What can set you apart from other organizations is not just grinding it out, but how you communicate about it. Nothing will frustrate a client more than lack of communication. They may not like shifting timelines but they understand (Remember: They have problems too). If you do your best to get ahead of the delays by communicating them, and proposing solutions with new timelines then your clients will be appreciative of your dedication to their project. 

The second type of challenges are the ones you can not control. Here all you can do is communicate with your client. Personally, I find it very difficult to communicate when the delay in a project is out of my control. Simply put, if a delay can be solved by more of my time or a particular fix from our team - we will get it done, always. The difficult ones are when we have no control over the challenge, a supplier issue, equipment malfunction, or a global pandemic. For me, these are the hard ones. These are the ones that keep me up at night. 

Running a marketing agency means on any given project there are a very large number of elements outside of our control. So, it becomes all about effective communication. If I am informing you of a delay, be assured that I have already tried everything possible to alleviate it, and I am stuck with the last resort of telling you there is going to be a delay. 

In the end of it all, what makes good people stand out? It's communication, and determination. So answer that call you don’t want to answer, read that email that has been haunting your inbox, and get back to that person you need to update. We can’t stop Blue Monday but we will feel a whole lot better communicating the information we need to.