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Why (and How To) Write a Strategy for Your Cause-Related Marketing

When brands decide to support a social cause or initiative, they too often take a Band-Aid approach.

They add a rainbow logo or frame to their social media profile. They publish a blog article explaining why the brand is committed to combatting climate change. They air a short video to announce new benefits for employees after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

And then …

Nothing. The hot topic of the moment cools off – and so does the brand’s public conversation about it. In some cases, the brand’s commitment goes cold too.

What if the content marketing team could change that? What if you could lead the ongoing effort around those important topics?

By ensuring the brand stays hot on the initiative, you’ll elevate content marketing’s role within the organization (and maybe even get that much-coveted seat at the top leadership table.)

But how do you replace the Band-Aid with a healthy, sustainable approach?

You write down a cause-related content marketing strategy.

Let’s talk about how to do this. I’ll use an example based on a brand committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But this formula can work for almost any cause or initiative.

Start building your cause-related marketing strategy by going straight to the top

I’ve written about tactics to take to cultivate diverse, equitable, and inclusive content marketing. Brands are making progress on that front. But many struggle to sustain their efforts.

Why? At many brands, the conversation never hits on what needs to happen to ensure the organization keeps its public face focused on those topics.

A documented content-marketing strategy around a DEI (or other cause) commitment, for example, enables all the teams that create content across the brand to operate from the same page. Its development also can serve as a jumping-off point for other departments or the whole organization to develop a long-term strategy around their contribution to the brand’s DEI mission.

Your strategy preparation starts not with content marketing but with the organization’s business operations:

That first step will likely take the most time – and it involves a lot you likely don’t have control over. But doing this research, including interviews with key stakeholders, will inform everything you do next.

Your investigation will help people in your organization realize the depth of the brand’s commitment and understand the goals for its DEI efforts.

It also communicates to leadership that your priority is to ensure content marketing aligns with business objectives.

With this research finished, you’ll likely find yourself with one of two conclusions:

  1. Clear DEI business goals and metrics
  2. A fuzzy picture of what leadership would like to happen (though they haven’t fully formulated a plan or set goals)

You can still progress to the next step no matter which conclusion you reach. It just might be harder if you’re in the fuzzy picture crowd.

Bring in the audience

Now that you’ve thought about the business, it’s time to consider your audience.

In most cause-related initiatives, marketers forget they have a target audience and simply decide to create the content for the greater good. That’s a positive step, but it’s only the beginning.

Ask audience-specific questions, such as:

  • Who in the target audience is most interested in this content?
  • Why?
  • What do they want from this content?

With this information, you can likely narrow down your larger target audience or renew your commitment to an existing persona or niche. This is the group to target with your DEI content marketing strategy.

Align cause-focused objectives with business and audience

With your business goals and audience understanding, you’re ready to figure out your content marketing objectives.

What content marketing goals align with both business goals and audience interests? Are they concrete and measurable?

At this stage in a DEI content marketing strategy, some may suggest setting benchmarks for such things as inclusive imagery, accessible content, diverse voice representation in content, etc. These goals are important. But they’re focused on tactics and don’t properly incorporate the audience.

What do you want from your readers, viewers, and listeners? Your answer will likely fall into these three broad objectives:

  • Awareness
  • Action
  • Loyalty

The three goals function together as stages or a funnel. Brand awareness leads an audience to act, and that action ultimately contributes to brand loyalty.

An election-season analogy might help:

  1. A voter learns about a candidate (awareness).
  2. The voter decides to support the candidate (action).
  3. The voter puts the candidate’s sign in their yard (loyalty).

In cause-oriented content, most marketers do the brand awareness stage well. You might change the social profile image to represent the designated month. You publish an article from the CEO explaining the brand’s commitment to the cause and review metrics around social media engagement, increased traffic, or time on page.

But you also should get to the second stage – action. This is where many brands falter. To prompt action, you might invite readers to subscribe to a series of articles around your brand’s DEI commitment/activities. You could ask them to register for a webinar to learn more. Success metrics would include sign-ups.

Keep pushing to get to the third goal in the sequence – loyalty. Publish regular and authentic content around the DEI mission (or your specific cause). You’ll convince the audience that your brand walks the talk.

They’ll continue to consume your content. They might buy your products. And they might tell others about why they like your brand (whether they buy from you or not). Success metrics might include returning visitors, number of pages visited, purchase activity, and brand mentions.

TIP: As you determine your initiative-specific content marketing goals, you need to discuss the content plans, too. What formats will you use? How frequently will you publish? Those two factors need to be determined to set relevant and realistic goals.

Commit to showing ongoing commitment

Move beyond the Band-Aids and adopt a long-term content marketing strategy for your cause commitments. Your audience will realize that your brand isn’t jumping on the bandwagon – it’s truly committed. That differentiation will lead them to get more involved with your content and ultimately develop a stronger bond with your brand.

And that’s a great way to elevate your content team’s role in meeting business objectives.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute