By: Michele Egan
Part 3 of Our Blog Series: Key Elements of Best in Class Cause Campaigns
In part two of our blog series, we shared the top fundraising activations used in Best in Class (BIC) Cause Campaigns from our 2020 Survey Results. Marketing activations are equally as important when building an incredible cause campaign. In fact, marketing activations, such as organic, owned and earned media strategies, dominate the top five activations in BIC Cause Campaigns overall. Marketing activations are more frequently reported in part because all cause campaigns include a marketing component, while not every campaign includes a fundraising goal.
These are the top marketing activations as ranked by seasoned cause practitioners:
Organic Social Media is Essential
In our research, 94% of BIC Cause Campaigns incorporated organic social media while only 65% incorporated paid digital or social media marketing. Organic social media refers to free content such as posts, photos, videos or stories generated by a nonprofit or company and shared on their feeds. An organic post is one that is seen by a percentage of your existing followers and your followers’ followers as they share your content. Organic social also includes people who follow the specific hashtag used in your post.
This social media post from delivery service company goPuff is an example of how they used organic social media to activate their campaign #GoBackGiveBack. goPuff pledged to match donations up to $1 million for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Consider the number of followers you have when evaluating an organic social media strategy. The more the better. Cause activations can go a long way toward increasing brand trust and loyalty. Still, it can be a challenge to overcome engagement barriers if you’ve not built a loyal audience prior to the campaign. Organic content is one great tool to help build brand affinity by endearing more customers to a companies’ cause of choice, especially if activations are “authentigrated” and well-aligned with their audiences’ interest.
Balance Organic with Paid Social Media
If you’re building your following or defining your brand’s social presence, it can be difficult to attract enough attention to move the needle through organic only content. This is further complicated with social media platforms’ constant changes to their content display algorithms. Since only 5-10% of your followers on most social platforms will see your organic content, it’s imperative to go beyond organic and use paid media to reach the targeted audiences you want to engage with your posts. Paid social media is just another term for advertising. Nonprofits and their partners should determine where their audiences spend most of their time, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Tic Tok, Twitch or Instagram to reach audiences they’ve not been able to with their organic reach.
65% of respondents in our BIC survey use paid digital or social media marketing activations. It’s important to note that while influencer engagement was ranked closely behind paid social media and can sometimes be lumped into the same category, paid social is generally considered separately from influencer strategies. This is preferable since influencer marketing is typically arranged directly with the influencer or their agency/representative, driven by shared values and generally requires a separate marketing budget to execute effectively.
Paid media is a better option when you’re trying to build your social media audience (often this can be channel specific), raise awareness around your issue, engage a wider audience or leverage campaign-designated marketing dollars from your corporate partner.
Maximize All Owned Media
In BIC Cause campaigns, both the nonprofit and corporate partner leverage their owned media 84% of the time. Owned media is content the nonprofit or corporate partner owns such as websites, magazines, videos, white papers or other digital content created by either organization. Anywhere the brand has full control over what is published is owned media.
A timely example can be seen in the McDonald’s USA legacy partnership with Reading is Fundamental (RIF) to celebrate National Literacy Month. McDonald’s used every Happy Meal box to feature the partnership and help their customers learn more about RIF. With an unconventional start to the 2020 school year, McDonald’s invited families to experience the joy of reading together with new dinosaur-themed Happy Meal Readers. For the first time, this partnership featured a series of non-fiction activity books about different types of dinosaurs, available in English and Spanish. McDonald’s also donated 100,000 books bringing the total donated to over a half million books since 2013.
Earned media refers to media exposure you have earned by word-of-mouth, relevancy and connection. In BIC Cause Campaigns, earned media is a far more prevalent strategy (84%) than paid media (49%). This is likely due to tight budgets and partners’ shared focus on leveraging existing relationships rather than investing new dollars to drive campaign adoption. Earned media includes everything from viral social posts and SEO content to gain placements near the top of organic searches, to journalists and content curators reaching out for compelling quotes or thought leadership interviews. This type of content is usually used to gain new leads or exposure to new audiences.
Allison Green, Director of Cause Marketing and Workplace Giving at Habitat for Humanity International, shared an example of their social media strategy during our recent Create Your Blueprint For A Best In Class Cause Campaign webinar. Green attributes the success of their annual “Home is the Key” spring campaign success to three tips, “Bring the heart. Add some sizzle, and leave room for flexibility.” One of the ways Habitat added sizzle was to collaborate to create unique media assets for partners. An example from their media partner HGTV and corporate partner State Farm (a valued partner of Habitat for Humanity since 2007), who joined forces to create a fun video about how to properly welcome a new neighbor with a welcome gift basket.
Pre-pandemic, robust distribution plans included activating tens of thousands of State Farm agents living and working in communities across the US. As the pandemic unfolded, Habitat and their cause campaign partners made the decision to push the pause button. After monitoring the changing market conditions, the team redeployed this heartwarming video in July with a thoughtful blend of in-kind, paid, owned and earned social media strategies. As the pandemic lingered, supporting neighbors became more relevant and reinforced the importance of a safe home. Flexibility prevailed and Home is the Key 2020 highlighted the issue of affordable housing against an even more pressing backdrop than in previous years, generating hundreds of thousands of earned media impressions.
Effective marketing activations are critical elements of an outstanding cause campaign. Leverage these tips to successfully incorporate these tactics into your own campaigns.
For Momentum’s Expert Tips to Integrate Best in Class Marketing Activations
- Organic social media. Leverage loyal and engaged partner and donor audiences to amplify your message. Create content that people will be motived to share. Include touching stories and clearly convey the needs of your cause.
- Paid media. To grow your social following or boost campaign engagement rates, consider investing in paid social ads. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner for investment help. Often money is left on the table. Avoid this costly mistake, especially with a more digitally engaged audience.
- Owned media. Consider all the owned assets you and your corporate partner have and how to make them easily discoverable throughout cause campaign activations. You and your partner know how to drive performance on your owned channels. Strategically tailor your approach to drive deeper campaign engagement.
- Earned media. Be creative, strategic and most importantly, build in flexibility! Develop interesting and inspiring stories that tug at the heartstrings of your intended audience to boost your earned media strategies.
Have more marketing activation questions? Reach out to us for more expert cause marketing advice.