Building value

Meaningful communications is ideal, no matter the goal

Gørill Husby Moore headed the Excellence Award-winning Stop The Wedding campaign from the customer side. She is a public relations advisor and political strategist at Trigger where she heads the agency’s work with public affairs and corporate social responsibility. Communication Director spoke to her about the nature of cause-based communications and how best to achieve real impact in publicising issues that reach far beyond the business world.

Does cause-related communication differ fundamentally from regular corporate communication?

It is our fundamental belief that engagement is the key to creating stronger and more enduring bonds between a business and its target group. We know how easy it is to become just another face in the crowd if you fail to engage your public. If that happens, the resources put towards communication will hardly be effective – or at worst, a total waste. Every day, we find that it’s real communication that creates the most effective engagement. That’s why we always strive to develop communication that is meaningful to the target group while also generating a positive outcome in their life. This is the best possible starting point in the process of building important values together with our clients.

How do you find the right way of communicating a particular cause?

When we start working with a new business, regardless of who they are, we get to understand what their target group is concerned and passionate about first. Then we look at the corporation. The key is finding common ground between what the corporation wants to communicate and what the target group want to listen to. Done well, it does not matter whether it’s cause-related communication or corporate communication.

“Done well, it does not matter whether it’s cause-related communication or corporate communication.”

In order to make a real impact and be successful, corporate communication also needs to start with what the target group is receptive to. To achieve this, you need to move up from rational product and service communication and start building messages that people respond to emotionally. Once this is in place we have purpose-driven communication centred around an emotional cause that resonates both with the business and with the target group.

With human tragedy and injustice reported frequently in the news, how is it possible to draw attention to one particular issue?

It's hard when so much is competing for people’s time and attention. You need to find a way into people’s hearts and minds that makes the issue you want them to see stand out. To achieve this, it needs to be communicated in a way that feels relevant to the everyday life of the target group. If not, it is easy to block it as just another string of bad and unpleasant news from somewhere in the world.

"You need to find a way into people’s hearts and minds."

The Trigger Point Analysis is our tool for finding a shared point of interest for the business and its target group, so that we have the best possible opportunity to generate effective engagement. Once we have defined the Trigger Point, we then have the insight we need to develop engaging content.

What opportunities do digital channels offer NGOs in disseminating their message?

When we create stories that are engaging to the target group, what remains for us to do is ensure this engagement spreads as effectively as possible. That’s why we work methodically with Channel Choreography, our tool for projecting the most effective mix of channels across own, earned and paid media. In such a way, we ensure we always get the most we can out of the total media investment. We also see that companies increasingly want to be more creative with both content and platform. Compelling storytelling with great characters, smart design and interactive components leads to educated, engaged consumers and employees who help their companies drive CSR initiatives and communication forward.

"Companies increasingly want to be more creative with both content and platform."

For NGOs that usually have limited budgets to get their message across to their audiences, it is key to be smart and strategic with what the message is and how it is distributed. It is also vital to know what you want to achieve before you embark on a campaign. I think a lot of NGOs would benefit from thinking this way. Looking at their budgets for advocacy, marketing and communications as a whole and making smart decisions on how to spend it in order to achieve joint business objectives and not just your own departments KPIs.

What drives current approaches to CSR communications?

It's important to note that businesses focus on sustainability not only because it makes them look good in the eyes of the public, but because it generates profit. If they are successful in limiting resources for production or energy use it can dramatically lower costs while also improving their overall sustainability, which in turn will have positive benefits for both the society and the environment. It should be okay for a company to make revenue while becoming more socially responsible in production methods and business practices, not either or. Ultimately the contribution of the corporate sector will have a key role in the fight against climate change and other global challenges.

"It should be okay for a company to make revenue while becoming more socially responsible."

Another noticeable positive trend is that fact that more companies understand that a collaborative approach across departments is necessary for CSR success. The smartest companies also know that collaboration outside of the organisation is critical. A very good example of this is Starbucks, FedEx, JCPenney, Pizza Hut, Target, Walmart and many others who are collaborating to address inequality through the 100,000 jobs initiative – a coalition of employers committed to hiring young Americans who are out of school and not currently working.

What unites the examples above is that the CSR and public affairs communication take into account what is important to their target groups and then find a role or a mission they as a corporation can take on to change things for the better. We urge all clients to do the same. I hope many more will follow as CSR and public affairs communication is still too narrow in their approach focusing primarily on what is important to the business. By doing this you are not able to elevate the stance into a strategic position that resonates with their target audiences and through this society at large.

#stopthewedding was the winner of the NGO category at the 2015 European Excellence Awards, hosted by Communication Director. Held annually in cities across Europe, the European Excellence Awards honour outstanding achievements in the field of PR and communications.The full list of winners can be found here.

Jan Wisniewski

Jan Wisniewski is an editor at Communication Director, under his role as an editorial and content manager at Quadriga Media. He works to ensure the Communication Director community has access to genuine insights into the world of corporate communications. He held previous assistant editorial roles at The Conversation Media Group and Street Press Australia.