Komen Arrogant In Denial

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At last week’s Cause Marketing Forum, The Great Breast Cancer Debate panel at the 2012 Cause Marketing Forum featured Margo Lucero of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Susan G. Komen for the Cure seen a 20% decrease in corporate sponsorships over the past year, but blames the economy rather than the very public fiasco it experienced when it pulled funding from Planned Parenthood.

Lucero’s statement met an audible gasp from the Cause Marketing Forum audience.
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People Keep Fighting Power with Social Media

Pink Frangipani Blossoms

The first chapter of Welcome to the Fifth Estate discusses social media empowered people that act independently of traditional media, government and corporate structures. Last Saturday night on WOR Radio’s The Business of Giving show I had the pleasure of discussing this tension with host Denver Frederick. From Syrian bloggers fighting the Assad regime to the anti-Komen Planned Parenthood social media fury in the United States, people continue to fight power structures with social media.

Average citizens feel a need to circumvent established media as well as traditional government and corporate structures with online tools. Their information needs are unfulfilled and voices are not being heard. So people activate themselves online to demand change and action, or to form new innovative ways of resolving their problems.

The Syrian Revolution

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Cause Competitiveness: Keep Your Eye On The Prize

Who's Getting Off First?

by Estrella Rosenberg & Geoff Livingston

If the last two marathon weeks of cause-related conferences are any indication, competition isn’t just something the for profit sector is thinking about – the cause community is too. How do we compete for market share? How do we compete for visibility? How do we compete for more money? Much has been said about competitiveness in the for profit sector, but what is the right role of competition in causes? Is there a right role?

Some would have full on competition, while others would have singular causes or coalitions within each sector. Are either of these right? They both are in a way. Competitive spirit definitely has its place: Finding the fastest, most efficient, most impactful way to resolve the problem the cause addresses.

Non-profits are not in business to make money. They are a business to be sure, but unlike a for-profit, which seeks to dominate markets and yield profits, a cause or social enterprise seeks to provide a solution. When a for-profit business is successful, it keeps its doors open for years and expands and keeps looking for more market share. When a non-profit is successful it should close its doors because its business – or mission – has been completed.

Are you competing just to raise the most money? Competing in the sense that a cause seeks to beat out its competition helps no one. It actually hurts the cause space by creating distractions and wasted resources.

Consider Komen for the Cure’s use of $1 million spent to legally enforce its rights to term “for the Cure.” How does that help anyone resolve health or larger issues? Worse, last year during The Cause Marketing Forum, Komen for the Cure proclaimed that it was their mission to reclaim the pink ribbon from other non-profits in the breast cancer space – organizations that they themselves support with grants! Imagine if that money and energy went towards finding the most innovative way to discover the most impactful solutions in breast cancer?

Competing to be the first to the finish line with the same approach as ten other organizations in your cause space isn’t the right kind of competition either. Wealthy founders and well meaning activists who think they can do it better without any unique theory of change are creating distractions too and just making more choices for donors, often paralyzing them. Yet another voice with nothing new to add creates a longer path to the answer.

The ability to see the problem and a unique answer to it (or a part of it) is at the heart of social entrepreneurship. Innovation means finding better faster ways to provide answers. In essence, this is the Ashoka model of social entrepreneurship where a changemaker seizes on a unique approach to a problem and deploys ambitious actions for wide-scale change.

For these social entrepreneurs, and for forward thinking non-profits, competition means cooperating with other organizations within the same space when they have to because they have their eye on the prize: an answer to whatever problem they’re trying to solve. That doesn’t necessarily mean sharing resources, but it does acknowledge that everyone is trying to reach the same end goal. Forming coalitions and cause verticals can have great impact if each organization is working on their own piece of the puzzle.

Ultimately, causes should want to end their business by resolving their problem. They shouldn’t want to be the organization who uses social media the most cleverly. They shouldn’t want to be the organization that raised the most money at their annual event. They should want to shutter their doors. Period.

What kind of cause are you? Are you competing to make change or just competing?

Strategy Lessons: The Water Book

Musashi

A Book of Five Rings, written by Miyamoto Musashi in 1645, is one of the world’s classic sources of strategy. Its influence extends beyond military schools to the entire Japanese business culture, and has made its way into Western culture, too. Musashi’s work is one of the texts that comprises the foundation of Zoetica’s strategy services. This blog series looks at each of the Five Rings (chapters), and discusses how some of the phrases apply to the modern communications market.

The Water Book is the second primary chapter of the Five Rings, following the Ground Book. This book primarily focuses on the The Five Attitudes and Approaches to strategy; Upper, Middle, Lower, Right Side and Left Side. Here are interpretations about how these approaches apply to today’s communications marketplace.

1) Read the Tea Leaves

Loose Leaf Tea Sparrows (Stray Dog) Coffee 1-6-08 2292
Image by Steve Depolo

“Your attitude should be large or small according to the situation. Upper, Lower and Middle attitudes are decisive. Left Side and Right Side attitudes are fluid.” Musashi.

To be successful in strategy, one must be able to assess the situation, which in turn determines your approach. This requires research to garner a basic knowledge of the marketplace dynamics and stakeholder motivations. By assessing this data, a strategist should see obvious paths towards attaining desired outcomes, and choose the one that is most likely to succeed with the resources at hand.

In social media, the meme is to listen before participation, content marketing and other actions. This is no different than focus groups in advertising or public relations, market research studies prior to product marketing, or competitive research in all fields. The market landscape, current attitudes and opportunities should be revealed in research.

Dell is one of the better modern examples of consistency when it comes to listening and research. From its original online reputation turnaround campaign Dell Listens to its current social command center efforts in Austin, the company constantly reads its community to anticipate response and direction.

2) Direct Community Interaction with Stakeholders

Lance Armstrong pre-Boston Marathon Event at Macys 6
Image by Stewart Dawson

“The Middle attitude is the heart of attitudes. If we look at strategy on a broad scale, the Middle attitude is the seat of the commander, with the other four attitudes following the commander.” Musashi

Whenever possible, marketers and communicators want to directly interact with their primary stakeholders. This is the best and fastest way to achieve an outcome, if it is mutually advantageous to all parties. Whether that is sales, donations, input on ideas, agreements on civil action, public resolutions of customer or donor issues, customer reviews, or other actions, direct communications are more likely to produce outcomes.

One of the great benefits of social media to the strategist is the ability to build relationships and conduct direct interactions. Direct community interaction through conversation is one of the most powerful Middle Attitudes that a strategist can take.The travesty of the media form has been the use of it like a PR newswire or advertising media, when these media clearly lend themselves to different tasks.

Other direct interactions include a true opt-in email list (in some cases a preferred interaction to social media for core community members), live events like conferences and trade shows, and direct mail. Some of these approaches are more effective than others, and depend on execution. Integrating several approaches may be necessary for success.

One of the best examples of direct community engagement remains the Lance Armstrong Foundation via its LIVESTRONG brand. From its very visible Facebook, Twitter and blog efforts to its grassroots fundraising platform, email efforts, and experimental marketing via platforms like Gowalla, LIVESTRONG consistently directly engages its community with great successes.

3) Top Down Influence Approaches

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

Image by Joi

“In the second approach with the long sword, from the Upper attitude cut the enemy just as he attacks… In this method there are various changes in timing and spirit.” Musashi

The Upper attitude is one where media and influencers are used to “inform” the marketplace about the right direction. One addresses the marketplace from a position of authority, in essence hoping that the position of media voices and bloggers are enough to trickle down to the community and persuade it.

This has varying levels of success depending on the communicating organization’s position of trust within the community. When an organization has a prominent place in the market and is trusted, it is likely that the approach will be accepted easily. Apple masters this approach better than any company or nonprofit in the marketplace. Consider how Apple successfully uses blogs to leak information, media to report on blogs and vice versa. Every product announcement is like watching a symphony.

When trust is not in place, dissent occurs. Both Facebook and Komen suffer from dissent because they are not fully trusted.

If an organization does not have either a prominent place or trust, than at best influence can buy the entity an opportunity at success. Quora’s hype bubble and subsequent reduction in traffic, and Jumo’s unsuccessful launch are both examples of the inherent weakness in this approach.

Top down PR and PR 2.0 approaches are good as a primary tactical direction when an organization can dominate a market, or cannot engage with its community directly. Otherwise it should be used as a tactic to galvanize a community within a larger strategy.

4) The Groundswell

Tahrir Square Country
Image by magdinio20

“In the third approach, adopt the Lower attitude, anticipating scooping up. When the enemy attacks, hit his hands from below.” Musashi

A more powerful, yet difficult approach to successfully garnering strong community interaction is the Groundswell, as first discussed in concept by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. The Groundswell and its Technographics ladder helped dissect online grassroots actions, but really word of mouth and grassroots efforts occur just as frequently offline as online. A synergy between both is ideal as the Obama presidential and GOP 2010 midterm elections have shown us.

To successfully influence a market using a groundswell, one most focus on both content creators and critics (commenters). Both have voices, and as they continue to speak they create momentum that trickles up until the heart of the community is abuzz. There are a variety of ways to achieve groundswells and word of mouth, including David Sifry’s Magic Middle theory on the social webs, a trickle up media relations theory via trade press to influence mainstream press, and the use of community gatherings to drive larger community and media attention.

In many ways, the Middle East uprisings with their blend of community protests, behind the scenes, organizing, social media peer-to-peer networking activities, and blogging from outspoken dissidents created the most powerful groundswell we have seen since Europe’s nationalist revolutions of the 19th century. On the for-profit side, one of the greatest examples of word of mouth is Zappos.

This is a hard strategy that requires time, patience and constant effort. Do not assume you can achieve it over night. It takes practice.

5) Flanking Techniques

“Left and Right attitudes should be used if there is an obstruction overhead or to one side.” Musashi

The techniques discussed so far — the middle, top and bottom — are from the social, public relations, networking or direct marketing disciplines. But sometimes there is no community in place at all, no way to engage with the media, and/or there may not be time or the means to use a direct approach. This could be because of lack of market attention as a start-up, the need to circumnavigate an entrenched market leader, or other market factors, such as restraining communications or legal policies.

It is in such times when flanking techniques such as advertising, content marketing or SEO must become a primary thrust for a communications effort. BP’s failed communications effort last year — grounded in ethics issues and fear of liability claims — resorted to advertising and SEO placement to combat negative publicity about the Deep Horizon oil spill.

Perhaps a better example is Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad. The Chrysler product deservedly suffers in market perception, and the acclaimed Eminem ad may have bought the car company an opportunity for reconsideration. While there is good reason to be skeptical of the car company based on the overall product, given the handicaps at play, this ad did more than almost any other communications technique could have for Chrysler‘s chances.

All of these strategies work best when integrated as part of a holistic campaign, but invariably one technique or another is the primary lead for an effort. In addition, the Water Book has many more interpretative lessons to offer from bearing and stance to specific tactical technique.

Related Reading

Strategy Lessons: The Ground Book

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Online Cause Marketing

The above presentation was delivered to the Cause Marketing Forum last Tuesday, February 15. It focused on lessons learned integrating social media into cause marketing campaigns, and how the influx of conversations requires a new level of authenticity from causes and nonprofits.

All of the campaigns featured were from 2010 or 2011 with the exception of one (Haagen Dazs). Here is a discussion of three of the campaigns, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly featured in the first half of the presentation.

The Good: AMEX’s Small Business Saturday

Eastwood good ugly

American Express launched its Small Business Saturday campaign to encourage Americans to purchase from small businesses the day after Black Friday. Primarily a Facebook effort, AMEX integrated the application with a media push that included a launch with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as a Twitter campaign.

For every Fan Page “Like” up to 500,000 (the page surpassed 1.4 million), AMEX gave a $1 donation to Girls, Inc. to foster female entrepreneurship. Small businesses were featured on the page, and 10,000 small business owners received $100 worth of social advertising from Facebook.

The campaign had a lot to like about it: There was an obvious tie to American Express’s business, demonstrating authenticity. The effort integrated media relations, online advertising, and influencers and Twitter, all in addition to the strong use of the Facebook application. There were several great calls to action including a like turned into a dollar for Girls, Inc.; in exchange for signing up and spending, consumers got a discount; and using the wall to share small business stories, which along with Twitter encouraged participation and engagement.

The only possible improvements would be extending it beyond a moment in time, and making it a sustainable effort. In addition, there was too much focus on Facebook as the final destination with not enough traffic driving back to the AMEX site.

The Bad: Groupon’s Super Bomb

Van Cleef Good Ugly l

Not much more needs to be said about Groupon’s series of “humanitarian” ads. An attempt to make fun of American consumerism, the ads just insulted a good portion of the country, not to mention the Chinese government. In addition to the questionable creative, numerous tactical errors were made making Groupon’s 2011 Super Bowl ads one of the worst cause marketing campaigns ever.

No call to action helping the charities was present in the ads, and Groupon did not include an obvious URL. There was no explanation of the ideas behind the ads on Groupon’s social channels. When the blogosphere blew up, Groupon did not address concerns, instead it justified the attempted joke on their blog. Further, Groupon did not engage bloggers directly, and disregarded feedback. It took four days of mounting criticism for the company to pull the ads.

The Ugly: KFC’s Buckets for the Cure

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While selling a lot of buckets of chicken for charity ($8 million donated), this partnership had issues due to the tie between Komen’s mission to cure breast cancer, and KFC producing fatty foods. Komen’s own site had research demonstrating obesity as a precursor for older women developing breast cancer. This represents a larger issue where a nonprofit and company choose money over strategic partnerships, dancing with the wrong partner and degrading brand value.

When people put two and two together, bad blog posts started popping up. This campaign went from being a lethal generosity win for both parties to a full on blogodrama.

Here’s a breakdown of the good and the bad on the Buckets for the Cure: First of all financially, it has to be considered a win. Lots of chicken sold and money raised. But it was poorly engineered from the get-go as the Komen web site contradicted the campaign with its research. There was no explanation of why Komen chose KFC as a partner, and what they hope the relationship demonstrated.

Then there was no major social media component, but social media ended up being a key media set when bloggers took to their WordPresses. The good was that KFC engaged directly with bloggers and probably made friends, stopping the bad publicity from spreading too far. However, Komen completely ignored it, and 2010 and 2011 acts have continued to negatively impact their online and offline reputation.

Conclusion

Again, the whole presentation is above, but here are the concluding points for online cause marketers:

  • Civic media is the great opportunity to embrace customer voices
  • It can also turn on us
  • To avoid worst case scenarios, cause marketing campaigns need better engineering
  • Campaigns need authenticity mapping to corporate cultures and ethos
  • Use the tools to connect dots for stakeholders
  • Have your own site, use Facebook and Twitter for In AND Outbound
  • Empower stakeholders to participate, embrace and own your story
  • Be prepared for the ugly, and evolve (two way dialogue)