One of the more storied brands in cause marketing online has been Tyson Foods with its Hunger Relief program. For the past three years, the company has focused on adding value to the community of those engaged in the fight against hunger by utilizing in-kind donations and social media resources to create awareness of hunger and those involved in the issue.
Tysons has used the tools in a particularly effective fashion allowing the company to be authentically engaged in the cause. In 2007, Tyson created an online presence with its Hunger Relief site based on a WordPress. In 2008, a Twitter account was opened (@TysonFoods) focusing on hunger relief, and in late 2009, a Facebook page. Images are also posted on Flickr and video on a YouTube channel.
A central component of the company’s involvement in the issue is the donation of 8-10 million pounds of protein to hunger and disaster relief each year. Tyson strives to leverage the donations by creating tactics that increase awareness and engagement in the issue.
In 2008, the company began engaging Twitter users by generating donations based on Twitter activity. In the first such effort, Tyson worked with the Social Media Club of Austin (TX), 501 Tech Club of Austin, and the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. The company offered to donate 100 pounds of food, up to a 35,000 truckload, for every comment on this blog post providing hunger statistics for the Austin area, and a connection to the food bank. The 350 comments to fill the truck were received in less than four hours, with more than 650 comments coming in altogether (Tyson did add another truckload after the first was filled). Similar efforts have occurred in Boston, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Tyson has also leveraged in-kind donations with two collaborative efforts with Scott Henderson, both conducted around Austin’s South by Southwest Interactive festival. In 2009, Tyson, Media Sauce and others launched the Pledge to End Hunger, a virtual food drive in which a truckload of food was donated to each of five states that had the most people who went online to sign a Pledge to End Hunger, agreeing to donate food or funds or share information about hunger.
In 2010, the effort was expanded into WeCanEndThis, a multi-faceted program that included not only the digital can drive (this time with truckload donations going to ten states), but cause lab at the SXSWi festival, which brought together innovative thinkers in a day-long session focused on applying new approaches to ending hunger.
Tyson also a great number of its 107,000 domestic involved in the issue in an internal program branded “Powering the Spirit.” In addition to volunteering with local hunger relief providers, the employees raise funds for hunger relief efforts in their own communities.
In addition to creating new awareness of the issue of hunger, Tyson has engaged the existing community of those involved in the issue, with online connections and discussion. A list of “Hunger Twitterers” was first posted on the blog in 2009, and has grown to more than 150 members. To date, thousands of Tyson employees have become involved in the company’s hunger relief efforts, from volunteering at local food banks, to conducting fundraising efforts on behalf of hunger relief in their own communities.
From a marketing perspective, the company significantly increased online visibility hunger relief efforts. “Comment for Food” efforts generated more than 4100 comments on the Tyson Hunger Relief Web site. The Tyson Twitter account now has more than 6000 followers.
More than 40 blog entries about the company’s hunger efforts, including an “Innovative Giving” post in Fast Company Online and a piece in the Huffington Post. Online efforts have also strengthened mainstream media efforts, all of which generated more than 168 million impressions in 2009.
When asked about what he thought the biggest takeways from Tyson Foods Hunger Relief effort were, Ed Nicholson, Director of Community and Public Relations, Tyson Foods, Inc. said “Shine the spotlight on the cause and what others are doing, rather than yourself. It will generally reflect favorably back on you. Pound-for-pound, authentic engagement trumps cash. And you probably have resources the cause needs desperately, even if it isn’t money.”
Special thanks to Scott Henderson for his help in getting in touch with Ed at Tyson Foods.