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A Good Influence: How to Use Influencers to Promote Your CSR Initiatives

A Good Influence: How to Use Influencers to Promote Your CSR Initiatives

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think influencer marketing? I bet it’s not corporate social responsibility. It’s true that influencers are often used to promote consumer goods and we think of them as a promotional effort, but you would be surprised at how effective an influencer campaign can be to promote your company’s philanthropic efforts and sustainability programs.

Promoting the good your company is doing in the world is pretty much mandatory nowadays. It improves your public image, attracts and retains both investors and employees, and can influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. There’s no denying the fact that it makes good business sense. After all 92% of consumers say they have a more positive image of a company when the company supports a social or environmental issue. In fact, 76% of young people said they have purchased or would consider purchasing a brand or product to show support for the issues the brand supported. This is nothing to sneeze at considering that by 2020, Gen Z will account for about 40% of all customers.

Since opening its doors in 2009, Everywhere Agency has worked with multiple brands such as Macy’s, Cox Enterprises and Coca-Cola on influencer campaigns aimed at promoting CSR initiatives. Why are influencers such an effective way of marketing those efforts? According to Joanna Coker, Communications Specialist at Cox Enterprises, “Influencers are everyday experts who have built an audience around their passions and authentic point of view. At Cox, we’ve found real value in partnering with influencers who take a vested interest in our corporate social responsibility platform. They’re the ideal storytellers to share our legacy of responsible business and shed light on new, innovative programs.” In short, not only do influencers have a large and engaged audience, but they are also a trusted voice in their communities.

There are a number of different ways to incorporate influencers into promoting your social responsibility and sustainability initiatives, but here’s what you need to consider before diving in.

What is your goal?

The first thing you’ll want to do is decide what you’re hoping to accomplish by engaging influencers. Are you simply trying to boost awareness of your CSR program? Is there a specific piece of editorial or video you want to push out? Are you looking to raise funds for a cause? Are you hoping to gather content to reuse on your own social channels? Being specific about what you want to achieve will help you determine the answers to all the other questions you need to answer below, as well as measure success at the end of your campaign.

Who are the right influencers?

Next, you’ll have to decide which influencers to engage. The exact influencers that you use will depend on a multitude of factors – your objectives, target audience, content theme, etc. The key is to select the right person to be your advocate – and not just the one with the biggest following. You’ll want people who are truly passionate about your initiatives and have a history of writing similar content. Leticia Barr, the blogger behind Tech Savvy Mama has worked on multiple CSR influencer campaigns over the past 10 years with brands such as Walgreens, Always, and Macy’s.

As an experienced influencer, she makes sure that any project she signs on to is consistent with her brand. When asked about how she knows if a specific company’s CSR initiative will resonate with her followers, she says: “If you look at the types of CSR initiatives that I’ve covered in the past, they align with technology, education, and parenting content I write about on my blog. As a former classroom teacher, I’m passionate about access to education for girls around the world and children’s charities who make this a priority. Since I write a lot about technology, my readers always love knowing how tech companies are supporting STEM education.” Influencers that care about your CSR initiatives will likely have an audience that does too.

What type of content are you looking for?

The deliverables of the campaign will largely depend on your answer to the first question – what you are trying to accomplish.

In general, blog posts are great way to have influencers create content that will live on after the campaign is over and give your company some everlasting digital real estate. It is also content that you can repurpose on your website and social channels. Blog posts allow influencers to weave your messages into a larger story that will resonate with their audience. A great example of this is a blog post written by Diane Hoffmaster, the influencer behind green living blog Turning the Clock Back. She connected Cox Enterprises’ messaging about their solar farms to advice on finding jobs with companies that care about the environment. As attracting talent is one of Cox Enterprises’ goals in addition to promoting their solar initiatives, this type of content worked very well.

View of Cox Enterprises Solar Farm in Jacksonville, Florida

You’ll most likely also want influencers to create social content to drive more traffic to their blog posts. However, you may choose to bypass blog posts altogether and do a social only campaign if it aligns better with your goals, such as driving traffic to a specific piece of editorial on your website, promoting a video, or driving attendance to an event. Facebook is great for videos (see this post by Diane as an example). Twitter is great for short and shareable content such as any relevant stats or interesting facts, as well as news pieces. Instagram is more catered toward beautiful imagery, while Instagram Stories work well for bite-size video content (think under 20 seconds!).

Are there other options you should be exploring?

Don’t get me wrong – blog posts and social shares an effective way to promote your CSR initiatives. However, there are other ways to engage influencers that you should consider. You can provide experiences that allow influencers to create great content and invite their followers to attend an event or follow along via live stream if applicable.

If you’re hosting a charity event for example, influencers can serve as social media correspondents via Instagram Live or Facebook Live on their social channels or your own. This is a great way to allow people that aren’t present to get a glimpse into your event and grow your social following. They can also provide tours of facilities to engage their audience. Heineken hired millennial vlogger Ben Brown to give his audience a tour of its Gössner zero carbon brewery. By leveraging his unique voice, they were able to show off their sustainability practices in a way the appealed to millennials.

Recently, Everywhere Agency crafted an influencer campaign promoting Georgia-Pacific’s commitment to being both a good business and a good neighbor. Nine North Florida influencers were given a rare behind-the-scenes look at their local mill where cellulose used by brands like Dixie and Quilted Northern is produced. Influencers used their visits to educate their audiences on Georgia-Pacific’s sustainable mill practices, commitment to employing locally, and preserving Florida’s natural resources through thoughtful content such as this blog post by Chris Cate of Parent Normal.

Many influencers are also subject matter experts. You could ask an influencer to act as an event host or moderate a panel. For her partnership with Always and Wal-Mart, Leticia Barr moderated a panel of amazing women at their STEM Academy kick off. This allowed her to lend her experience and knowledge of STEM to the brands’ initiative, as well as create great content for her blog and social channels to further promote the brands’ efforts.

Not only can influencer marketing be easily adapted to your specific goals, but it’s also a really powerful way to showcase all your company does to make the world a better place.

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