Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Lost Benefits Of Cause Marketing

At the 2008 DNC Convention in Denver, Barack Obama officially became the Democrats’ nominee for president and he electrified an 85,000 plus crowd at Invesco Field with his acceptance speech. It was a moment of historic significance reminiscent of the precedent setting “I Have A Dream” speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall 45 years ago. That history, both past and present, was recognized by radio as 38 Clear Channel stations from multiple formats joined forces with the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial for the “Build The Dream” Radiothon. It was especially symbolic, indeed significant, that Barack Obama’s historic speech coincided with the 45th anniversary Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream Speech.” In-sync with the mood of the day, the “Build The Dream” Radiothon not only celebrated the legacy of Dr. King, but it also amplified the reflections and hopes of many leading up to Barack’s historic night.

Spearheaded by SVP of Urban Programming Doc Wynter, Clear Channel Radio had the foresight and commitment to take up the King cause creating the largest radiothon in the company’s history. At a time when the broadcasting industry as a whole is experiencing financial and competitive pressures, this cause marketing effort demonstrates one thing we tend to forget:

Radio is always at its best when it remains committed to positively impacting the communities that it serves, and supporting cause marketing campaigns, like the “Build A Dream” Radiothon, improves the station’s image in the community and creates exposure that’s more cost-effective and more memorable than advertising.

With the current negative advertising environment, station marketing and promotions budgets are becoming increasingly tighter. Every line item is under more scrutiny, including the advertising and research dollars used to attract, understand, manage and grow cume. More than ever, radio executives are seeking creative and efficient ways to reach and engage their audiences. And stepping up cause marketing efforts can help in a major way.

Before the consolidation era, the FCC required stations to do “ascertainment” studies to uncover and address issues and needs impacting their communities. As that responsibility was lifted, many stations – and I might add, to the detriment of their ratings performance, revenues and relationships in the community – no longer took their commitment to community seriously, removing their focus from the true issues and concerns of people they were licensed to serve.

If you’re broadcasting on the public airwaves, how can you gain your profits from the community, but choose not to reinvest those profits into your relationship with the people and causes in your community? While some have forgotten, stations that impact the community and win in the ratings have always known the answer:

Good business and community goodwill go hand in hand—if you resolve to make money AND make a difference.

Winning stations are all about community because they know their relationship with the community empowers their success. By continually replenishing the reservoir of goodwill they create in the community, winning stations make themselves big in the hearts and minds of consumers. In turn, that goodwill enables those difference-making stations to be sustained by their communities as the stations navigate through industry inflection points, economic downturns, increasing competition and down ratings books.

When your station is committed to making your community better, your brand will benefit because cause marketing connects you to your audience in a relevant and meaningful way. It amplifies your station’s core values and beliefs within your brand experience allowing your listeners to better relate to each other and your brand.

To further the case for cause marketing and quickly remind you of why it can be so beneficial to you and your station, here are ten reasons to get more involved and resolve to make a difference.

  1. You’re helping an organization that you truly believe in.
  2. You have a direct hand in helping others.
  3. Many times it can be fun and you learn more about your community.
  4. You strengthen in the public eye, the image of your station and employees.
  5. It is great publicity for the cause and your station, cluster or corporate organization.
  6. Cause marketing generates a feeling of goodwill towards non-profits and your station.
  7. Cause marketing often allows you to meet decision-makers, influencers and local celebrities in your community.
  8. It is a great way to encourage employees to share and give back to others.
  9. There are tax benefits of donating money, products or services.
  10. Oftentimes the exposure and feedback from alliances with community-based organizations is more cost effective and memorable than advertising.

As a part of your pre-Fall Book planning, make sure your checklist includes reevaluating or reestablishing your station’s cause marketing programs. The tremendous goodwill and exposure gained from your station participating in a good cause marketing campaign is priceless - and oftentimes free – if you’re willing to commit innovative ideas and people power to the cause.

As soon as you can, arrange an ideation session with your product and promotions teams to identify cause marketing opportunities that your station/cluster/company can link to: Opportunities that will not only increase your involvement and goodwill in the community, but also aid in the increase of your ratings and revenues this Fall.

By partnering with the right community organizations and clients to get behind the causes that are most relevant to your audience, you can extend your station’s reach into the community and ignite more intimacy and affinity between your brand and your listeners.

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