Those Stories About Your Brand’s ‘Social Impact’ Are A Waste Of Time – And Money

Those Stories About Your Brand’s ‘Social Impact’ Are A Waste Of Time – And Money
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Lauren Quaintance (pictured below) is co-founder and managing director of content agency Storyation. In her latest post for B&T, Quaintance offers expert tips for brands aiming for a woke message…

Recently one of the more prolific content marketing commentators in the US declared that social impact storytelling was “the hottest content trend of 2021”.

The argument goes that the under-40 set are behind this shift with 83 per cent of Millennials saying that it’s important for the companies they buy from to align with their beliefs and values.

The 2021 version of Edelman’s annual trust barometer also shows that businesses are now more trusted than government in 17 of 27 countries surveyed so there is clearly room for brands to lead on social issues.

And importantly for content marketers a recent survey said that people are more likely to buy from a brand after reading a story about the positive impact it’s having on the world.

But before everyone rushes out to write or shoot a story about their company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, let me play devil’s advocate.

At Storyation we work with more than 35 clients across a range of industries from insurance to hospitality to technology.

We see their analytics and I can tell you that some of the worst performing content I’ve seen is about corporate charitable partnerships and CSR.

Granted there are good and bad stories in this category but at its worst it’s blatantly self-promotional – a press release or an advertisement dressed up as content with little regard for what the audience wants.

It’s the opposite of what we advise brands to do: talk about yourself sparingly.

How then do I explain the survey results that show people are more likely to buy from a brand after reading a story about its good works?

Well, one of the things I learned as a magazine editor whose job involved listening to focus groups is that what people say they want to read and what people actually read are two different things.

While I don’t question that Millennials (and many others) are more likely to buy from brands who do good in the world I don’t think that necessarily means they want to read or watch stories produced by the brand about their CO2 impact or donations to a local homeless shelter.

Instead, a better strategy is to use the power of your company’s content marketing (and its budget) to shine a light on people and businesses that are making a positive impact in a way that aligns with your brand values.

That’s exactly what Patagonia does. Yes, it occasionally uses its platforms to announce its own (excellent) initiatives, but the bulk of its content is about activists and environmentalists who share its view of the world.

Closer to home AMI Insurance (a Storyation client in New Zealand) has been celebrating acts of kindness or manaakitanga through its content, the kind of big and small acts that make the country a better place to live.

This aligns with AMI’s brand positioning, of course, but it also elevates the insurer’s content from self-serving to something that is worthy of attention.

If that’s what social impact storytelling means then I’m all for it.

 

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