It’s time for leaders to be “real and raw,” giving voice to a collective message that we are in this COVID-19 fight together. Clarity, facts, global storytelling, themes of humanity, togetherness, and hope are what inspire me, and what I look for in evaluating messages of diverse leaders, including companies.
The One World: Together at Home concert provided great lessons on communications and leadership. The experience connected to what we all need in our lives no matter our age – strong leaders, role models, ongoing learning, and tangible ways to make a difference. Three incredible hosts (Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Steven Colbert) led us on a journey to: appreciate the selfless work and ongoing heroism of front-line healthcare and essential workers across the globe; continue to learn the facts about COVID-19 and actions we need to take to save lives; understand the importance of patience as the scientific community tirelessly works on treatments and vaccines; and just have plain fun listening to all genres of music and lyrics to bring us together in one powerful evening.
It did not go unnoticed that many companies, including P&G, Target and J&J and other philanthropic leaders such as the Rockefeller Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies paid for the show and had their quick moment of storytelling. These corporate brands have clear business reasons to be a part of this effort, and many also have decades and decades of commitments to investing and addressing critical social issues. They have experienced and robust communications teams that know how to rally consumers and other stakeholders to take action around causes.
Applying a brand’s voice and marketing muscle behind societal needs is not a new idea. It is a strategy that we need now more than ever as companies big and small become a part of how we live and re-enter into a new world post COVID-19.
As companies and other organizations evaluate, shift and determine their signature social impact efforts, here are some approaches to consider. Yes, they may seem obvious, but these are some best practices that we need to keep coming back to:
Assess which assets you can leverage:
Every company, no matter the size and type of industry, has human and communications assets that it can leverage in its COVID-19 specific efforts and with its other cause-related work. These assets include employee talent and skills, marketing channels and reach, business partners and nonprofit relationships. When watching the concert it was clear that the artists, producers, and TV networks leveraged their assets and what they do best — engaging their production and on-air talent, pulling in business partners and sponsors, and connecting with celebrities to architect a dynamic evening of information, entertainment, and hope. Get creative and find ways to apply your companies diverse communications and leadership assets to advance your social impact efforts.
Choose a leader with a point of view:
We all need trusted leaders to turn to for information, inspiration and direction. These people need to be open, honest, and authentically passionate about the social issue and their role and share a point of view. Saturday night, we saw leaders from the World Health Organization, United Nations, universities, hospitals, local nonprofits and the entertainment world come together with a clear message. Companies also need trusted leaders out front who are transparent with their internal and external stakeholders as they communicate their decision-making and work around COVID-19 and other causes. As you determine or confirm who your leader will be for your social impact efforts, make sure you spend time listening for and capturing his/her point of view and vision for how he/she will participate in the conversation and inspire others to action.
Craft key messages with a call-to-action:
What is your company’s approach to addressing issues related to COVID-19? What other social issue(s) does your company focus on and how? What is your call-to-action for how your employees and others can get involved? It sounds easy to have a clear and compelling story to share, however many companies do not take the time to write their own unique social impact message track that is clear, simple and shared among all key audiences. Yes, this is back to the basics but as you find ways to be a part of the COVID-19 fight, other societal conversations and transition to 2021 planning, crisp, consistent messaging will be more important than ever. Check out act.me as an example of how Global Citizen and the WHO engage audiences in its campaign.
And, while you are embracing this important communications social impact work, let’s listen to the voices of Elton John, The Rolling Stones, and John Legend from Saturday’s program, Spotify Playlist. Let’s remember the images of nurses and doctors who find energy to dance as they help thousands fight for their lives and remind ourselves that we will get through this together!
Onward with positivity.