How Charitable Partnerships Can Boost a Brand’s Profile

We’ve talked before about the importance of community impact for businesses both large and small. In any community, there are a wide array of ways to get involved and help improve that community for those living and working in it.

Forming charitable partnerships is another way to get involved and improve the community around a business. Of course, businesses can provide support in ways that individuals cannot to a nonprofit or charity. But these partnerships should always be done with tact and taste — the opposite effect can easily happen if a move is done for seemingly ulterior motives.

Finding the Right Charitable Partnership

When selecting a charitable partnership for a business, there are many things to consider. One of these factors is what charity or nonprofit to partner with. Here are some considerations for this decision:

  •     Core values and mission of the business
  •     Nonprofits that align with these core values naturally
  •     Reputation of nonprofit and of the supporting business
  •     Required budget to support a charitable partnership
  •     End goal of charitable partnership

Core values lie at the heart of a business’ purpose. These values are important. They give consumers a look at the belief and value systems of those in executive positions, and they provide a roadmap of how a business conducts itself in public dealings.

With that in mind, it’s equally important for a business to align itself with a nonprofit that also values the same ideas. The purpose and mission of the nonprofit must also make sense. For example, a leather goods company may not look the best if it were to support PETA, nor would PETA be likely to accept their partnership proposal. This is, of course, an extreme example, but it shows that a partnership should be genuine, not self-serving or just “for looks”.

Forming a Charitable Partnership

Once a business has selected a nonprofit to enter into a partnership with, it’s time to figure out exactly what that partnership is going to look like.

Not every partnership has to look the same. Remember, this has to be a beneficial arrangement for both the business and, more importantly, for the nonprofit. Whether the support is financial, in the form of volunteer help, or other services provided, it’s important to set clear expectations and guidelines for the new partnership. Contracts are helpful in this situation, to protect all parties involved.

Before jumping in, take the time to form a strategy about how a business can best assist a nonprofit. Perhaps a marketing agency can offer its services to a local animal shelter each month. Or maybe an event planning portal can donate a portion of the proceeds to local community programs in an effort to create a safer neighborhood in which to host events. Maybe a local consultant can jump on board to help plan a fundraiser for a nonprofit. The possibilities are endless!

Finding creative ways to help out is important too — it doesn’t always have to just be about writing a big check. In fact, finding other ways to get involved is often even more helpful, especially for under-staffed nonprofits.

Aligning business with a nonprofit is a smart move for many reasons, but the biggest motivator should always be the betterment of community or the helping of others. From this motivation can come a great, fulfilling partnership on both sides.

First, Ask: “Is it Worth it?”

When the manager of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia decided to ask White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave before her party had a meal, Stephanie Wilkinson knew there would be consequences… But were those consequences worth the momentary feelings of justification that prompted the ouster?

That’s a question that will continue to be answered in the coming weeks and months as customers decide to cast their votes with their wallets. Already, though, lines have been drawn and decisions have been made as a result of the “you’re not welcome” that turned into national news.

By all accounts, the ladies, Wilkinson and Sanders, were polite during the brief interaction. No one tried to cause a scene or create a photo op. Sanders and her group quietly left, and Wilkinson returned her attention to her other guests. But that was far from the end of it. By the next morning, the incident was national news, and consumers across the country, as well as in Lexington, were taking sides.

Whatever happens next, the operative question is, “Will it be worth it?” Wilkinson has already chosen to resign her position as executive director of Lexington’s Main Street business alliance. The position is pivotal to the success of multiple downtown businesses, and protesters were threatening consequences for Main Street if the organization continued to support Wilkinson.

And that is only the beginning. Like it or not, Wilkinson has become a talking point and a figure to hold up, either to laud or berate. Wilkinson, for her part, is sticking by her reasons, telling the Washington Post she made the call because, she believes, Sanders works for an “inhumane and unethical” administration.

Those qualifiers are certainly not going to endear her to Trump voters, who are likely to have already scratched Red Hen off their dinner possibilities list. This choice was supported by the President who, in his characteristic way, unleashed on Wilkinson via Twitter, calling the exterior of the restaurant “filthy,” and declaring, “if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!”

Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Virginia began circulating a boycott petition. And those were just the obvious potential consequences of Wilkinson’s decision. There are cascading unintended consequences as well. Red Hen restaurants across the country are taking hits on social media and on Yelp reviews. At least 10 different Red Hen restaurants not affiliated, at all, with Wilkinson’s restaurant, have come out and asked people to stop trolling them, calling them, or leaving harsh Google or Yelp reviews.

For these business owners, they are now forced to respond to the PR crisis version of guilt by association… even though they are not actually associated. And that’s one of the biggest consequences to consider if you plan to spark consumer rage about a social issue. Understand that rage has to be directed somewhere… and that mobs, in public or online, are difficult to predict.

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Microsoft Answers Discrimination Complaints

In the heat of the Silicon Valley sexual discrimination PR crisis accusers and victims began compiling lists of individuals who were serial harassers and companies that were reputed to foster environments that allowed or ignored harassment or gender discrimination. As the list of big names grew, eventually, Microsoft was added.

Microsoft vociferously denied the allegations, yet they continued to pour in. Eventually, court cases topped 100 counts of gender discrimination. The cases continued to wind through the legal process, and Microsoft took a beating in the press and on social media, even as the company was working to refit its image from a desktop hardware provider to an industry innovator in the digital age of tablets and cloud computing.

The complaints were lodged by female employees who worked in tech jobs at the company between 2010 and 2016. As the complaints came in, Microsoft conducted an internal investigation. Now, the Associated Press is reporting that Microsoft has announced finding only one case out of the 118 to have substantive reason for the allegations.

As these findings have been released to the media, Microsoft has also come out and fundamentally denied any systemic bias in the company. They argue their employee-review process is fair and not tainted by gender bias.

As Microsoft draws its lines and makes its denials, the lawsuits continue. Plaintiffs in the gender discrimination suit want class-action status, claiming that more than 8,000 women lost out on hundreds of millions in pay due to their gender. That status has yet to be granted, and Microsoft continues to vigorously deny any large-scale discrimination ever took place.

Regardless of the facts of the case, which have yet to be made public, the allegations leave an impression. Several other top tech executives have left jobs or been in the headlines over gender issues or harassment, and more than a few high-profile companies in the tech sector have admitted issues in their culture. That leaves a consumer public more apt to believe the allegations than the defense, even before the facts are known. So, as Microsoft is defending its legal rights in court, the company still has to protect its brand in the marketplace.

This fact is also a warning to all tech sector companies to be careful about having their own good name tarnished by an overarching impression about the industry as a whole being a “boy’s club.” Consumers have an impression, bolstered by proven or admitted claims, and this impression puts brands in the position of having to protect themselves from guilt by association.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations.

California Says Wells Fargo Responsible for Fake Insurance Policies

The journey back to a positive reputation in the consumer market has hit another snag for Wells Fargo. After the fake account scandal damaged the company’s credibility, Wells Fargo could not seem to avoid subsequent fallout. Now, there’s more bad news for the bank. California authorities have accused Wells Fargo of charging customers for insurance policies they didn’t ask for and didn’t want. The allegations have come after a year-long investigation that turned up about 1,500 life and renter’s insurance policies that were, according to investigators, “unauthorized.” Continue reading →