During a normal year, there are few things I look forward to more than attending a conference. The chance to polish my skillset, learn something new, and expand my network? I’m in. But this year, we’re all feeling the lingering impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. My office is now a dedicated corner in my master bedroom, my closest coworkers include my child and rescue dog, and I’ve learned firsthand that virtual meeting fatigue is a real thing. Fortunately for me, when I was starting to feel the lull, I crossed paths with the American Marketing Association’s Nonprofit and Cause Marketing Virtual Conference.

Over the years, Well Done Marketing has worked closely with various causes, industries, and nonprofit organizations, and as we work with these clients, we act as extensions of their cause and company. However, during the current pandemic, cause marketing has been elevated at an exponential speed.

What is cause marketing?

Unlike nonprofits that are solely committed to addressing a social issue, cause marketing is an initiative spearheaded typically within a for-profit company that benefits that company and an identified cause they’re passionate about. There are now critical needs in our state and beyond that nonprofit and cause-related marketing initiatives are trying to meet. Some of those needs are specific to poverty, housing, homelessness, food insecurity, social justice, and beyond. This conference not only validated the ways we’re creatively innovating to support our causes and those of our clients, but provided fresh perspectives too.

It starts with knowing your purpose.

According to Artis Stevens, chief marketing officer for the National 4-H Council, “62% of consumers choose brands because they represent their ethical values.” Marketing professionals: Everyone in your company and your constituents have to know what you stand for and proudly promote your cause. Target audiences are looking for companies to actively gain their trust before they invest in you, and building your purpose as an integral part of your brand is how you best prepare for challenging times—like, during a global pandemic.

At Well Done Marketing, we’ve seen this play out with Hancock Health’s commitment to making health possible for Hancock County and beyond. (See here or here to catch up.) This commitment is years in the making, so when coronavirus arrived in Hancock County, residents turned to the voice they trusted to gain critical information—Hancock Health. Within a two-week period, our agency was able to build a dedicated landing page, proactively pitch media partners, and integrate important messaging into Hancock Health’s robust social media presence to debunk inaccuracies, provide important community updates, and inform audiences how to prevent the spread of the virus.

The landing page provides important and timely information about how the hospital is handling COVID-19, and prompts people to sign up for regular email updates. Since that page was created in March, it has averaged a 7.6% conversion rate for those sign-ups, well above the healthcare industry average conversion rate of 2.9%. Hancock has also experienced robust quarterly growth on its Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter pages. But what’s most important to note here is that this success would have been difficult, if not impossible, without the trust Hancock Health had already built within its community. Instead of the Governor’s Office or Indiana State Department of Health, two of the largest, most visible entities working to fight COVID-19, Hancock Health’s constituents wanted to hear from the healthcare system they trusted for care long before the virus arrived.

Integrating your organization’s purpose requires your purpose to be identified, clearly communicated, and included in everything you do.

Prioritize your digital strategy.

When Michi Gupta, digital strategist with Lipman Hearne, started her presentation, I was immediately hooked. Here’s how she instantly caught my attention:

Twitter usage, Instagram story viewership, and email open rates are higher than ever before—a direct impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left people at home searching for ways to connect with those outside of their homes. The digital trends are there, so the question is: How can marketing teams start thinking digital-first? Digital-first doesn’t mean digital exclusive, but it does mean that organizations must push to drive innovation and creativity in the use of their digital channels as a primary tactic for reaching audiences.

Since I arrived at Well Done Marketing, I’ve had the pleasure of managing Indiana Legal Services’ (ILS) public relations. (More on that here.) Heading into 2020, our relationship expanded to include management of their social media channels. We couldn’t have predicted at the start of the year just how important their social channels would become.

Prior to the pandemic, ILS rarely used their social media channels. However, as the pandemic spread across Indiana, they quickly realized the impact the virus would have on Hoosiers already struggling to make ends meet. In early March, I worked very closely with the ILS team to build coronavirus-specific website landing pages, and then repurposed that critical information into smaller blurbs for use across their Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter pages. The key was in shaping and displaying content in a way that best fit each platform. The results of providing digestible and accessible information directly to audiences has been astounding.

On Facebook specifically, ILS has seen:

  • A 24% increase in page growth from January to May,
  • An average of 605.5 page views per month,
  • A post reach average of 38,802, which is an increase of 1,000% over the previous period,
  • And a total post engagement average of 6,388.5.

Though ILS is a nonprofit organization, they are best described as a team of lawyers working to connect those in need with critical services across the state. And just as Michi G. outlined, their creative and quick work to mobilize their social media channels helped them reach audiences in real-time with the critical information.

Prior to COVID-19, many nonprofits saw social media as a necessary function of their organizations, but those excelling in the digital space have reframed their strategies to cut through the digital noise and reach their audiences with relevant, engaging content. Social media leaders in the cause marketing space will continue to be those that creatively innovate and find meaningful ways to connect with their audiences.

Let’s Connect

While these are the two trends that stuck with me the most, this conference refreshed my thoughts around marketing in general. If you’re not feeling Zoom fatigue and want to schedule a digital coffee to connect, tweet me at @CaseyNCawthon. I’d love to hear how you’re working to keep your marketing fresh, inspired, and innovative.