We at Yulu are the heart and minds behind Impact Relations, a new standard for authentic communications. Our “Guide to Impact Relations” blog series will explore what Impact Relations means today and how it has evolved over time, along with providing a framework for consulting, measuring, and communicating the impact of our communications strategies.
Applying Impact Relations
The following provides a framework on how to amplify the impact and measure the outcomes of communications campaigns.
There are three core pillars within the Impact Relations framework: Impact Consulting, Impact Assessment and Measurement, and Impact Storytelling and Strategic Communications. This three-pronged approach is recommended for planning and tracking the success of an Impact Relations strategy or campaign. However if your communications efforts don’t embody all three pillars outlined in our suggested framework, but the outcome of your consultancy and planning still results in positive social or environmental benefit through communications, it’s Impact Relations.
Impact Consulting – can anyone in PR do it?
Impact Consulting is the service that most differentiates a traditional public relations practitioner from an Impact Relations practitioner. To offer Impact Consultancy, communications professionals need to feel confident in the topic they are consulting on. The topics Impact Consultants counsel are as wide-ranging as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, from education and hunger, to equal rights and sustainability
As an Impact Relations consultant, it’s important to stay current on issues and solutions. The social impact landscape and its challenges are i ever-changing. It’s likely that the data and facts that influenced an impact strategy you created a year ago, are already outdated.
This is not to say that students can’t study this profession, and become an Impact Relations practitioner, but similarly to communications services such as crisis communications, or media training, Impact Consulting can be strengthened and refined through on-the-job training, and working alongside experts that have in-depth experience of offering Impact Consulting services. This training will help build confidence, sector expertise and ultimately improve the Impact Consultancy that practitioners offer.
The risks of executing Impact Consulting uninformed or inexperienced:
If a communications practitioner is not well-informed on the sensitivities surrounding politically sensitive language, the primary social injustices impacting disadvantaged communities locally, or the general issues being addressed through global impact initiatives through the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, it’s not advised they market themselves as an Impact Consultant.
If Impact Consulting were a service that required certification or a license to practice, similar to accounting, law, and medicine, these topics would be deeply studied before an individual had a license to practice, and we’d not need to include this cautionary note. Until that day comes, Impact Relations practitioners typically build their skills and expertise over time, working alongside sector experts, and being mentored in their role.
An opportunity to leverage Impact Consulting services:
Offering Impact Consulting services alongside communications expertise, presents a major differentiator and value-add to what PR agencies and consultants typically offer organizations.
Bringing an Impact Relations expert into the planning and execution of an impact-driven communications campaign is imperative to a company’s reputation, as the risks of potential consumer backlash if executed inconsiderately are high and can be damaging to a company’s customer loyalty and brand equity.
Consumers today are increasingly aware of the difference between an authentic versus opportunistic campaign. More than ever, especially with social media being at the fingertips of 71 per cent of internet users globally, if a brand or campaign “misses the mark” – as Pepsi stated after the backlash of its attempts to launch a Black Lives Matter campaign featuring a Kardashian – consumers can be unforgiving.
Tips for apply Impact Consulting:
When approaching Impact Consulting, put yourself in the shoes of a Management Consultant. You’ve been hired to make a business more impactful. You review the current business plan, and talk to a host of stakeholders to gather insights on what cause would be a good brand alignment. You also research how other brands are making a difference, some in the same sector, others not, to inspire creative ideas for how to align the brand with a cause.
You then collate these insights and make strategic recommendations on how the brand can make a greater difference to a specific social or environmental cause. This could be through changing its business model, through partnerships, or scaling a program that is already in place. These recommendations reflect the business’ values, strategic objectives, and stakeholder goals.
This is true Impact Consultancy. And as a communicator, having a more impactful, scalable and measurable program in place, will give you a more powerful story to communicate – and ultimately inspire others to scale their impact too.
Impact Consulting includes:
- Helping companies discover and integrate their social value proposition and organizational purpose
- Reviewing and challenging the business model: how can the mission and vision be amplified?
- Identifying and testing new models and opportunities to enhance impact
- Considering strategic partnerships with organizations already providing impact
- Applying socially innovative solutions
Guidelines for identifying a Brand’s purpose:
- Research the issues impacting the brand’s community: Be informed on the issues impacting your audiences, communities, and company stakeholders
- Lead with your values and live by your purpose: Any cause must align with the brand’s values, and be amplified via your chosen social impact program
- Understand which causes are (and are not) appropriate to champion: It’s critical for brands to align with issues that make sense for their business. Consider how your community and stakeholders will react to your chosen cause
- Walk the walk: Will the cause excite and motivate employees, and appeal to the talent the brand wants to attract in the future? There is no better measure of authenticity than the way in which employees respond to a company’s values and desired impact in the world
- Think creatively. Social benefit comes in many shapes and sizes, and cutting a cheque is only one of them. Be creative when considering how to move the needle
Impact counsel to advance a cause, not just fund it:
While the advice given to amplify impact varies wildly between different organizations and causes, here are some examples we hope inspire ideas for creating impact at scale.
- Approach corporate giving with a socially innovative lens. Rather than making a monetary donation, create systemic change within a marginalized community. For example, enable job opportunities for people with learning disabilities or employ formerly incarcerated people.
- Raise your operations standards to gain third-party certification or accreditation from entities such as B Corp, Fair-trade, Certified Organic, LEED certified, the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification, humane certified, etc.
- Challenge the status quo of a policy or industry standard through lobbying for new industry legislation.