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.

 

Three cultural influences are fuelling the growth of Impact Relations, and changing the way brands communicate with consumers:

1. Conscious Consumerism is now the norm:

Consumers are increasingly considering the social, environmental and political implications of their actions. This coincides with growing awareness of the pressing issues facing humanity, through programs such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), designed to rally collective action to address the world’s greatest challenges. From climate change and ocean conservation, to poverty and education, the issues we face are daunting. The next generation is growing up in a world with pressing issues, fuelling conscious consumerism, with 91 percent of millennials switching brands to benefit a cause they believe in.

Example: Here are some examples of brands that have garnered strong social capital and consumer loyalty by making Conscious Capitalism a leading proponent within their business model and operations:

 

  • TOMS: Well known for its buy-one-give-one model – gifting a pair of shoes to individuals in need for every pair sold – TOMS has gifted more than 60 million pairs of shoes to people in 70 countries. It is less well known that for every bag purchased, TOMS provides a bag of tools to birth attendants to provide safe birth services for mothers and babies in need. TOMS has supported the safe birth services of more than 175,000 mothers.
  • LUSH: Known for having high ethical standards in the production of its personal care products (with the lowest possible impact on the environment); advocating for causes such as human rights, animal welfare, and environmental protection; and championing ‘naked’ products with no packaging.
  • MEC: Promotes its belief in selling a quality product that has the smallest possible environmental footprint, and made with respect for the people who produce it.

The Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication is a research center dedicated to the study and advancement of ethics and responsibility in corporate communication and other forms of public communication. The Center defines Conscious Capitalism as:  

“Conscious Capitalism is defined as an emerging economic system that ‘builds on the foundations of capitalism—voluntary exchange, entrepreneurship, competition, freedom to trade and the rule of law.’ These are essential to a healthy functioning economy, as are other elements of Conscious Capitalism including trust, compassion, collaboration, and value creation.

John Mackey, founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is the leading business proponent of Conscious Capitalism.”

 

2. We’re living in a post-truth era:

The 2018 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER reveals a world of seemingly stagnant distrust showing that people’s trust in business, government, NGOs and media remained largely unchanged — with 20 of 28 markets surveyed described as being a ‘distruster territory,’ up one from the previous year. This is particularly prevalent in our current post-truth era, where people are more likely to accept an argument based on their emotions and beliefs, rather than facts.

Some news outlets are taking action; The New York Times launched ‘The Truth is Hard’ campaign in 2017 to serve as a reminder of the role of journalism in holding people in power accountable for delivering the truth. Transparent communications is not a goal, but a baseline expectation for Impact Relations practitioners; we hold businesses accountable for communicating with honesty and integrity.

Example: The Solutions Journalism Network is growing alongside Impact Relations, and now has a network of more than 80 newsrooms and 3,500 journalists. Solutions Journalism is challenging the assumption that a reporter’s job is to write only about the world’s problems. Instead, Solutions Journalists report on how people are addressing social problems, and critically evaluate the effectiveness of these solutions. As of 2018, 10 journalism schools are using the Solutions Journalism Network curricula.

3. The continuous swell of ‘brands taking a stand’

Dispelling the notions that brand advocacy might have been a short-lived trend, the daily actions and continuous rise of corporations making public statements addressing their long-term environmental or social justice commitments, are suggesting the opposite.

Brands are increasingly looking for ways to advance their level of support for advocacy initiatives by: collaborating with industry peers to push for policy change at a government level; creating tools and platforms to enable advocacy among their consumers and the general public; restructuring supply chains, re-writing HR policies, and re-thinking the messages that are most important for their ads, all as part of their commitment to using their business as a force for change.

These actions are underscored partly in response to the growing population of socially conscious consumers (the first cultural influence outlined) and the data-supported evidence of the public’s distrust of businesses, government and the media (the second cultural influence outlined). And we’re seeing every day how a well-planned Impact Relations strategy can help scale the positive impact businesses are able to have on society and the environment.

Example: These brands are advocating for a cause:

 

  • Bell Canada: This telecommunications company advocates for mental health via its annual ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign, designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across Canada.
  • Dr. Bronner’s: Known for creating environmentally responsible products, and dedicating its profits to help make a better world, Dr. Bronner’s also advocates for the increase to the minimum wage to reward hard-working employees.
  • Ben & Jerry’s: This ice cream brand is known for brand advocacy, and has taken a stand on climate justice, LGBT equality and racial justice, all issues that wouldn’t typically be associated with a food product. Ben & Jerry’s works with Porter Novelli’s purpose practice, which formed after its merger with CSR agency, Cone, in 2017.