Five Ways To Bring Social Responsibility Into Marketing

Barbie Espinol

Senior Vice President of marketing and technology partnerships for next-gen cyber insurance provider Cowbell Cyber.

In a pandemic world, everything about work feels different. We have been pressed to consider what our desired work-life balance looks like more deeply than ever. It seems many of us are reflecting meaningfully on where we work, how we work and what we are working for. Our health, our peace and our survival are suddenly and dramatically at the forefront. I’ve seen a massive shift in priorities from many, where values and social impact often matter just as much as titles and pay, and I think it’s time for businesses to shift their marketing strategies as well to meet the current moment.

In marketing, it’s our job to tell a story. It’s our job to understand the emotional pulse of our audiences and keep what is most relevant top of mind. More than ever, I’ve found that it’s critical to our customers and to our own teammates that we build brands that care—brands that are doing the work we do in order to make the world a better place. If you work in marketing, you have a platform and a megaphone, and the current tone demands that we wield them for good.

Raise your hand if you have ever walked away from a trade show or a conference with a bag full of plastic trinkets or swag or other random tchotchkes that ultimately get thrown away, strewn about your house by your little kids or become your pet’s new chew toy. Marketing does not have to be synonymous with superficial tchotchkes anymore, and in fact, I really don’t think it should.

I’ve learned in my time at Cowbell Cyber that there are private industries whose backbone is built on social responsibility. The insurance industry, for example, has a remarkable history of agents and brokers all over the country who are highly engaged in their local communities so that they may thrive more economically. I believe that the cybersecurity industry is quickly moving in this direction as well, as attracting and retaining a high-quality and diverse workforce often depends on positive workplace culture and employees feeling connected to a mission that is much bigger than themselves.

My company is intentionally growing its legacy and brand as a cyber insurance industry change leader by investing meaningfully in what it cares about most: a safer, kinder internet.

If your marketing team seeks to adjust to a world that seems to be rejecting tchotchkes while actively embracing positive social impact, here are five steps that marketing teams can embrace to jump-start a companywide social responsibility initiative:

1. Find your “why.” It should fit your brand by helping solve the ultimate problem your business was designed to. For example, Cowbell, as a business, operates at the crossroads between technology, cybersecurity and insurance. To us, it made sense to galvanize our efforts around the premise that a safer and kinder internet is paramount to our success. The cybersecurity industry has a huge talent pipeline problem. A diverse talent pool to fill the massive gaps in open cybersecurity job positions, for example, is one thing we believe will help us meet our goal of creating a safer internet, and so workforce development in technology is one of our key focus areas.

2. Connect to strategic partners. There are thousands of nonprofits out there that serve many different missions and audiences. Build authentic relationships with local and/or national nonprofits and government entities that fit the values and mission of your business and employees. Random giveaways will often not feel authentic or cohesive or weave into a story that makes much sense. Our team asked all of our employees to vote on options from a list of organizations we felt were directly helping develop top-notch and diverse cybersecurity talent.

3. Build metrics for employee engagement. We have all seen the data suggesting that teams benefit when they feel like they are a part of something bigger. According to McKinsey, “Employees are five times more likely to be excited to work at a company that spends time reflecting on the impact it makes in the world.” It’s important to focus on social impact from the ground up, and so we do so from our concierge team to our C-suite. Our employees are invested in our giving program because they have helped choose the beneficiaries of our gifts. You could consider volunteering, department competitions, company matching and recognitions, as well as internal employee programs focused on wellness, both physical and mental.

4. Ditch traditional tchotchke plastic giveaways at conferences or random expensive gifts for partners and customers, and donate to your partners (see point No. 2) instead. Like we do, you can also donate on their behalf when you engage in business development.

5. Rethink travel. Insurance is a people business. We likely would not have bet on the growth we saw through the pandemic if we had known we would be trying to distribute our insurance without traveling. But alas, we would have bet wrong. The digital world is here, and conference and travel strategies should shift to reflect that new reality. Webinars, podcasts and other creative go-to-market opportunities are things you can do to reach an increasingly digital audience. Hiring remotely can allow you to access talents you would not have had access to otherwise. With a fully distributed team, you can attend conferences and events regionally and be intentional about who goes (and when they go) to events in order to reduce your carbon footprint.

Whatever your company’s “why” is, marketers have many reasons to implement social impact behaviors into their core functions, from employee recruitment and retention to customer engagement.

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