Difficult Decisions

February 8, 2020

blog post engaging around purpose

One of the most difficult decisions for a brand is when and how to engage with their community around tragedies and world events. The answers aren’t always easy, but when you know your purpose these delicate decisions become just a little clearer.

Given their resources and reach, getting involved in a tragedy can bring a tremendous amount of good to a bad situation. Brands have a unique opportunity to bring people together, to provide a way to help or to get resources to those who need them. 

Further, the expectations from consumers and employees are growing for brands to get involved in issues. So, how do you decide? Watching brands doing it well during the past few months, I noticed a few common themes I wanted to share:

They engaged for the right reason. The most important consideration about whether to engage around a tragedy is if you’re doing it for the right reason. The intention should never be publicity or to be a part of what’s trending. Take action when the situation means something to your leaders, employees or the business. 

They moved quickly and made it easy for people to engage. Motivated by a desire to help, you may end up with a lot of people and ideas. Try not to overthink the situation or delay decision-making. Focus instead on how to provide the most benefit with the fewest steps. 

They were authentic. When you engage for the right reasons and move quickly to help, you’re usually working from a place of authenticity – and purpose. Brands that are successful in having an impact after a tragedy are often aligned with their purpose.

They focused on impact not business.  The driving reason for a brand to create a product, collect donations or donate proceeds should be to serve those most affected by the circumstances. Consumers know the difference between impact and a promotion.

They did what they said. The greatest way to gain or lose trust with your stakeholders is to do – or not do – what you say. If you collect donations or commit to donating proceeds, share the results. Most importantly, be diligent in getting the money or resources where they were intended.

Knowing when and how to engage around tragedies and world events is of growing importance to every organization. It’s not always easy to make these difficult decisions, but when you do it from the heart it can bring your customers and employees closer together.

Related articles:

  • “Advocate or Agnostic: Should your CEO speak up on social issues” read article
  • Three things we can learn from Patagonia” read article



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Karen Bailey is a brand purpose consultant and specializes in helping companies define their purpose and align their business around it. In 2017, she launched the blog, Purpose Greater Than Profit, to start a meaningful conversation about the increasingly important role of brand purpose, purposeful leadership and a better way of doing business.


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