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How To Raise Your Brand’s Voice on Issues That Matter

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How To Raise Your Brand's Voice on Issues That Matter

The words and actions of brands — including yours — matter. Politics and other areas of our culture are becoming more polarized. When you are authentic about your values and causes, you can build loyalty with your audience.

Not voicing an opinion could even hurt a brand’s credibility. According to a recent study by Sprout Social, 70% of consumers surveyed believe it’s important for brands to take a stand on social and political issues. In that same survey, more than 60% thought brands had the power to reach large audiences and create real change.

60% of surveyed consumers say brands have the power to reach large audiences and create real changes, according to a @SproutSocial study via @ahaval @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

How to know when to weigh in

Your organization needs to acknowledge every issue. To decide when to make a statement or speak up against injustice, your leadership team reflect on these questions:

  • Who are we as a brand? Does this issue intersect with our vision or brand mission statement? Is this an important topic, and can we make a meaningful statement? Will we demonstrate to our audience that we are accountable for our stance?
  • What do our customers and employees expect from us? Are consumers asking or commenting about our brand and the issue? Do our employees want us to take a position?
  • What do we stand for? What are our company’s core values? Does it make sense for us to say something or stay silent on this issue?
  • What will our silence say? A brand’s silence can speak more than a statement. Consider what saying nothing may signify.
  • Who should say something? In general, the CEO or leader of the organization should make a statement. In the Sprout Social study, 56% said it’s important for CEOs to take a stand on public issues. But if individuals from marginalized communities or people personally affected by an issue work for your organization, consider encouraging them to share their stories or giving them a voice as well.

Before jumping in on a social or political issue, brand leadership should reflect and ask what happens if we stay silent, says @ahaval @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

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How to engage with your audience about social issues

When you opt to weigh in on a social or political issue, follow these tips to connect with your audience and learn from brands doing it well.

1. Be unique in your messaging

When Martin Luther King Jr. Day rolls around every January, brands predictably trot out some version of his “I have a dream” message on their social media to commemorate and pay homage. Unfortunately, that messaging has become so overused it barely resonates.

Before taking the obvious route, question whether you can message with impact. Be thoughtful and share with vulnerability to deepen your connection with loyal customers.

Example: This year, Ben & Jerry’s made Martin Luther King Jr. Day count. In an Instagram post, they discussed how diluted Dr. King’s message had become.

The company dove into some of King’s lesser-known quotes. They explain how his message wasn’t just against racism but also poverty and war. In a blog post, they describe point by point how the U.S. is failing to fulfill King’s vision.

Ben & Jerry’s took that extra step to explain how they think King’s message relates to today’s injustices, making it clear where they stand on those issues. Some of their followers may not like this message, but others are likely to forge a deeper connection with the brand because of it.

2. Make the message meaningful to your brand

Do you want to release a statement about a cause that aligns with your brand’s value? Stop. Take a step back. Figure out how to say something in the most meaningful way possible. How does this cause intersect with your brand? Acknowledging that connection will make a stronger impact.

Don’t just release a statement about a cause that aligns with your brand’s value. Say something in the most meaningful way possible, says @ahaval @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Example: BabyNames.com helps people discover and research names for their children. When they posted in support of Black Lives Matter, they tied it directly to their brand. The post was a list of names of Black people who died at the hands of police titled Say Their Names. And for a gut punch, they pointed out each of those people was someone’s baby. Reflecting on how parents lovingly selected their children’s names and the tragedies that unfolded was heart-wrenching.

Click to enlarge

3. Be accountable to your audience

It’s one thing to say your company fights for a cause, but it’s even better to show how your company is doing it. And if your brand contributes to a societal problem, acknowledge what your organization is doing to combat it. Show your audience you care and are working toward change.

Example: Anheuser-Bush is the world’s largest beer company and maker of iconic brands such as Budweiser, Corona, and Michelob. They (obviously) sell alcohol and want to increase sales. But they also donate money and launch programs that fight alcohol misuse (including drunk driving, underage drinking, and binge drinking).

The company launched Global Smart Drinking Goals, a set of programs and initiatives focused on shifting social norms, consumer behaviors, and their organization’s business practices to reduce harmful alcohol use.

Their plan includes investing $1 billion in social responsibility marketing campaigns around alcohol and ensuring no- or lower-alcohol products represent 20% of their global beer volume sales by 2025. They also created an internal Alcohol Literacy Training Program to educate colleagues on responsible drinking. Each of their goals has clear deadlines and ways to measure whether or not they’re accomplished, a key part of being accountable.

It may seem counterintuitive for an alcoholic beverage company to even acknowledge alcohol misuse, let alone shine a light on the cause. But through those actions, Anheuser-Bush creates trust and connection with their consumers. As their CEO Michael Doukeris said in a webinar at Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, “There was a time in which companies could develop their businesses in isolation from what happens in society. That time has gone. We need to see ourselves as part of society, with all the benefits and all the problems.”

4. Provide resources to support the causes

Once you decide to make a statement about a cause, think about going deeper. Consider providing resources or support to people affected by your cause. These contributions can make your message even more impactful.

Example: Oreo celebrated LGBTQ+ Pride Month by hosting a sweepstakes, giving away boxes of colorful Oreos in the formation of various pride flags.

What they did next is where they had a real impact. They partnered with PFLAG, an organization for LGBTQ+ people, their parents, friends, and allies, to create a series of Instagram posts. The posts give better response choices to the ones many LGBTQ+ individuals traditionally receive when they come out. In one post, the words “Are you sure?” are replaced with “I’m so proud of you.”

Oreo also links to PFLAG’s Instagram channel, where people can find more resources to support their LGBTQ+ loved ones.

5. Don’t think you have to be political to take a stand

In our polarized political landscape, some think when brands stand up for a social cause, they are making a political statement. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Organizations can focus on making a difference in causes that don’t fall on a particular side of the political spectrum.

Example: More than 600 hospitals have partnered with Vot-ER, which helps people visiting ERs or health-care institutions register to vote. These health-care organizations don’t affect which way people eventually vote. They’re just helping people have a say in democracy.

6. Make statements your audience cares about

You don’t have to take a stand for every issue. It’s up to your leadership team to determine which issues are important to the brand — and your audience. Use your personas to see if the issue resonates with your audience. Of course, some problems are so critical that even if some consumers don’t agree with your position, it’s worth adding your voice to the cause anyway.

Example: Patagonia asked its social media followers to participate when the U.S. Forest Service opened public comment on restoring the Alaska Roadless Rule to protect the Tongass National Forest. Reinstating the rule would support wildlife, tribal sovereignty, and carbon sequestration in the largest temperate rainforest on Earth.

It makes sense that Patagonia supported this initiative. The company is known for caring about the environment and fighting climate change. The people who purchase their products enjoy time in nature and likely care about saving the planet.

7. Think long term

Don’t be one-and-done about your social cause. Before making a statement or posting about a cause on social media, think about how you will support this cause or fight this injustice long term. Maybe you want to make recurring donations to designated charities? Or commit to revamping your organization’s hiring and promotion practices? Or perhaps it’s time to offer internal training? By taking action, consumers will see the dedication and intentions behind the words your brand put out.

Don’t be one-and-done about your #social cause. Think about how you will support this cause long term, says @ahaval @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Example: Many companies spoke out against racial injustice during the Black Lives Matter racial reckoning of 2020. Two years later, Pepsi is still fighting inequality. The beverage company launched a racial equality journey initiative and committed to a five-year plan. Pepsi set aside $400 million for this initiative. Their efforts include making their workforce more diverse by recruiting potential candidates from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). They continue to promote their partnership with HBCUs and invest in the Black community in multiple ways.

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Implementing a good decision in a great way

Finding the right way to make a statement can feel like walking a fine line. But with deep thought, internal discussions, and assessing the unique contributions your organization can make, brands may be poised to help make the world a better place.

Want to learn how to balance, manage, and scale great content experiences across all your essential platforms and channels? Join us at ContentTECH Summit this March in San Diego. Browse the schedule or register today. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute




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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

The world survived the first three months of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

But what are marketers doing now? Did your brand follow the shift Dennis Shiao made for his personal brand? As he recently shared, he switched his primary platform from Twitter to LinkedIn after the 2022 ownership change. (He still uses Twitter but posts less frequently.)

Are those brands that altered their strategy after the new ownership maintaining that plan? What impact do Twitter’s service changes (think Twitter Blue subscriptions) have?

We took those questions to the marketing community. No big surprise? Most still use Twitter. But from there, their responses vary from doing nothing to moving away from the platform.

Lowest points

At the beginning of the Elon era, more than 500 big-name advertisers stopped buying from the platform. Some (like Amazon and Apple) resumed their buys before the end of 2022. Brand accounts’ organic activity seems similar.

In November, Emplifi research found a 26% dip in organic posting behavior by U.S. and Canadian brands the week following a significant spike in the negative sentiment of an Elon tweet. But that drop in posting wasn’t a one-time thing.

Kyle Wong, chief strategy officer at Emplifi, shares a longer analysis of well-known fast-food brands. When comparing December 2021 to December 2022 activity, the brands posted 74% less, and December was the least active month of 2022.

Fast-food brands posted 74% less on @Twitter in December 2022 than they did in December 2021, according to @emplifi_io analysis via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

When Emplifi analyzed brand accounts across industries (2,330 from U.S. and Canada and 6,991 elsewhere in the world), their weekly Twitter activity also fell to low points in November and December. But by the end of the year, their activity was inching up.

“While the percentage of brands posting weekly is on the rise once again, the number is still lower than the consistent posting seen in earlier months,” Kyle says.

Quiet-quitting Twitter

Lacey Reichwald, marketing manager at Aha Media Group, says the company has been quiet-quitting Twitter for two months, simply monitoring and posting the occasional link. “It seems like the turmoil has settled down, but the overall impact of Twitter for brands has not recovered,” she says.

@ahamediagroup quietly quit @Twitter for two months and saw their follower count go up, says Lacey Reichwald via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

She points to their firm’s experience as a potential explanation. Though they haven’t been posting, their follower count has gone up, and many of those new follower accounts don’t seem relevant to their topic or botty. At the same time, Aha Media saw engagement and follows from active accounts in the customer segment drop.

Blue bonus

One change at Twitter has piqued some brands’ interest in the platform, says Dan Gray, CEO of Vendry, a platform for helping companies find agency partners to help them scale.

“Now that getting a blue checkmark is as easy as paying a monthly fee, brands are seeing this as an opportunity to build thought leadership quickly,” he says.

Though it remains to be seen if that strategy is viable in the long term, some companies, particularly those in the SaaS and tech space, are reallocating resources to energize their previously dormant accounts.

Automatic verification for @TwitterBlue subscribers led some brands to renew their interest in the platform, says Dan Gray of Vendry via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

These reenergized accounts also are seeing an increase in followers, though Dan says it’s difficult to tell if it’s an effect of the blue checkmark or their renewed emphasis on content. “Engagement is definitely up, and clients and agencies have both noted the algorithm seems to be favoring their content more,” he says.

New horizon

Faizan Fahim, marketing manager at Breeze, is focused on the future. They’re producing videos for small screens as part of their Twitter strategy. “We are guessing soon Elon Musk is going to turn Twitter into TikTok/YouTube to create more buzz,” he says. “We would get the first moving advantage in our niche.”

He’s not the only one who thinks video is Twitter’s next bet. Bradley Thompson, director of marketing at DigiHype Media and marketing professor at Conestoga College, thinks video content will be the next big thing. Until then, text remains king.

“The approach is the same, which is a focus on creating and sharing high-quality content relevant to the industry,” Bradley says. “Until Twitter comes out with drastically new features, then marketing and managing brands on Twitter will remain the same.

James Coulter, digital marketing director at Sole Strategies, says, “Twitter definitely still has a space in the game. The question is can they keep it, or will they be phased out in favor of a more reliable platform.”

Interestingly given the thoughts of Faizan and Bradley, James sees businesses turning to video as they limit their reliance on Twitter and diversify their social media platforms. They are now willing to invest in the resource-intensive format given the exploding popularity of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short-form video content.

“We’ve seen a really big push on getting vendors to help curate video content with the help of staff. Requesting so much media requires building a new (social media) infrastructure, but once the expectations and deliverables are in place, it quickly becomes engrained in the weekly workflow,” James says.

What now

“We are waiting to see what happens before making any strong decisions,” says Baruch Labunski, CEO at Rank Secure. But they aren’t sitting idly by. “We’ve moved a lot of our social media efforts to other platforms while some of these things iron themselves out.”

What is your brand doing with Twitter? Are you stepping up, stepping out, or standing still? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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