Four Predictions For Social Impact In 2013

Here at Cone Communications, we're constantly keeping our eye on what's new and innovative so we can keep you informed of the need-to-know insights. When our own Alison DaSilva looked back at 2012 in a recent PRWeek.com* article, she found five growing trends and their implications for the future, while Cone's Craig Bida revealed 2013 "anti-trends" in Media Post's Marketing:causes. To ring in the New Year, we're excited to bring you a guest post from Jillian Wilson-Martin of Cone Communications' Social Impact practice. What's in store for 2013? Here's what Jillian's crystal ball has to say.

Giving will get personal – literally. New charitable giving and payment processing tools are changing how and to whom we give. Fans can crowdfund the costs of filming their favorite independent movies on Indiegogo, family members can ease the burden of their loved one's out-of-pocket medical expenses on GiveForward, and I send money directly to the poor through GiveDirectly. While groundbreaking, these platforms do raise questions about efficiency and impact – can we trust the people asking for our donations, or are they just "moochers exploiting the generosity of the online community?" These giving outlets offer consumers a myriad of ways to support a cause, – either individually or collectively. While they also provide organizations different avenues to seek engagement, it's critical to keep in mind that opportunity brings obligation. This new frontier of giving means it's more important than ever to communicate exactly how money is being used so donors can make contributions in good conscience. How will the giving evolution shake out? In 2013, we'll watch and see.

A focus on return means we'll stop "supporting" and start "solving." In 2013, companies and nonprofits will shift from simply supporting issues to investing in smart solutions. Leading organizations will take this a step further by communicating these measurable impacts to vested stakeholders in unique and compelling ways. Trailblazers like P&G focus for impact and gain real results – the company's Pampers brand is now close to defeating neonatal tetanus with its global partner, UNICEF, through its One Pack = One Vaccine cause marketing initiative. And, as conversations continue about the future of the Millennium Development Goals, expect measurable results across these pressing issues to become a major focus. Shallow funding across broad platforms won't cut it anymore. Organizations should be prepared to provide stakeholders with solutions and return in 2013.

Consumers will have a say in what companies support. Companies no longer have sole control over cause marketing plans or corporate citizenship strategies. In 2012 we saw consumers increasingly take the driver's seat and social media means we're all along for the ride: $700K+ were donated to a bus driver in the name of anti-bullying and a teenage girl successfully petitioned Seventeen to stop photo-shopping its models. The past year showed us that we can no longer create cause campaigns in a vacuum when our technology driven world allows consumers to provide lightning-fast feedback on programs and initiatives. Organizations should use this as an opportunity to stand out from the crowd by making cause meaningful to both the brand and key stakeholders. Employ a unique call to action to motivate participation and remember to clearly communicate results brought about by purchase, donation or other actions.   

Transparency will be a must-do. When shopping this holiday season, it was hard NOT to find a brand without a cause – but shoppers may be growing weary. Sixty-six percent of consumers noticed more cause campaigns in the market than previously, but nearly seven-in-10 (68%) questioned the impact of their cause-related holiday purchases. Consumers aren't the only ones feeling skeptical – regulators are more closely scrutinizing cause marketing as well. In late 2012, the NY Attorney General released a report entitled Five Best Practices for Transparent Cause Marketing and many think this is just the beginning. Don't wait until your campaign is the focus of criticism – ring in the New Year by striving to be open and honest about your cause marketing program and the return it is providing to stakeholders.

What predictions do you have for the New Year and how will you generate social impact in 2013? Please tell us what you think of our predictions and don't forget to share yours. Happy New Year!

We encourage your thoughts and comments. Continue the conversation on Twitter by using #ConeCSR.

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