Volume 12, Issue 5 - September/October 2008

IWFA Update

TOM NIZIOLEK

You Are Who You Support

Businesses, like people, are often defined by the company they keep. That’s why successful companies are so thorough when evaluating vendors and suppliers. They know that their reputation hinges not only on their own actions, but also on the actions of their associates.

But effective reputation management requires more than a strong defense. Merely surrounding yourself with ethical business partners may insulate you from a public relations crises later, but it does little to advance your reputation now. And for most of us, “now” matters more than “later.”

The best way to manage your reputation is to get involved with your community. Join your local business associations; frequent your neighborhood merchants; and give back by donating time, labor and, if possible, money to worthy causes. Supporting your community can open the door to new customers, unify your staff around a common cause, and even create opportunities for public visibility.

Of course, companies should give back because they wish to better society, not because they are angling for financial gain. But supporting a community and promoting a business needn’t be mutually exclusive. Cause-related marketing has become a major industry. In fact, according to the Giving USA 2008 newsletter, charitable giving in the US topped $300 billion last year.

If you plan to incorporate your goodwill into your marketing mix, here are some guidelines to consider. First, do so in a way that speaks to your organization’s identity. In other words, the organizations you support should reflect your priorities and your values. They should further the public’s understanding of who you are and what you stand for. Also, if you are going to associate your name with a cause, avoid those that divide the public. While you may donate however you wish, marketing around a divisive issue is extremely risky.

As the director of sales and marketing for Madico, I am often asked to contribute to our partners’ charities. I admire the passion that fuels each of these requests, and I try to fulfill as many as possible. But soon, Madico will push forward with a major initiative of its own: sustainability. After all, we are not just part of a business community ... in the end, we are all part of the global community.



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