How These 5 Changemakers Got People to Pay Attention to Social Justice in 2019 (and How You Can Too)
I think it’s safe to say that we’ve reached a tipping point in the business and philanthropy world where it is becoming too hard to ignore the value of social entrepreneurship.
In the 21st century, businesses and nonprofits (but especially businesses) are expected to be agents of change. In a recent study done by Edelman, 64% of people said that a company should be able to turn a profit while, at the same time, improve the social and economic conditions of the community it serves.
What does this mean if you’re trying to break into a market by selling a product or raising money for charity? It means that, if your business or organization isn’t a legit social enterprise moving into the new decade, you might just want to save yourself and shut down now because your so-called money-making operation is not going to last too much longer. But you already knew that.
Why every social entrepreneur needs a social good campaign
What most businesses and nonprofits are still trying to figure out is how to let everyone know they’re not frontin’ — that they really do stand for something good and they are willing to make social change. Let me give you my annual PSA about why every social entrepreneur, nonprofit and changemaker needs to add a social good campaign to their marketing strategy.
For many organizations today, it’s not going to be enough to just say you want to change the world. Being mission-driven means nothing if you aren’t willing to stop hiding behind the veil of Corporate America and take a stand on a political, social or environmental issue — and when you take a stand, it should be out in public for everyone to see.
I like how Philip Kotler and Christian Sarkar put it in their book, “Brand Activism,” when they said:
“What matters now is action: how your brand lives and behaves in the real world. Your actions, or lack of action are signals to your customers and society at large.”
So if you want to make real change these days, you can’t just say it in a press release or put it in some hard-to-find place on your website. You have to show people that you’re an activist for whatever cause you’re fighting for — for real. That’s exactly why it’s important to create a social good campaign.
Before I get into how to create an effective social good campaign, let’s recap what we know about social good campaigns and why they’re becoming the gold standard for any social enterprise that wants to increase their visibility, authority, trust and impact online.
Now, in order for any organization to put themselves on the map as an authority figure in their industry, they’ll need to, of course, put out a good product that also uplifts people, gives back to the environment and creates change in the community and around the world.
A reason to tell a good story about what you stand for
But if you think that every product that was ever created or every cause that was ever conceived just sold itself, you’d be missing out on a golden opportunity.
That’s why the best way to show your audience that you stand for something good is to tell a good story about what you stand for. This is why you’re now seeing brands big and small produce high quality content to make sure their messages of hope reach the masses. Many do this through social good campaigns.
When done properly, a social good campaign can do wonders for an organization because it promotes your product by connecting your mission to a larger social issue. Oftentimes, this involves responding to a political issue or supporting a worthy cause.
On the surface, creating a social good campaign is just good for business. By showcasing how your business puts people over profits, it creates a deeper connection with your customers. It also has the potential to build more loyalty and engagement among your employees.
Most of all, a social good campaign plants your flag as a brand with a real purpose. If a social good campaign is powerful enough, then every time someone hears the name of your business they’ll associate your brand with a set of good values, which can bring further success.
This is why Nike’s controversial “Just Do It” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick went over so well. Now, whenever someone see Kaepernick, they won’t just think of Nike. They’ll think about social justice.
Top 5 social good campaigns of 2019
So, without further ado, I’d like to share my list of the top 5 social good campaigns produced in 2019. In one or more of these examples, hopefully you’ll find some examples to steal for your social enterprise.
5. Back-To-School Essentials—Sandy Hook Promise
Sandy Hook Promise, the nonprofit started by the Newtown, CT, community following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, released a timely PSA this year right before the school year started.
The video highlighted the anxiety and fear students face in the reality of school shootings, and I like how it started off like any normal commercial. But it ended with a strong message that really made you wonder why shootings have become the “new normal” at schools and public spaces across the country.
If you used this idea for your social enterprise, I would create a “commercial” where average kids or adults are talking about a “normal” issue like school, family or enjoying a meal. Then I would have those same “characters” keep talking about how everything was normal while simultaneously showing the irony of the social issue you’re trying to solve.
The whole point is to use irony to put a spotlight on the social issue you’re fighting for without explicitly mentioning the issue.
4. Colin Kaepernick’s Birthday Project with the Homeless
When Nike announced last year that Colin Kaepernick would be the face of its next “Just Do It” campaign, you knew it was going to cause controversy. But if you just focused on the critics, you would have missed the fact that Kaepernick was doing a great job of controlling his own narrative.
Despite all that was happening during his fight with the NFL, he maintained his work with his nonprofit, Know Your Rights Camp. He’s constantly posting videos and photos online of the work he and his organization are doing to keep up the fight for social justice.
The video he shared where he spent his 32nd birthday spending time and giving back to the homeless is just another powerful example of what content marketing can do for changemakers.
At this point, Kaepernick’s life is literally a documentary in the making. By capturing all the big moments on video where he’s involved in the community, he’s changing the narrative about what it means to be doing well by doing good. Steal this idea!
3. Justice ReMix’d — Ben & Jerry’s
For a company founded by two white guys, Ben & Jerry’s is one of the most woke food brands I’ve ever seen. I mean, come on…they literally made some ice cream — something everyone loves — just to bring awareness to the problems with America’s criminal justice system — something no one wants to talk about.
They didn’t just stop there, though. Ben & Jerry’s partnered with the Advancement Project to support reforms that invest in people instead of prisons. This goes to show you that businesses should be partnering more with nonprofits that are on the ground doing the work. Also, when food is involved, people typically pay attention more (go figure!).
In my opinion, this is a better way of showing your impact on the community you serve than by just producing a CSR report.
2. Anti-Trump Seesaw
I don’t think people really appreciate the creativity behind this project, but the pink seesaws built at the U.S.-Mexico border wall by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello will stand the test of time in my book.
The art installation reminds me of something Banksy would do. The reason this project deserves recognition is because, while the seesaws were only built and in use for about 40 minutes, the videos and photos of the moment helped spread an enduring message of harmony and solidarity at the border.
If your social enterprise is trying to shine a light on a pressing social issue, why not link up some local artists and design something that shows what’s possible when justice is finally realized?
1. The Town Studio — Old Town Road Parody
You know I couldn’t make a list without giving a shout out to the Bay Area, right? Youth Beat’s “Old Town Road” parody video is exactly the type of social good campaign that more social enterprises should be using.
It’s trendy, it’s creative and it’s just flat out fun to watch. Now just imagine if you’re a young person from Oakland looking for a way out the hood and you see this video, shining a light on the spirit of Oakland and featuring young people singing their own version of the hottest song on the Billboard charts.
You’d be inspired too.
That’s all for this year, folks. My hope is that you can find some inspiration from one of these ideas and incorporate it into your social enterprise’s digital marketing strategy so you can grow your online presence.
I’m not saying you’ll go viral just like some of these brands did. But if you’re a mission-driven business or a nonprofit fighting for social justice and you have a social good campaign, I guarantee it will benefit your organization.