The fourth annual We Media Conference hosted at the University of Miami offered a peek into the future of media. The common thread from Tuesday’s mind-meld was not the same old “newspapers are dead” theme that so many of these conferences run into the ground. Instead, the focus was on the changing media landscape — an evolution that ultimately leads to a completely social and interactive media. If true, companies will need to focus on social engagement, placing higher expectations on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and in some ways blurring the lines between businesses and non-profits.
This point was driven home again last night as I chatted over dinner with Alan Webber, founder and former CEO of Fast Company. Alan posed the question, “Why MUST we categorize everything as either for profit or non-profit?” He then answered himself, “This is stupid. It makes no sense. Why can’t we make money and make a difference simultaneously? The future of every business will include a foundation or non-profit arm that backs every prosperous company.”
The changes to the business model as we know it offer far more opportunity than challenges. But — and this is a big “but” here — these grand opportunities only exist for the companies that recognize them and adapt quickly.
The most prized benefit from quick adaption is increased revenue and corporate sustainability. And, by the way, you will also be doing the right thing, which will undoubtedly make your mother (and your shareholders) proud.
In most cases, the more you responsibly give back and are able to tell that story the more your company will grow. That’s the advantage of being socially engaged. Your company’s reputation will create public trust and customer brand loyalty, improve investor relations, support employee recruitment and build partnership opportunities. The key is that you must have a strong CSR media strategy which will highlight your efforts in your overall business model.
Earlier this year, Pepsi made a bold move when they opted out of buying Super Bowl ads for the first time. Pepsi is already on to the game — they saw an opportunity to gain social credibility using the would-be ad money to launch their Refresh Everything Project. The project calls for 1,000 idea submissions per month from people, businesses and non-profits to promote positive change. Ideas are judged on their merits and the prize money ranges from $5,000 to $250,000. Pepsi’s strong CSR media plan allowed them not only to capture news buzz around the Super Bowl, but it allowed them to also space out good-will news throughout the year, achieving many of the goals outlined above.
Pepsi seized an opportunity. What opportunities is your company missing? You can lead the way forward today, but need to think differently. Don’t create a strategy around the model where business and media find themselves today — think ahead.
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