The success of a business has been measured in many ways throughout history—the number of employees in a company, annual company income or overall organizational growth. Olivia Khalili uses a different metric to measure success: by the amount of positive change a company imparts on society. The currency of “good” has become a currency of great value, and if you want to learn how to leverage that value, Khalili is your go-to girl.
Khalili has an impressive resume that I can’t do justice here, but her current ventures include her blog, Cause Capitalism and working for Ashoka Changemakers. If you work in the social marketing field, you need to visit her blog immediately (seriously, I don’t mind if you don’t finish reading this post, it’s that good). The blog highlights Khalili’s experience, advice, and interviews with leaders in both the corporate and development worlds. Khalili currently works for Ashoka Changemakers, an organization that sources and helps grow innovators and communities of social practice.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Khalili to get some key takeaways about how an organization can successfully join with a corporate partner to achieve outcomes that will lead to positive social change. Although we had spoken via phone and email numerous times, Khalili’s vibrant and passionate personality truly came through during our in-person interview. As she approached me on the street, a petite blond in heels and a J. Crew red dress I’ve secretly been coveting all summer, I knew right away that this was the type of person I want to be when I grow up: smart, confident, and ready to change the world.
Here are some highlights from our interview:
Q: What are the top five “truisms” in Social Marketing?
1) The partnership is critical. It’s important to establish objectives up front and develop trust between corporate and non-profit partners. Often the best cause marketing campaigns don’t reach their full potential until their second or third year, so creating an open relationship is key to maximizing impact and benefits.
2) Align your ideals. Be sure that the causes of the organization align with the goals of the company to make the partnership meaningful and sustainable.
3) Be transparent about the campaign. Consumers care about the details of the campaign—how much who is giving to whom, when and why.
4) Engage the consumer. Offer a way for consumers to get directly involved in the cause and be a part of solving the problem. Teach them about the issue at hand. Give them a way to take action.
5) Involve everyone. Don’t just run a partnership out of the communications/marketing/development departments. Encourage involvement from management and employees on the corporate and non-profit sides.
Q: What are the most common potential pitfalls to avoid?
1) Lack of communication/transparency between partners and with consumers.
2) Choosing a partner whose objectives (and potentially issue area and size) don’t align with yours.
3) Crossing the line of promotion versus exploitation.
Q: What is the best way for programs to work in tandem with communications and outreach?
A: The ideal situation is that the communication drives consumer engagement, so that advertising and awareness lead to impact. One strong example is TOMS shoes. TOMS brought a fresh concept (for every pair of shoes bought, the company will donate a pair) in which the experience drives you to action through a unique and enjoyable initial engagement (the act of buying shoes).
To learn more about Khalili, visit her blog: www.causecapitalism.com
Or vote for her panels at South By Southwest (Voting ends Friday 9/2 so VOTE SOON!):