Q&A with Molly Malloy, CSR professional

Source: Pepsi, Stepping Stone

Source: Pepsi, Stepping Stone

Many companies today deliver social responsibility efforts in a polished package in order to enhance their communication strategy. As a J-school student interested in CSR, I have often wondered who was behind these strategies, and what goes into their work.

I had the opportunity to speak with Molly Malloy. A UNC School of Journalism alumnus who has worked with fascinating clients and firms, Malloy gained an interest in CSR before she even graduated. Check out her great insight below!

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Tell me a little bit about what you do and how you got there.

I am currently the Senior Marketing and Development Manager at MacGillivray Freeman, an independent multi-platform media company based in Laguna Beach, California. The company got its start in the 1970s making some of the early iconic surf films. We now specialize in making IMAX documentaries about the natural world for leading institutions around the world (think Smithsonian) in addition to producing and distributing multimedia for all screens — mobile, online and more. It’s a small company, so I wear many hats – corporate PR and marketing, social media, branding, multimedia content development, partnership management, etc.

How did I get here? Now that’s a story I’m saving for a book that few people will read. But the short version is that I moved to New York City shortly after graduating from UNC to work in the Corporate Social Responsibility practice at the PR agency Edelman Worldwide. Through my Edelman client TED Conferences, I met an incredibly inspirational woman – a true explorer – who changed my life. Because of her, I moved to California to help build and launch the One World One Ocean Campaign – MacGillivray Freeman’s CSR project.

What originally sparked your interest in a CSR career?

The summer prior to my senior year at UNC I interned in the Global Communications practice at Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle. I use the full company name as I still have college buddies who are convinced I was a barista that summer. One of the projects I worked on while at Starbucks was helping to finalize the company’s CSR report. In working on the report, I was floored by the company’s commitment to giving back to the community, environmental sustainability and to overall corporate stewardship. It was very clear to me that people who work at Starbucks are proud to work there because of the company’s robust CSR platform. With Starbucks boasting one of the most loyal brand followings in the world, I became really interested in finding out whether consumers (perhaps unconsciously) liked the brand for the same reasons employees liked working there.

And so, as an honor student in the Journalism School, I wrote a senior thesis (with Professor Boynton as my advisor) aimed at answering that question. I believe it was called “Good Coffee, Good Company?” I hope this blog post leads people to checking it out in the J-School library, as I’m pretty sure my grandpa is the only person who ever has. Despite the rumors of senior theses being terrible, I really enjoyed working on mine. And in writing it, I became a true CSR enthusiast and decided to find a job in the “industry” after graduation.

What do you see as the main challenge that affects practitioners in the social purpose/CSR field? How about for companies that are trying to conduct CSR?

I think there are two main challenges, and they are the same for both practitioners and companies: Authenticity and differentiation. In the five years since I’ve graduated, CSR has quite frankly blown up. With events like the Gulf oil spill and the financial crisis, consumers, particularly in the U.S., are demanding that their companies be more transparent and behave responsibly. And while this is a good thing – a great thing – it creates an authenticity challenge. With CSR now something that every company is expected to do, it means there are some companies out there that are not really doing anything substantial, but that are communicating the little they do very well. On the flip side, there are a lot of companies out there that are really moving the needle but aren’t communicating their efforts very well. A company who does CSR well is truly authentic – they walk the talk in terms of their commitments AND their talk is actually interesting and understandable to the average consumer. On an individual level, a good CSR practitioner needs to both hold their company accountable for their CSR platform and be an innovative communicator and marketer.

Because CSR is now such a prevalent concept, companies are also challenged with breaking through the noise when it comes to activating and communicating a CSR platform. Publishing a CSR report, hosting a community day, etc. won’t cut it. Companies must differentiate or die.

A great example of differentiation is the Pepsi Refresh Project (full disclosure: a former client of mine). With the launch of the Pepsi Refresh Project, PepsiCo became one of the first companies to activate their CSR platform as part of a 360° consumer-facing marketing campaign to fund crowd-sourced community projects.  The entire campaign activation was activated online and at the time, driving with digital to the extent they did had never been done before. Pepsi also put their money were their mouth was – foregoing their annual (and massive) Super Bowl advertising buy to execute the campaign and help fund the winning projects. They brought in unique partners – GOOD and Global Giving – who gave the project instant credibility and authenticity on the philanthropy side. Pepsi reaped a wide range of benefits from the campaign, from increasing brand love with consumers, old and new, to winning countless awards for the campaign. So moral of the story, be authentic and be different.

How do you think digital marketing and new media have affected cause marketing?

Digital marketing and new media have turned cause marketing on its head – for better or worse. On one hand, brands and organizations have incredible tools and platforms at their fingertips to be able to communicate their CSR stories instantly to consumers. And the great thing about content-driven platforms like YouTube, Instagram, etc., means brands are tasked with showing not telling.

Using these same tools and platforms, consumers can now engage in a 2-way dialogue with companies and hold them accountable like never before – sometimes with game-changing repercussions. The 24/7 digital media engine puts the pressure on brands and organizations to ensure that their cause-related efforts are transparent and innovative.

On the other hand, new media and digital tools have in some ways contributed to a form of shallow cause marketing.  We’ve created a culture of “like” and “+1” that can lead to mass consumer support of a cause that they may not understand but that seems sexy or cool. You have to ask whether that digital engagement is actually creating positive social change or if it is just what it is — a bunch of likes and +1s.

Invisible Children’s STOP KONY campaign is a good example of why brands and organizations need to use digital marketing and new media responsibly when it comes to cause marketing. Put out a compelling message and a cutting-edge piece of content on high-impact channels and you could very well reach millions of people overnight. But are you prepared to handle that level of engagement internally? Have you thought about how that engagement could negatively affect your cause, existing programs and relationships with key stakeholders?

But at the end of the day, when I visit sites like GOOD, Kickstarter or TakePart.com or see #WorldWaterDay trending on Twitter, I’m incredibly inspired about how far cause marketing has come and where it’s going because of digital marketing and media.

What have you learned about CSR since you broke into the field as an intern?

I’ve learned that there are a lot of inspiring stories out there — of people, companies and organizations doing good. A lot more than most people would think. I have also learned that it is easier to pitch a sad or scary story than a good one, and you have to work really hard to get a good story seen and heard in mainstream media.

What do you think we have to look forward to in CSR in the coming years?

I look forward to more companies like TOMS and Warby Parker building their entire brand on CSR concepts, effectively addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges while also making a profit. I think we will see some incredibly innovative CSR partnerships struck between seemingly very different organizations and individuals. And most exciting for me personally, I think we will see some awesome multi-platform CSR storytelling that is increasingly more entertaining and inspiring.

What advice to have for new grads hoping to work in CSR?

Since I graduated, I keep an email sent to me by a man I admire framed on my desk that says, “Keep your passion and energy burning every day, that’s the secret. The world is in front of you.”

That’s all you can and should do.

Three ways companies are helping fight sexual assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month! Visibility is a crucial part of the fight against sexual assault. There are many misconceptions surrounding rape, and it’s an issue that affects many people. It is important to support organizations helping survivors of rape, and to take the issue seriously as something affecting people worldwide.

In honor of SAAM, I wanted to take a look at companies who are helping speak out against rape. Based on my research, there aren’t tons—and I’ll discuss that in my next post.

For now, here are three ways companies are helping start a conversation on sexual assault.

Through Leaders

Source: ABC News

Last month, Christine Mau, a designer for Kleenex, came forward as a survivor of sexual assault. (In case disclosure is necessary, I once interned at Ketchum, who did PR for Kleenex parent company Kimberly-Clark.)

Mau is responsible for the oval-shaped Kleenex box. She also helped design rainbow colored pad and tampon wrappers for Kimberley-Clark’s U by Kotex brand. In light of these accomplishments, she was named a woman to watch by Advertising Age in 2010.

Mau is now the face of NO MORE, a “new, overarching symbol” to brand all efforts to fight sexual assault. The organization seeks to make the NO MORE symbol immediately recognizable, like the pink breast cancer ribbon or the yellow support our troops ribbon.

Mau’s prominent work with Kleenex has been an important part of publicizing the NO MORE movement. Ketchum tweeted about the inspiring story, indicating that Kleenex is standing behind their designer. However, it doesn’t appear that Kleenex is actively supporting NO MORE. Thus, although the Kleenex brand is involved in telling Mau’s story, this is not technically a CSR move.

Through Fashion

Source: LA Times

Source: LA Times

Paige Denim, a high-end denim brand, developed a “RAINN Blue” wash to benefit the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), an anti-rape organization that runs a national sexual assault hotline. The designer donated 20 percent of proceeds from the denim to RAINN throughout April 2012.

The wash is no longer available for purchase.

In addition, Actress KaDee Strickland worked with Gorjana, a socially responsible accessories company, to develop a necklace especially for RAINN. Gorjana will donate 80 percent of the sale price back to RAINN, and it is still available on the Gorjana website.

Through Technology

Source: Mary Kay

Last year, loveisrespect developed the nation’s first text message abuse helpline with the help of sponsors like Mary Kay, Verizon, and mark. Respectively, the sponsors donated $1 million, $250,000 and $100,000 to the program. Teens and young adults could text “loveis” to 77054 to get help from trained advocates.

Crayton Webb, Mary Kay Inc.’s director of corporate social responsibility, said in a press release that Mary Kay was focused on breaking the cycle of domestic violence before it starts.

“Understanding that Millennials and Gen-Y communicate predominantly through text, Mary Kay is excited to support the ‘text for help’ program focusing on prevention,” said Webb. “Our partnership with loveisrespect will offer young women and teenagers another avenue to get help and understand what healthy dating relationships look like.”

Mary Kay’s donation was part of the company’s larger “Don’t Look Away” campaign, which seeks to educate people on the signs of an abusive relationship.

Did I miss any major campaigns? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Stay tuned for my next post on (in my opinion) the relative lack of companies talking about sexual assault.

CSR Roundup – April 4, 2013

CSR Roundup – March 30, 2013

It’s a CSR roundup–Saturday edition!

CSR Roundup – March 6, 2013

It’s a video bonus! Check out one debate to find out what CSR has to do with charity. (Hint: it’s nothing.)

 

Meanwhile, in print:

  • It’s the era of “we, not me,” according to PRWeek. Employing a new buzzword, one expert says “corporate socialanthropy” defines the new era of reputation management for businesses big and small.
  • A case study discusses the international definition of a socially responsible company.
  • If today’s students are tomorrow’s CEOs, there are great things to come in socially responsible business! A high school entrepreneurship class challenges students to develop “for-purpose” business plans—breaking through the traditional for-profit model.
  • What do John Deere, Pfizer and PepsiCo have in common? They’re all contributing to development in emerging markets.
  • Ethispere released its ranking of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2013, with a record of 143 companies.

CSR Roundup – Feb. 20, 2013

Photo: ABC News (Gerald Herbert/AP Photo)
  • From the Carnival cruise fiasco to horse meat “beef” in grocery stores, recent crises have highlighted the importance of consumer trust in businesses—or as Drake would call them, #trustissues.
  • Forbes lists six criteria for selecting a CSR consultant. Does a blog and a bachelor’s degree count…?
  • 3BL Media, a distributor of CSR and sustainability news, has signed a distribution agreement with the Associated Press.
  • For sustainability tidbits from the mouths (or thumbs) of experts, follow these 34 corporate sustainability execs on Twitter.
  • Next Monday, Feb. 25 is International Corporate Philanthropy Day and the 8th annual Board of Boards CEO Conference, hosted by CECP. CECP will also present its Excellence Awards in Corporate Philanthropy. For background on the organization’s past events, check out these takeaways from the CECP Corporate Philanthropy Summit, held last summer in New York.

Five (Free!) CSR Mobile Apps

Corporate transparency has become more and more prevalent in today’s digital age. Shoppers equipped with a smartphone can access business and product information with a tap of their thumb. Taking advantage of this, organizations have created mobile apps focused on a variety of aspects of CSR, so consumers can take this information with them wherever they go. Below are just five of the free CSR apps available!

GoodGuide

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No matter what issues you support, the GoodGuide app can help inform your shopping decisions. The app connects to the GoodGuide website, which ranks consumer products based on a number of areas of social responsibility, including climate change, fair trade, human rights and nutrition. In addition, the GoodGuide app allows users to scan products in stores in order to access an overall company rating for social responsibility, as well as certifications the company has received. The app also allows major personalization—users can filter based on the issues they care about the most, flag problematic product ingredients and track purchases. It’s available for both Android and iOS devices.

Seafood Watch

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If you’re a lover of seafood and sustainability, Seafood Watch is a great resource for you. Created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seafood Watch provides up-to-date recommendations for sustainable seafood at restaurants and stores geographically near the user. Users can access “Best Choice,” “Good Alternative” and “Avoid” rankings, as well as “Super Green” seafood that is both healthy and sustainable. The newest version also allows users to share locations where they have found sustainable seafood. The app is available for Android and iPhone.

Free2Work

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Free2Work seeks to eradicate human trafficking and modern-day slavery by telling “the story behind the bar code.” A project of Not for Sale, Free2Work allows consumers to access company ratings on policies, transparency, monitoring and worker rights by scanning product bar codes. The app links to social media accounts so users can share findings on Facebook and Twitter. Free2Work features information across a number of consumer industries, including apparel, chocolate and technology. It’s available for both Android and iOS devices.

HRC Foundation Buying for Workplace Equality Guide

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Like others on this list, the Human Rights Center app is designed to inform buying decisions on the go. It focuses specifically on LGBT equality in company workplaces. The app includes a highly comprehensive catalog of business and products and their HRC Corporate Equality Index ranking. Each featured business and brand has its own detailed breakdown of workplace policies that contribute to the ranking, such as non-discrimination policies and domestic partner health insurance. The guide links to social media outlets. As of now, it appears to only be available on the iPhone.

Fair Trade Finder

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Created by Fair Trade USA, Fair Trade Finder is a crowdsourcing app that encourages users to add, tag and photograph Fair Trade Certified products to add to the catalog. The app seeks to help users find fair trade products wherever they are. Fair Trade Finder is available on iPhone and Android, and can also be accessed on Facebook.

Know of another great CSR app? Share it in the comments below.

CSR Roundup – Feb. 6, 2013