How to Succeed at Doing Social Good: Summit Offers Practical Tips

Social Good Summit Offers Practical TipsThis week's Social Good Summit in New York was, in some ways, like a speed-dating event for cause marketers, do-gooders and those interested in their efforts: It featured a wide range of mostly mini-speeches by such activists as actors Geena Davis and Edward Norton, who talked about their social good initiatives, See Jane and Crowdrise, respectively, as well as a lengthier interview with media mogul Ted Turner, whose United Nations Foundation partnered with Mashable and 92Y to sponsor the summit.

Representing consumer goods sellers including Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and PepsiCo (PEP), and media companies both old and new such as MTV Networks (VIA) and Facebook, the speakers also offered some practical tips for doing social good, particularly by using social media. Among these were:

• The fastest way to engage consumers is to talk to them about things they care about.

Jack Leslie, chairman of Weber Shandwick, the public relations agency, said corporate America has moved from "the broadcast model, gaining awareness out in the marketplace, to the engagement model," thanks to technology. "As marketers need to engage customers every day, we need to start thinking of them not as consumers but as advocates. The fastest way to engagement is to talk to people about things they care about, what role companies can play in addressing social need."

• Use tools, methods and content that are relevant to the audience you are trying to reach.

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That advice came from Judy McGrath, chief executive of MTV Networks, whose target audience is often young adults. "We have to get their attention, we're competing with a lot of noise and have to figure out a way to grab them, using tools, methods and content that's relevant to young adults," she said. One example she cited was Darfur Is Dying, a viral video game, translated into many languages, which provides a window into the experience of refugees in Darfur.

• Humanize the story you are trying to tell.

Susan Smith Ellis, chief executive of (RED), the organization that creates products with iconic brands to raise money to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa, said (RED)'s digital outreach campaign shows the impact of HIV and AIDS on real people, not dry statistics, to get its message out. Similarly, Sherri Rollins Westin, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Sesame Workshop, discussed how Takalani Sesame, the South African version of Sesame Street, had created an HIV-positive Muppet called Kami, who she said "normalized the face of AIDs" and provided a "life-affirming antidote" and a way for adults and children to freely and constructively discuss the disease.

• If you're creating a gaming platform, make sure it's engaging.

Social games like Nothing but Nets can "bring the social context to real-world problems," said Adam Conner, associate manager of public policy for Facebook. He also said creators of social games must remember "that it's a game first, focus on making it engaging first, more than anything."

• If you're fundraising for a cause, identify and keep in touch with your prospective supporters, and only then hit them up for donations.

Chris Hughes, a founder of Facebook and mastermind of Barack Obama's digital presidential campaign, is launching a new social network, Jumo, to connect people "who want to change the world," in beta later this year. He said Jumo would show viewers available social good options worldwide and help them stay on top of these initiatives.

"We expect the user to come in and find a cause," but not immediately be asked for money, he said, adding that fundraising should be the final step in the process, not the first, as it is in Causes on Facebook.
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