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How philanthropy and PR—a seemingly unlikely mix—are finding common ground

by | Nov 5, 2018 | Analysis, Public Relations

Public relations and philanthropy may seem a bit counterintuitive. However, with the rise of savvy nonprofits, social enterprise and corporate social responsibility, there is room for philanthropy and purpose in the public relations world.

Sponsorship of events like the Invictus Games proves that there is room for purpose that is authentic. The 2018 Invictus Games, which took place last week in Sydney, illustrates perfectly how corporations are willing to make a real effort to make a difference. The Games is a sporting event in which the participants are wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans. In Australia, there are around 6,000 men and women who leave the Defence Force and return to civilian life every year. The transition from military to civilian life can be harrowing, as they deal with both physical and mental well-being issues.

A typical CSR initiative would have just allocated some money to the event just to tick off their philanthropy boxes

What we see now is a shift towards a more conscious and well-meaning corporate culture, where both big and small business are willing to get down and dirty and work together with nonprofits to make a difference.

How philanthropy and PR—a seemingly unlikely mix—are finding common groundBrands like Sage and Westpac have really stepped forward in the case of the Invictus Games. In addition to their monetary support, these companies have committed themselves to supporting military veterans through employment opportunities and mentoring schemes, as well as through raising awareness of the charities that work within this space.

The best purpose-driven PR campaigns are those which depict existing efforts, rather than those which drive efforts. Obviously, it looks good to be involved in and supporting the Invictus Games and it’s great for PR. However, it doesn’t mean that’s the reason for being involved in the first place.

An interesting new trend is businesses using internally-aligned foundations to run their philanthropy programs. In these instances, corporations with a real desire to have a positive impact can incorporate their foundation’s mission into their wider business. A clear difference lies between companies saying things that sound good on paper or on their flashy website, and those turning advocacy into action.

Social enterprise is a great example of how purpose can enter the public relations realm

Take for example the ‘Who Gives a Crap’ toilet paper that puts half of all its profits into toilet and sanitation projects in the developing world.

Businesses looking to make an impact all have something in common—they are self-aware and want to give back. They understand they have responsibilities beyond just churning out profit. There are so many businesses on the philanthropy bandwagon now—it’s just a matter of distinguishing between the businesses that actually care and the ones that just want some easy publicity.

The million dollar question is would the company still engage in philanthropy if no one would find out? Depending on the answer, you’ll know if the company is using purpose as a selling point or if there is authenticity to its purpose.

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Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5W Public Relations: 5WPR is one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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