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How To Weave ESG Messaging Into Your Marketing Plan

How to Weave ESG Messaging into your Marketing Plan

The following approach is one way to begin marketing your ESG story -- no matter what stage of the journey you’re at.

Marketers have to tell all kinds of stories about a brand, from the products and services it provides, the culture among its team and the higher purpose it serves. The one common thread that can run through all of those stories is a brand’s approach to environmental, social and governance issues, or ESG.

It may not be immediately obvious how ESG fits into a brand’s wider narrative. It’s not always an area that marketing departments have deliberately talked about in their campaigns or across the channels they oversee. And yet, the stories are there — even if it’s a story about what a brand is not doing, but should.

A clothing brand might make the most stylish and cheapest clothes on the market, for instance, but how much waste does its manufacturing process produce? How does the team behind the brand reflect an effort to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace? What performance factors are tied to executive pay?

If the answers to those questions aren’t clear, a brand can let the outside world guess at the truth or fill in the blanks. However you’re likely to build brand trust, affinity and loyalty by being intentional about making ESG a part of your marketing every day.

The challenge, of course, is how. Customers who are used to only hearing from a brand about its latest products, promotions and special offers might be surprised to suddenly get communication about ESG issues.

Sharing a brand’s progress on issues like DEI or tackling climate change could also open it up to criticism. Many brands are still in the early stages of these journeys, so there’s an understandable concern about making a bad impression or having a negative impact on the company’s reputation.

Recent research revealed at Salesforce Canada’s Growing with Purpose event series might help here. In a survey of more than 1,500 Canadians, for example, 87% said they want to shop with brands/companies that are open and honest about their values. An even larger majority of 91% ranked trust as one of the most important values coming out of the last year.

The following approach is one way to begin marketing your ESG story — no matter what stage of the journey you’re at:

Start By Listening

Talking about ESG doesn’t have to begin by suggesting your brand has all the answers. It may be better to use some of the channels and access to audiences you have to get input and feedback first.

Think about running a Twitter chat, for example, where you can ask specific questions around your customers’ expectations of brands in terms of their approach to ESG issues. Send a survey in the next edition of your e-mail newsletter to get data on how important ESG considerations are to their buying decisions and churn. Start a discussion on LinkedIn using a simple poll and respond to the comments on your post as they come in.

Active listening at the outset of your ESG marketing strategy will help make sure you’re aligned with your customers and can craft the right messages accordingly.

Build On Familiar Formats

Hopefully you’re using marketing automation to not only manage your day-to-day work but to see analytics about what’s working best and resonating with your audience. This is a way of identifying the best kinds of assets to begin building content about your brand’s ESG outlook and actions.

In some cases your blog might be your best source of organic traffic and the way customers want to keep up with your news. For others it might be a branded YouTube channel, while companies in the business-to-business (B2B) sector often see deep engagement with downloadable eBooks.

This is important to study and think about because marketing your brand’s ESG story shouldn’t be a case of reinventing the wheel. You’ll produce quality content faster and easier by following a path similar to the ones you take to talk about your products and services.

Share The Stage And Amplify Others

One of the unmistakable truths about ESG is they represent issues that face all of us, directly or indirectly. That means it makes sense to think about these stories as ones that don’t simply make your brand the star but give a platform to like-minded companies or people who could offer education and inspiration to your audience.

Invite suppliers or business partners who have impressed you with their commitment to environmental causes to appear with you in a fireside chat you host on your branded Facebook page. Book a customer or influencer in your sector to come on your branded podcast or Instagram Story to talk about best practices in DEI recruiting and management practices.

If you don’t have a podcast or aren’t using Facebook, pick the relevant channel. Publish a guest post on your blog, or simply reshare great ESG-related content on Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media service.

Final Thoughts

You won’t go wrong with talking about ESG issues in your marketing as long as you stick to a few key pillars.

First, be upfront about where your brand is today and where you want to be. There might still be a considerable gap between those two points. Acknowledge it, and be clear about what you’re doing to close it.

Second, be transparent about the challenges you’re facing, even if you haven’t figured everything out. This is a good example of where marketing should not be a one-way message but a conversation. You might be surprised who reaches out with ideas or an offer to help.

Finally, be consistent. If you only talk about ESG once or in a short campaign and never again, your audience might wonder what happened. Prove you’re in this for the long haul by making ESG a common touchpoint in your marketing. Your customers will come to expect it — and deeply appreciate it.

Want to learn more about how your business can be a platform for change? Check out our recent Growing with Purpose event, featuring our host Sangita Patel, ET Canada Entertainment Reporter, as she talks to leading experts about how to incorporate sustainable practices that will make a world of difference for your business and the planet. You’ll hear from Bina Venkataraman, Journalist and Author of the Optimist’s Telescope; Jackie Kankam, Director of Sustainability and Social Impact at DECIEM; and Patrick Flynn, VP of Sustainability at Salesforce. Watch, learn, and get inspired today.

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