PUBLIC RELATIONS: All in a good cause - PR consultancies are embracing cause-related marketing with enthusiasm, reports Robert Gray

Holiday village operator Center Parcs will champion wild flower conservation later this year in what is set to grow into a classic cause-related marketing campaign. The omens are good because all the right ingredients are in place.

Holiday village operator Center Parcs will champion wild flower

conservation later this year in what is set to grow into a classic

cause-related marketing campaign. The omens are good because all the

right ingredients are in place.



For a start, Center Parcs has a favourable environmental record, so it

cannot be accused of hypocrisy. Its holiday villages include areas of

carefully preserved woodland, an image it is keen to convey alongside

the sports and swimming pool flumes for which it is arguably better

known.



Quite logically, therefore, the first strand of the campaign is for

Center Parcs to concentrate on safeguarding the wild flowers on its own

land.



Stage two centres on a sales promotion mechanic - pots containing wild

flower seeds will be sold through retailers such as garden centres and

DIY outlets.



A percentage of each sale will go toward wild flower conservation in the

UK. This will be communicated on the packaging, which will also be used

to market the attractions of Center Parcs. Given that Center Parcs’

target market of young families fits well with the demographic for DIY

and garden centre shoppers, it will offer a genuine awareness-generating

platform.



Finally, consumers who buy the product will be able to do their own bit

to save endangered species of flora by planting the seeds in their

gardens. All in all, it’s a cleverly thought through cause-related

marketing campaign, so congratulations to the sales promotion house that

put it together ... except that it wasn’t a sales promotion agency at

all.



The plaudits should go instead to Center Parcs’ PR consultancy,

Countrywide Porter Novelli, which devised the campaign after considering

links with over 50 worthy causes.



’We can take the message to consumers through retail outlets in a way

that doesn’t cheapen the brand integrity,’ says Countrywide creative

director Pauline Kent. ’PR isn’t just about providing the media

relations bolted on to a sales promotion. We’re more likely to be given

a brief to develop something from the beginning.’



PR is an essential part of most CRM campaigns. And because PR

professionals, be they in-house or at consultancies, are used to dealing

with issues related to corporate citizenship, they are probably the

advisers best-placed to help marketers develop CRM initiatives.



’CRM has in the past been closer to sales promotion and separate from

being a good corporate citizen. I think that’s over now. Companies that

want to get into CRM without looking at the wider implications are

crazy; it will backfire on them,’ adds Kent. PR consultancies hot on

CRM, such as Countrywide and Kinross & Render, carry out a social audit

or ’health check’ on clients before suggesting a course of action. In

this way, anomalies are avoided.



Prime suspects



Companies with even slightly suspect environmental practices, for

instance, are dissuaded from linking themselves with environmental

charities. If they were to do so, the chances are that an ever-vigilant

and news hungry media would expose them for not being greener than

green.



The upshot of this could be untold damage to a brand and corporate

reputation, with a probable knock-on effect hitting the charity partner

- not at all what CRM should be about. For, at its best, it is a win-win

relationship.



’Only two years ago it was relatively rare for clients to ask us to make

recommendations on potential CRM activities as part of programme

planning,’ says Kinross & Render chief executive Sara Render. ’Nowadays,

it is rare for clients in the financial services and consumer goods

industries not to include a CRM requirement. It remains unusual for our

clients outside these areas.



’Charities have got very switched on to this, but competition to be the

beneficiary of a CRM initiative is intense and is almost invariably won

by the big, well-established names.’



Render represents organisations from both the corporate and charity

sector which are developing CRM initiatives. It would, she says, be nice

to marry them up, but this is impossible. For CRM to work, there has to

be sound reasons for the partnership.



The relationship should also be sustained. The public, though looking to

business to behave in a socially responsible manner, is suspicious of

companies adopting a short-term, parasitic approach to good causes.



’We advise clients to resist short-term one-offs and develop a more

strategic approach,’ says Chris Genasi, head of the corporate division

at Shandwick-owned Welbeck Golin Harris. ’Companies tend to go for

popular, fluffy causes whereas what they should do is talk to the

government and the charitable community to find out where the real needs

are.’



Bare necessities



’If you are seen to be delivering something that is genuinely useful,

people will be more accepting of it. The plea I’d make is not to rush

into the toy shop and pick up the brightest baubles.’



The points are well-made and shown to good effect in what could be

called the most successful CRM programme in the UK, Tesco’s Computers

for Schools.



There is no faulting the supermarket giant on either its long-term

commitment or the usefulness of what it is doing. Computers for Schools

was launched in 1992 and has brought pounds 34m worth of computers and

related equipment into schools. PR has been at the heart of the

initiative.



’It’s a huge PR programme,’ says Tesco department manager for community

affairs, Fiona Archer. ’We do get a lot of national PR, but it works far

better at a local level. It produces lots of stories about local schools

and that’s what we want it do.’



Iceland Frozen Foods is also pursuing a long-term CRM campaign, with the

National Missing Persons Helpline. The campaign launched in April 1997

and will continue for the foreseeable future.



Pictures and details of missing children are carried on the side of milk

containers (Iceland sells 75,000 of these a day through its 770 stores

across the UK). One child has already been reunited with her family as a

direct result of the campaign.



’Our customers expect to see us doing things to support communities and

charities,’ says Iceland PR manager Barbara Crampton. ’And PR is very

important in that regard, it gives us the opportunity to communicate

with our customers.’



The Game Plan, the third in a series of market research studies into CRM

by Research International on behalf of Business in the Community, was

published at the end of last year. It found that low awareness was

reducing the impact of CRM programmes; yet, at the same time, consumers

were eager to hear about them. Clearly, if a programme is to work,

extensive communications support must be built in.



Pantomime project



Although most true CRM programmes are based on sales promotion, this

need not be the case. Cadbury’s sponsorship of 31 pantomimes across the

UK, which has raised over pounds 150,000 for Save the Children in three

years, is more indirect.



Even so, Cadbury spokesman Tony Bilsborough is clear that this is

cause-related marketing. ’We are promoting the Cadbury brand through

this sponsorship, and building awareness of individual brands through

the products that are thrown to the audience or given away on stage

throughout each performance,’ he says. ’So it is a marketing exercise,

while raising money for Save the Children at the same time. We both

benefit.’



Some programmes which begin as straight community sponsorships later

take on a CRM dimension. Shell’s LiveWIRE scheme for promoting awareness

of the importance of enterprise among the young has run nationally since

1984. However, last autumn Shell ran a pilot scheme promoting LiveWIRE

with flyers and stanchion posters at 60 of its sites. In so doing, Shell

was moving the scheme into the realms of CRM, and the hope is that the

pilot will be expanded.



Stella Hitner, managing director of PR agency the Reputation Managers,

applauds Shell for its efforts with LiveWIRE. One of her wishes is that

more business-to-business clients would try out CRM.



Saatchi & Saatchi Cause Connection director Marjorie Thompson says:

’It’s time to remove worthy causes from the ghetto of social

responsibility budgets and integrate them within marketing budgets.’



Her comment is perhaps harsh on community relations teams. However, CRM

is marketing, and should be given the same support as any other

marketing programme.



KIMBERLY-CLARK ON A ROLL WITH ANDREX PUPPY ANNIVERSARY



In a campaign devised by its PR consultancy Lexis, Kimberly-Clark

celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Andrex Puppy advertising last

year with a three-month promotion running from April 1. The centrepiece

of the promotion saw consumers exchange on-pack tokens for a limited

edition Andrex Puppy soft toy and in the process raise money for the

Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (GDBA).



Objectives were to build perceptions of Andrex as one of the UK’s

best-loved brands and develop loyalty among consumers at a local level.

The tie-in with GDBA, a charity Andrex has supported in the past, made

sense because of the brand’s strong association with dogs.



About 25,000 Rainbow Guides and Brownie packs were targeted to help with

the fundraising. A freephone hotline was set up, Lexis put together an

appeal pack and token collection was incentivised. Prizes were given to

the top guide or brownie pack and individual collector in each of nine

regions.



Lexis supported the campaign with radio promotions and straight PR. Over

170 stories in the print media reached an estimated 14.7 million people.

Radio interviews, together with the paid-for on-air promotions, were

heard by an estimated 18 million people.



’Lexis ran an outstanding campaign, turning regular sales promotion into

a great piece of cause-related marketing,’ says Andrex marketing manager

Joe Bromilow. ’I am convinced that their work made an enormous

contribution to our uplift in sales and a 6% increase in market share

over the course of the campaign.’ The campaign raised pounds 263,500 for

GDBA and won Lexis a PRCA Award for Outstanding Consultancy

Practice.



CARDS AGAINST WAR



Telecoms company Worldcall recently launched a series of collectible

phonecards, sales of which will benefit the charity Warchild to the tune

of pounds 1 per card sold. The cards feature original designs by famous

musicians such as David Bowie, Underworld, Graham Coxon of Blur, Kate

Bush and Peter Gabriel, and are presented in a mini CD-style box.



The cards are available by mail order and at selected stores. Card users

will be able to save up to 70% on national and international calls.



Corporate responsibility specialist Addition has been retained by

Worldcall, with a remit to help position it as a company known for its

social responsibility.



Addition helped its client devise the music star cards, which are the

first in a series of CRM initiatives planned for this year.



As well as offering strategic input, Addition is handling the media

relations campaign. The cards are aimed at ordinary consumers and

collectors.



Fusilateley, as the collection of phonecards is known, is growing in

popularity. Although the first phonecard only appeared in Italy in 1976,

it is claimed that 100,000 people now collect them in the UK.



Rare phonecards can command high prices - not long ago someone forked

out an astonishing pounds 28,000 for a Taiwanese example.



’We’ve been quite surprised by the amount of publicity there’s been on

this,’ says Warchild music-related funding co-ordinator James

Topham.



’Even publications like Melody Maker have been supportive and given it

coverage.’



Anyone interested in purchasing Warchild charity phonecards should call

0800 496 5656.



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