‘Like’ This Post and We’ll Donate Money to Charity!

Just kidding; we would never condescend to you like that. But quite a few brands would and do–and it seems to work on some level. Here, for example, is an update posted on the Papa John’s timeline yesterday:

Everyone agrees that charity is a good thing and that no child in a developed nation like the United States should face the prospect of going to bed hungry. Also: We understand that this post fits within the “social media best practices” guidelines by featuring a positive message, an aggressive call to action and an emotionally manipulative stock photograph. But it won’t win Papa John’s any “responsible citizen” awards.

And as you can see from the thousands of comments on the post, many users see it as an act of shameless self-promotion. Quite a bit of the thread consists of bickering over the health care controversy sparked by CEO John Schnatter‘s earlier comments.

Also: The Salvation Army, which is a religious organization, has dealt with a fair amount of bad PR in recent years thanks to its politics (just like Papa John’s). One issue which seems to come up every year concerns the organization’s adversarial relationship with the gay community.

But again, this is all politics. While we understand the importance of encouraging fans to “engage”, the idea that Papa John’s conditions its donations on the number of “likes” received is strange and self-serving. What if the likes and shares hadn’t reached 50,000? Would the money still go to the Salvation Army? What if the organization just donated money and/or food to the Salvation Army, posted on it and encouraged its fans to follow? What if it highlighted stories of individual children helped by the Salvation Army? Wouldn’t the results be the same?

Here are some better examples of corporate brands doing the responsible citizen thing:

  • The Tom’sOne for One” campaign: For every pair of shoes purchased, the company donates one.
  • The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer: On its Facebook page Avon (which created its own foundation) encourages fans to submit content, discuss their experiences and buy stuff. Standard and effective advocacy branding.
  • The Patagonia1% for the Planet” campaign in which the company donates 1% of its profits to favored environmental charities.

No conditions, no “if we reach this total” calls to action–just ongoing partnerships with charities or, even better, public service initiatives created by the brands themselves.

We get it: publicizing a brand as a “good corporate citizen” on Facebook without looking like you’re humblebragging is a tough job. But this is not the best way to do it.

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