What is one thing that you truly believe in? Something that perhaps would give you a sense of life direction. That which you breathe and would fight for. Belief. Purpose. Cause. Synonymous yet unique in their own ways–threaded by an insatiable drive and desire to influence people and institutions on issues affecting public policy, economy, and society. Gender equality, human rights, healthcare, equal employment opportunity, accessibility for all, sustainable environment, zero waste, free education,…and the list goes on. Regardless of the context, an advocacy may live and thrive within an individual, a group, a business organization, a community, and even more effectively, a whole nation. What truly matters is the clarity of intent and quality of action collectively shared by those who advocate a specific concern.
The ADVOCATE is both A Noun and A Verb. In parallelism, The Doer and The Action of a chosen advocacy. Neither demanded from nor imposed on, advocacies are most commonly rooted upon and associated with one’s passion and mission as may be resulting from a remarkable episode in life or by a continuation of a tradition passed on by a generation. The etymology of the word: Advocate reveals its true essence–as one who summons, invokes, and calls to act. Interestingly, an advocate may go by the titles: patron, protector, or champion. As an instrument of change and transformation, an advocate serves as the voice that speaks and shouts out loud worthy opinions on causes that affect anyone and everyone.
The History of Advocacy as published by The Borgen Project, a US-based non-governmental organization addressing poverty and hunger, provides us with a short yet interesting preview of the early beginnings of the term Advocacy. In its article, it recognizes the US Salvation Army (1852) and the Red Cross (1881) as two of the oldest programs that are still alive to this day. They noted however, that despite these two widely-recognized giving institutions, the spirit of helping others has long been exercised by orphanages.
Crossing over with the organizational concepts of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and SIM (Strategic Issues Management), CSA or Corporate Social Advocacy is how a team of researchers coined it in their 2019 published article. This literature review, though written in a very academic manner, provides a complete History and Evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility–a story of the roots and evolution of advocacy within the context of various corporate cultures. While the published article dealt more on CSR as a construct, it delicately outlined the milestones of this corporate responsibility vis-a-vis the essence of advocacy in the corporate world.
At the heart of any organization are its employees. In 2013, the online media everyonesocial.com began its Employee Advocacy platform which promoted and raised awareness on the important role that employees play in pushing forward their individual advocacies. As their strategy, they highlighted the power of employee advocacy to increase brand awareness and along with this, released the pamphlet: The Business Justification of Employee Advocacy. While being more business-oriented, this pamphlet may serve as a set of guidelines for their target customers who wish to explore and harness this mindset within their respective organizations. Everyone Social’s soul speaks the value of human resources–undeniably, the most important resource any business entity may have.
Some other corporate entities may opt to use another term for what they do and believe in. A compendium of Cause organizations, as the term ‘Cause’ is taken as an organization’s driver for action programs not necessarily profit-motivated. Heavily hinged and resting on a corporate culture that thrives on the causes they (management, employees, and even customers) imbibe and draw inspiration from, cause-based organizations are typically transparent and vocal about their causes–as may be seen perhaps through their business processes, their strategies, and more evidently, in their product or service offerings. As a strategy, having a common cause has proven to be very helpful to organizations in the long run.
Now, Cause Marketing as a business strategy has become very popular among business as it effectively reaches its target audience. The platform selfishgiving.com has aggressively campaigned for the ‘win-win’ partnerships between non-government organizations and business. Their 2015 feature article, A Short History of Cause Marketing, presents the early beginnings of this business strategy and identifies the contribution of Paul Revere, a patriot who is recognized for having invented Cause Marketing.
In a 2017 article published by entrepreneur.com, developing Purpose-Driven social brands should motivate companies to maximize the potent effect of marketing strategies that echo their corporate causes. The article entitled: Cause-Related Marketing: A Win-Win for Brands, Charities, and the Consumer cited Marketing guru Philip Kotler as he wrote in his seminal book Marketing 3.0 that “marketing must engage people in ways that provide solutions to their anxieties to make the globalized world a better place.” Further, the article shared the realization that “consumers want companies and brands to demonstrate a purpose that benefits local communities and the world at large”. A related article, For the UAE’s Year of Giving, Let’s Get Sustainability Right provides us with a Simple Guide on How to Craft a Sustainability Strategy–especially appealing to those whose cause leans toward sustainability. Accordingly, there are five suggested steps any company may take:
- Get Leadership Involved
- Understand Your Sustainability Impact
- Define Your “Who”
- Engage both Internally and Externally
- Measure, measure, measure
Another noteworthy undertaking is the Social Excellence Project which advocates the formula: People+Purpose=Organization. They believe that organizations put too much attention on the details associated with their causes but often times, overlook the single most important ingredient in their company’s success–the PEOPLE. In their 2019 article entitled 8 Steps to Growing Your Cause-Based Organization, they share the following:
- Focus On the Basics
- A.C.E. Your Values
- Gather Your Workhorses
- Know Your Audience
- Share Your Dream
- Be Socially Excellent
- Grow Wiser
With these ideas on how an organization (whether in business or government) may pursue their causes as a realization of their purpose, it is imperative that they recognize and value all the essential elements needed to truly become an advocate.
What is your advocacy?
cover image sourced from Pexels as shot by Sharon McCutcheon