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The first of Russell Goldsmith’s three guests was Pearson’s VP for Social Impact and Global Campaigns, Emilie Colker who had taken part in a panel session talking about purpose driven campaigns that are driving social impact and community mobilisation. She spoke specifically about ‘Project Literacy’, the campaign founded by Pearson.
Emilie explained that, like many corporations, Pearson used to have a foundation that was responsible for all of the company’s CSR activities, but in 2014, the organisation decided to close it and bring, what they consider Social Impact, in-house, so that they could align it with their commercial ambitions and their mission as a whole. This enabled them to look at some of the types of thought leadership that they could take a stance on and the kinds of purpose driven partnerships they would need to fulfil and important cause, and wrapping it all in marketing. As a result, they founded Project Literacy, as literacy is critical to Pearson’s mission of learning. From there, they did a landscape analysis to understand where the gaps were in the market, and what the opportunity was in terms of solving the crisis that 758m people are subject to. However, Pearson sees itself as the convener, as it relies entirely their 100 partners (literacy organisations, corporations, third sector and charitable, media, research etc.,) for the campaign because, as Emilie said, literacy is a very saturated space and they wanted to ensure they were doing more as a community, rather than simply replicating what others are already doing.
Project Literacy has three tiers of partnerships:
What was astonishing was the fact that, as Emilie said, we typically think of illiteracy as a developing world problem, but in fact, it’s a developed world problem too. For example, she said that 34m Americans can’t read above a 5th Grade level and in the UK, one in five children leave primary school unable to have the right level of literacy, with it being even worse in London. Emilie also made the point that this is a critical issue that is linked to pretty much every other issue or cause that we think about. The problem is that it’s a stigma that people are ashamed of it and also, it’s something that doesn’t seem urgent.
Emilie shared two examples of programmes that she has worked on recently.
The first involved multiple partnerships in the US including with Microsoft, Pro Literacy and the University of Pennsylvania (Upenn) where they have developed a platform, previously developed by Upenn, that evaluates literacy skills of impoverished youth, and then provides remediation for them to improve their literacy skills in the community.
The second programme that Emily talked about was an accelerator that Pearson run with Unreasonable Institute, where they are working with four social enterprises that are solving illiteracy in indirect ways. One of a couple of examples that Emilie gave was in Tanzania, where they are working with a company that provides feminine hygiene products to girls because they don’t go to school when they have their periods as they don’t have anything to manage them. Pearson support this by putting these social entrepreneurs in touch with mentors, hold workshops with specialists to help them with financing options and help amplify their potential to deliver.
Project Literacy has won a number of industry awards for campaigns such as the ‘Alphabet of Illiteracy’, launched in February 2016, which was about how illiteracy underpins nearly every other issue in the world, and the ‘Mighty Pencil Machine’.
However, for Emilie, it would be a failure if it was purely a communication campaign. She explained that this comes down to their theory of change, within which they look at three specific pillars that they measure under:
Emilie stressed that underpinning all of these measurements is the promise of irradiating illiteracy, working with policy makers and looking at ways that they can help communities, societies and countries specifically make change. So for example, they have created a cost-benefit analysis to show that when people improve their literacy, what the likelihood is then of increasing their income. When multiplied by the time they have left to work, Project Literacy can then demonstrate to Governments how much literacy is going to impact the Gross National Product of that country.
Of course, as Emilie said, Pearson are committed to the project because it is tied to the organisation’s mission, but it also has a strong brand benefits for it too because, as she explained, they know that when people know that companies are invested in social missions, they are more likely to recommend those companies and so there is a higher grade of advocacy, especially at times of risk, they are more likely to support those companies.
The overall campaign has benefited from some big celebrity endorsement, such as actress Julianne Moore, particularly during international literacy day, which they achieved by appealing to the causes those individual celebrities cared about and campaigned for.
Emilie gave examples such as Bono & Elton John caring about AIDS and poverty, or Emma Watson who cares about Gender Inequality. So when Emilie’s team shared with them about how illiteracy fuels these problems, they are wanted to share with their networks ways in which they can help.Of course, you can get involved too, either personally or through your business by:
PART 2 (Interview starts at 20min)
Morven has held her position as PR Director for around six years, and she explained how the nature of how we do PR has changed quite significantly, specifically on how social media influencers have become a more important part of the overall mix over the past few years, and how using these influencers takes a different mind and skill set to that of using traditional media.
Morven talked about how important it is to get the balance between platforms and experience. She said that whilst Levi’s may be using as many channels as possible, it is necessary to understand how they all link, as this affects the way in which products are marketed and how brands keep the support of their customers. Looking further into social media marketing, she explained that using online influencers can offer a share of voice on a channel that perhaps you may not have had otherwise. Therefore, when Levi’s are selecting social media influencers to work with, Morven stated that while obviously the size of their reach is important for getting the brand’s message out, there are other aspects that are important too. Naturaly, from the fashion industry point of view, visual channels such as Instagram and YouTube will feature heavily. Morven also mentioned Snapchat as a new visual platform, and whilst she feels its relevance is being questioned since the launch of Instagram stories, she feels it does still cater for a particular audience.
Morven also said that podcasts are becoming more popular in the fashion world as a form or marketing. However, she argues that the world of influencers is becoming ever more crowded and at some point they will need to find a way to differentiate themselves from everyone.
There are many things that go into choosing the right influencer to collaborate with, which Morven said is a challenge for the brand, but ultimately the audience must feel that the relationship that the brand and the influencer have is an authentic one. Factors include the number of followers, but also who is following them; social engagement levels in the form of likes or comments; and the fact that, as she previously mentioned, the fashion industry is a very visual market. This led her to say that the aesthetics of an influencer’s profile is an extremely important aspect in the process of picking the right influencer. Morven also said that she also looks at what other brands an influencer is working with as that gives her the chance to see whether the influencer would also be a good fit for Levi’s.
It is also important to make sure the influencers that are chosen are genuine about wanting to be part of Levi’s and so they are regularly invited to events, such as those at their VIP gifting suites in Central London and LA, and encouraged to pick out products in order for them to understand the brand values. This enables Levi’s so see if there is a genuine connection with them. The key is that Levi’s are looking for long term relationships and do not want influencers who see the opportunity as, what Morven described as a short term pay cheque.
Whilst the world of marketing and PR is changing and influencer marketing is now the focus of what Morven is doing, she believes that traditional media is still important and critical in the mix as it gives credibility in the fashion industry. However, she said social media can reach a different and often younger audience.
Morven said that Levi’s was fortunate to have some great campaigns with some really good influencers. For example, they partnered with Chiara Ferragini (below) of The Blonde Salad, an Italian YouTuber and Instagrammer, to set up a capsule product collection that was sold in selective and exclusive retailers across Europe.
Levi’s took Chiara out to their Innovation Lab in San Francisco to create the designs, and so this collaborative collection allowed for Chiara’s followers to feel both part Levi’s community and Chiara’s.
The collection sold out everywhere almost instantly, which as Morven mentions, is a clear way of seeing how much influence such YouTubers have and how this can benefit brands.
Finally, Morven said that the world of influencers is becoming increasingly crowded and almost every influencer now has an agent. She therefore believes that while it is important to use social influencers, there aren’t enough ‘marketing dollars’ to finance everyone with an Instagram account and so it is important for the influencers to be able to differentiate themselves, potentially diversifying across different channels and standing out enough to keep their relationship with the brands going. She added that it is just as important for brands to keep on top of the changing processes too and therefore suggests that brands need to work out new ways to keep influencers wanting to work with them, asking “how can we offer unique experiences to influencers that will make them genuinely want to post about the brand, outside of campaigns”.
PART 3 – (skip to 36:35)
To begin with, Ali explained that in her presentation, as well as behaviour change, change can encompass anything from making people love a brand they haven’t loved before, to driving up share price, engaging employees, or delivering brand and corporate reputation – anything that makes a measurable difference to a business’ or a brand’s objectives. However, her biggest concerns for the PR industry in general is that it can’t always prove what it is doing actually works and that, as an industry, whilst it’s increasingly focussing around creativity, great strategy and content, if the focus is on output and not outcomes, Ali believes PR has its eye off the ball.
In her talk in the conference she said that winning at Cannes [Lions], being in the [PR Week] Power book and pitching and winning is cool, but she asked the audience to truthfully answer what proportion of their work makes a real difference, arguing that in many cases, they won’t know, and in lots of cases, it makes no difference at all.
So below are Ali’s seven sins and how she explained them:
After talking through the list, Russell asked Ali for one thing, and one thing only, that she would ask the industry to do to help her in her cause, ensuring she follows her own rules by not being too greedy and asking for a small change to start with! Her response was to ask the judges and owners of awards in the industry to literally throw out any entry that doesn’t have proper outcome measurements or where the outcomes that are measured don’t relate directly and clearly to the stated objectives.