I have seen content marketing help so many leaders and brands (including our own) build trust and authority with their target audiences. As the leader of a B Corp myself, I also recognize there are some unique challenges—and can offer a few tips.
It’s heartening and inspiring to see that the number of certified B Corps continues to grow globally. We at Forge & Spark were thrilled and honoured to have become a certified B Corp ourselves in 2022, after undertaking a journey to truly “walk the walk,” interrogating and then clarifying our commitment to use business as a force for good, focusing our attention on social and environmental impact, as well as fiscal success. And since our certification in 2022, it’s been interesting for us to observe the ways that our own communication and content marketing have shifted.
As one example, it became more important to me, personally, to get a lot more clear about if, and how, we were going to communicate our values and social commitments. We didn’t want to sound braggy or boastful in any way, of course, but being darned proud of what we do and are aiming to accomplish as a B Corp was and is important, too. So the question of how to walk that line became a major point of discussion for our team. As a result, we updated all of our major story pillars in our own content marketing strategy, updated our own brand voice & tone guidelines, and in general have shifted our focus towards talking knowledgeably with just folks we want to work with: purpose-minded leaders (perhaps like you).
As a B Corp certified content agency, we have learned that developing a content marketing strategy that aligns with your brand values and purpose — whether you’re a B Corp or a purpose-led brand — has been a bigger challenge than expected. Your marketing, for example, must not only maintain the same high standards as your business practices, and resonate with your target audience, but also must express the values that are so very central to your identity as an organization or brand. This post outlines a few of the main challenges that we—and a few of our B Corp clients—have encountered, along with clear suggestions for how any purpose-led brand or leader might overcome those challenges.
Challenge #1: Avoiding the Self-Promotional ‘Ick’ Factor
As purpose-driven brands, B Corps need to strike a balance between promoting their mission and values and appearing self-promotional. It’s great to talk up your purpose and tell others about it, but the trick (in the words of one B Corp client) is to not “come off as preachy.”
And indeed, in marketing, it can feel difficult to talk about the values-led work one is doing without sounding self-aggrandizing, or—worse—like you’re only doing the good work so you can talk about the good work.
B Corps are generally not preachy, just for the record. Most quietly go about the business of running their businesses as successfully as possible, while maintaining focus on why they’re doing it—often for a purpose that includes profitability along with social or environmental impact.
Challenge #2: Transparency … Without Over-Sharing
B Corps tend to prioritize authenticity and transparency in their marketing efforts. And that’s often because transparency is one of the fundamental agreements made in the B Corp certification process, which requires a company to meet “high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.”
So why is it a marketing challenge for B Corps to be transparent? I think the challenge emerges when brands feel like they have to tell the audience everything, all the time—sometimes all at once—instead of thinking about what the audience most wants and needs to hear.
It remains essential, in marketing as in any type of communication, to pause and “read” your audience before you start talking. This helps you nail the “marketing-message mix,” which we’ll touch on below.
Challenge #3: Speaking to a Wide Audience with Competing Concerns
B Corps need to appeal to a diverse audience—it’s almost like the audience is broad and narrow at the same time. It can range from consumers who prioritize social impact to investors who focus on financial returns. But it can be challenging to say the right things to all of those folks.
So, it’s worthwhile to sit down and prioritize what you believe are your key audiences, and ensure you’re delivering at least some content tailored specifically to them. Otherwise it’s that old challenge: when you try to speak to everyone, you wind up speaking to no one. More on this below.
Challenge #4: Creating a Bit of Fun and Play (even when your purpose is serious)
For anyone with a serious-minded purpose—whether B Corp, social venture, purpose-driven leader, not-for-profit, or the like—there is a tendency to believe that everything has to be serious.
Not that serious is necessarily dull … but it can be, if one-dimensional. It’s a crowded world out there, with a whole lot of brands competing for interest. So it helps to give the audience a blend of tones in your writing and marketing.
Include the serious, certainly. But open up and share your personality and human side, too.
Challenge #5: Yes, Getting Results, Too
Getting marketing results is a challenge and objective for most companies. However, purpose-led leaders frequently face the dilemma of purpose versus profit. As a result, some B Corp leaders feel a bit guilty for concerning themselves with marketing results, especially if a campaign or piece of content is intended to communicate something important.
Another tricky area when it comes to measuring success is that traditional metrics may not fully capture the intended impact of B Corps’ content marketing. It’s tough to measure content ROI at the best of times. But if you’re “doing” purpose & profit simultaneously, you’re under pressure from two directions to show ROI—sound familiar?
We firmly (and kindly) remind our clients that business results do matter, along with those softer “metrics” for gauging the quality of your communication. One need not come at the expense of the other.
Turning the Challenges into Opportunities: Tips for Developing a Winning Content Marketing Strategy for B Corps
Despite the challenges noted above, I see significant opportunities for B Corps to use content marketing brilliantly to achieve their organizational and marketing goals— especially to build trust and authority with their most important audiences.
Purpose-led content marketing enables B Corps to build trust and establish their authority while creating meaningful connections with their target audiences. By crafting content that resonates with their audience and aligns with their values, B Corps can inspire and engage their community around their mission.
Clearly define and write out your purpose (or mission) and values in conversational language
Your content marketing and/or social media marketing strategy needs to be firmly grounded in your business purpose—and must, therefore, align with your organizational purpose and values. This is even more important for B Corps, whose identity and brand is so closely aligned with these elements.
Our advice to clients? In addition to your corporate purpose and value statements, also draft short and long conversational (i.e. non-stuffy or corporate-sounding) versions of your purpose and values, that anyone on your team can quickly grab and use in your content, captions, and writing.
Know your audience(s)
We recommend doing the work to clearly outline and understand your most important audiences—always acknowledging that your audience for content marketing isn’t just the people you want to buy your products or services.
Without trying to speak to all of these groups all at once with the same messaging, you can take time to carefully consider the kinds of content these groups may want and need from you, and take the time to create content uniquely for them — adding this targeted content to your wider content marketing mix.
Tell relatable, authentic stories
I wrote above about the challenges of avoiding the self-promotional”‘ick’ factor, and injecting a little fun and play into the mix. Telling honest, human stories can address both.
When sharing stories, for example, about something noble or meaningful your brand has engaged in, keep it human. Talk about the people who helped plan or execute the work. How great they were, how much fun they had, and/or some of the very real obstacles they faced in getting it done.
If you won an award, share photos of your team’s pride and delight, and speak openly about your real emotional response, shouting out the people responsible.
The key takeaways here: get emotional, include people, and—if in doubt—tone down the serious-mindedness with fun, funny photos, and stories. Your storytelling should always be relatable and sound like something only you can share.
Communicate what’s important to you in a way that’s also important to your audience
By all means, ensure that your content and social media marketing strategy aligns with your B Corp’s commitment to sustainability and responsible business practices. This might include, say, talking about your eco-friendly materials, or your choice to use vendors and software that align with your commitments to sustainability.
But be judicious about how much and how often to share this information. A dead-simple question can help, if you’re ever in doubt about how much “values stuff” to share before you do start sounding a bit preachy. And that is: Does this information provide value to my audience?
Measure that impact
For any content- or social media marketing project, you want to set clear and achievable goals for your content and social media marketing, in line with your organizational or business goals, and measure your progress. (At Forge & Spark, we use a framework we call OKRAs for setting content marketing goals; essentially, regular ol’ OKRs, with a focus on clarifying the audience action we’re looking to see.)
This applies to B Corps and purpose-driven organizations, but we like to add customized metrics, too, for tracking some of the “softer” key results of importance to the organization; like audience trust, and clarity in communicating values. Key Results here might, for example, include something like “received a contact form or email that showed clear understanding of our values”—rather than targeting random social media “Likes.” By measuring things that actually delight you and show you that your marketing is on the right track, B Corps’ content goals align not only with their business objectives, but their B Corp-specific objectives, too.
We Can Help: Winning Content Marketing Strategy for B Corps
Developing a winning content marketing strategy for B Corps isn’t, in the end, much different than creating successful content marketing in general. But by understanding the unique challenges and opportunities for B Corps, you’ll be able to fine-tune your strategy—and perhaps feel like you’re not alone in the journey.
Talk to us any time about our own journey to B Corp-dom, what we’ve come to learn about content marketing for purpose-driven brands, and how we can help with your brand success. Book a call here.