I recently read an article by Miriam Ellis on Moz.com about using kindness as currency. She discusses how companies around the globe have been (and should be) using acts of kindness to gain exposure and reputation. Through social media, TV and radio interviews, and other marketing forms, these companies are showing their altruism to the world and gathering a following based on the kindness of their employees or the company as a whole. The marketing spreads like wildfire and then – BOOM – you have an instantly loved corporation.
On one hand, I find the idea of this absolutely beautiful. Be known as the kind, helpful, caring entity. Reward your employees for good deeds. Save the planet. Be a hero. Spread the love, then spread the word. A grand gesture while still gaining publicity… it’s a win for everyone, right?
Here’s the problem, though: people appreciate humility and authenticity far more than acts of good deeds because often, it is just that – an act. Have you ever scrolled through social media and read a post from someone saying, “Look what I did! I’m such a good person!” I know you’ve seen them. People post about giving someone a ride when they ran out of gas. They mention how much money they gave to a homeless individual. They paid for the meal of the person behind them in the drive thru. And they usually end the post with #humblebrag. Seriously? Humble brag? What a ridiculous oxymoron. There have even been hoaxes of these supposed good deeds that ended in federal charges…all because some people wanted their fifteen seconds of fame.
People are starting to say that “it’s not a good deed if you post it on Facebook,” which seems fairly accurate to me. As it is, social media posts should be taken with a grain of salt. You know those beautiful pictures of children with their parents, maybe working on a project together or snuggling up on the couch? Without a doubt, they fail to show the harsh truths behind having kids. They just want to show the sweet side of life.
So what happens when businesses of any and all sizes start participating in this behavior as well? Sure, they will likely gain some attention, even positive exposure. But we all know that media of any sort only shows part of the picture.
Maybe we could work on another concept instead. I know it might sound crazy, but what if we acted like good people because it’s just the right thing to do? Go green in your office because it’s something that your company believes in, not because you want to be on the local news station. Reward your employees for volunteer work because you want to encourage people to support the community, not because you want the recognition yourself. This shouldn’t be part of a marketing plan. This needs to be a part of who you are and what your company stands for.
Yes, we should utilize unique aspects of marketing when we can; we also need to think about our motivations. If someone catches you on video in a random act of kindness and the video goes viral, feel free to share it and accept those interview offers! It’s also great to give a shout out to employees who are giving back. But that should be an effort to recognize generous people; don’t make it about you. There is a thin line on which to focus that is extremely important. Think about why you’re doing these generous deeds and the message it portrays. Do you want to be known as the person who is selfie-ready (especially in situations where most people would be filthy) just so you can “show off the good” that you’re bringing to the world? Marketing is about showing your brand to the world, both personally and as a company. Make sure that you are displaying the image that you want others to see.