Written by Nicole Akalla, Senior Communications Executive, GOLIN MENA

From your phone screen to your morning latte, brands are everywhere, vying for your attention. But lately, there’s a new twist: brands taking a stand on social issues. Climate change? Black Lives Matter? Gender Inequality? Suddenly, your favorite sneaker company is advocating for sustainability, while the cereal you grew up with champions diversity and inclusion.

This trend isn’t just happening in the West. Across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, a vibrant youth population is demanding change. They’re digitally connected, socially conscious, and increasingly vocal about the issues that matter to them. This shift in consumer behavior presents a unique opportunity for companies – the chance to connect with consumers on a deeper level through purpose-driven PR.

But what exactly is purpose-driven PR? It’s the strategic communication of a brand’s core values and its commitment to social good. It goes beyond simply issuing press releases or sponsoring events. It’s about aligning your brand with a cause you genuinely care about and taking concrete actions to support it.

The Power of Purpose: Building Trust and Beyond

There’s no denying it: purpose-driven PR can be incredibly effective. When a brand aligns itself with a cause you care about, it creates a connection. You feel good supporting a company that shares your values. Studies by Cone Communications show that 90% of consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause they support. This is particularly true in the MENA region, where a history of exploitation and resilience, with ongoing challenges related to inequality and resource management makes authenticity paramount.

Here’s how purpose-driven PR can benefit brands in a globalized world, with a specific focus on the MENA region:

Building trust: Brands with a genuine commitment to social issues can build trust with young, skeptical consumer bases, both globally and locally. Authenticity is paramount – consumers can smell a PR stunt from a mile away.

Empowering local communities: Purpose-driven PR can be a powerful tool for amplifying the voices of local communities in the MENA region. By partnering with NGOs and activists working on issues specific to the region, brands can support initiatives that create real change.

Fostering a sense of pan-MENA unity: Shared values across borders can create a powerful sense of connection. Purpose-driven PR campaigns that address regional challenges, like water scarcity or youth unemployment, can resonate with consumers across the MENA landscape.

Enhanced brand reputation: A well-executed purpose-driven PR campaign can generate positive media attention and enhance a brand’s reputation globally. Consumers are more likely to perceive a brand favorably if it’s seen as a force for good.

The Peril of Performative Activism

But wait, there’s a catch. Not all brand activism is created equal. Sometimes, brands jump on a social bandwagon without any real commitment. This “performative activism” can backfire spectacularly. Here’s why:

Inauthenticity stinks: Consumers are savvy. Lack of genuine commitment to a cause can damage a brand’s reputation globally, leading to social media backlash and boycotts.

Alienating some for the sake of others: Taking a stand on a social issue can alienate some consumers while attracting others. It’s important to be strategic and understand your target audience across all markets. A campaign that resonates in the West might not translate well in the MENA context due to cultural sensitivities.

All talk, no action: The worst kind of performative activism? Brands making empty promises. If a company talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, consumers will lose trust fast, regardless of location. This can have a particularly damaging effect in the MENA region, where trust in corporations is already fragile.

So, What’s a Brand to Do?

So, should brands stay silent on social issues? Not necessarily. But before taking a stand, brands need to do some serious soul-searching. Here are some key considerations for navigating the world of purpose-driven PR:

Authenticity is key: Does the cause align with the brand’s core values and mission, both globally and in its MENA markets? Conduct thorough research to ensure your chosen cause is a natural fit.

Be strategic: Who is your target audience? How will your stance resonate with them across different cultures? Tailor your message and communication channels to each specific market within the MENA region.

Walk the walk: Be prepared to back up your words with concrete actions that support the cause, both globally and locally in the MENA region. Develop a long-term commitment and transparently communicate your efforts.

Measure Your Impact: Track the effectiveness of your campaign. How are they impacting brand perception? Are you achieving your social goals? Regularly assess your progress and adapt your strategies as needed.

The Future of Purpose-Driven PR

Ultimately, purpose-driven PR has the potential to be a powerful force for good. By using their platforms to raise awareness and advocate for change, brands can make a real difference on a global scale. But it’s crucial to do it authentically and with a genuine commitment to making the world a better place.

About Nicole:

I am a well-rounded professional with years of experience specializing in PR & Communications across Middle East & the African market. My background spans from improving communication strategies in small businesses to managing projects in larger, established companies. I excel independently and in team settings, and I can lead or support roles as needed.

My career has tested my adaptability, solution-oriented mindset, and problem-solving skills. I thrive on producing informed, creative, and analyzing results to ensure the best outcomes for all parties involved. These are skills I can bring to any business.

In my current role, I oversee client relations, event planning & management, PR strategy & writing, and media relations, contributing to the organization’s overall success. My commitment to quality service and open communication has been a driving force in creating a positive and collaborative work environment.