Cause marketing is a hot topic these days. Consumer companies seek alliances with causes for a variety of reasons. Tyson Foods’ Director of Community Relations, Ed Nicholson, APR, presented a synchronous partnership between Tyson Foods and a multitude of hunger relief programs around the U.S.as one of the presentations at the 2010 PRSA International Conference in Washington D.C.
Tyson’s early efforts to embrace hunger causes were campaign-centric, according to Nicholson. The company looked for publicity opportunities when assisting community causes. Like many companies, Tyson’s executives had many favorite causes which dominated early community efforts.
When Tyson started formally working in hunger causes in 2000, they found a very enthusiastic community working in the area and they found that this community was not recognized for their work. As Nicholson recounted, “acceptance into the community takes time; you can’t buy your way in.” Over time, the organization found that the more they gave in a genuine way to the hunger relief community, the more they became engaged and the more Tyson got back.
In 2005, Tyson reviewed and revised their strategy. They began to engage their 104,000 employees, their customers and the one hundred communities in which they have a presence. They followed a model from Jane Austin’s book “Collaboration Challenge” and used a traditional four step process: research, planning, execution and evaluation.
Here’s what they did:
• Sponsored a research project with Feeding America to discover who is hungry in America
• Surveyed the 100 communities where they do business for sources of hunger information
• They went beyond the publicity of annual food donations –they give 8-10 million pounds of food annually – and began telling the stories of people who help defeat hunger
• Launched the Tyson Hunger Relief blog in 2007 to highlight these stories and invited guest bloggers from the hunger relief community
• Used Twitter and Facebook to connect with others on the issue of hunger
• Created the “Hunger All-Stars program” which allows public to nominate someone from their community for their work in hunger; Tyson foods donates a truckload of food to their community every time a winner is named
• Supported local & regional events with organizations like Share Our Strength, RAGBRAI, LULAC and others, often matching food donations.
Now, as the program gets more ambitious and increases in sophistication, Nicholson is hoping to reward Tyson employees who participate in relief events, create a measurement strategy and is pursuing tie-ins with other food companies who are committed to the cause of hunger relief.
The bottom line, says Nicholson, “most people are invariably surprised about hunger in their own community.” How does he stay motivated? On his Outlook calendar, he has a daily reminder which says: “Do one thing for the community.”