Should Your Business Get Involved in an Awareness Campaign?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month—but that’s not all. It’s also National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Eye Injury Prevention Month, Healthy Lung Month and National Bullying Prevention Month, to name a few of the many health awareness campaigns throughout the month.

Campaigns to raise awareness of (and funds to fight) health issues, diseases and social ills are becoming so prevalent, just about every day of the year is dedicated to some type of awareness. Should your small business get involved? If so, what’s the best way to do so?

Consumers care

Getting involved with an awareness campaign can be a great way to spur customer spending and attract new customers. Clients like knowing that the companies they support also support the issues they care about. According to a Euclid study, 85% of consumers say they prefer to patronize businesses that give to charities.

Choose your issue

As you can see from this directory, there is a wide range of health-related public awareness campaigns. Whether your cause is raising awareness of autism, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease or the benefits of yoga, there are days, weeks or months devoted to that topic. So how do you choose?

Find the connection

You can select an issue that ties into your business. For instance, it would make more sense for a swimwear boutique to raise awareness of skin cancer than for a tire store to do so, because there’s a natural connection between swimming, sunbathing and skin cancer.

Get personal

You can also select a cause that relates to your business in a personal way. For instance, a restaurant I know participates in fundraising for cancer research every year because one of the co-founders died of cancer. For a small, local business where your customers know you and your story, this can be very effective.

Be a big fish in a small pond

Some high-profile awareness campaigns (such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October) have so many big brands behind them that a small company’s efforts may get lost in the noise. Instead, why not look for a lesser-known awareness campaign, such as Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month (May) or Healthy Aging Month (September)?

Partner up

Partnering with a nonprofit related to your chosen awareness issue can benefit both your business and the organization. There are over 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the U.S., according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS). If you plan to partner with or donate to a nonprofit or charity, check them out thoroughly first. Getting involved with an organization that has a bad reputation can hurt your business’s reputation, too. Use CharityNavigator or CharityCheck10 to look up information about charities, and do an internet search to see if you uncover any complaints.

Follow the leader

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Is a current awareness campaign already catching fire? Instead of creating your own marketing ideas around it, just join the crowd (plenty of small businesses participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, for instance). Getting involved will generate attention for both your business and the cause.

Raise awareness

Once you’ve chosen the issue you want to draw attention to, follow these tips to make your efforts a success:

  1. Start planning early. Contests, partnerships with charitable organizations, holding or participating in events—there’s a lot to do during the one month (or week) your awareness campaign goes on. Planning way ahead of time is key to successful execution.
  2. Put out a press release and contact local media. Local media love stories about companies doing good. Depending on the size of your market, you may even be able to get media attention nationwide.
  3. Promote your awareness campaign on social media. Almost half (47%) of Americans first learn about a cause through social media. Use images—including photos, memes, infographics, and videos—to get attention for your posts.
  4. Make it fun for your customers to get involved. One reason the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was so successful was that it was fun—fun to do the challenge, fun to share the video, and fun to see the reactions on social media. Think of a fun, creative way your customers can raise awareness or contribute to the cause.
  5. Hold a competition. Contests are an easy way to get your customers excited and generate buzz both online and off. You can also hold competitions among your employees. For example, split employees into different teams with prizes for the team that raises the most money for the cause.

Making it work

Need more ideas for how you can raise awareness? Suppose you own a mattress store and want to create a campaign around National Sleep Awareness Month (it’s in March).

  • Find a local charity doing something related to sleep (for instance, Pajama Program delivers pajamas and books to children in homeless shelters).
  • Donate a percentage of each sale to your chosen organization.
  • Hold a donation drive to get pajamas and books from customers.
  • Have a Pajama Day at work. The employee who wears the wackiest pair gets a prize plus a donation to the charity in their name.
  • Hold a social media contest and give a prize to the customer who posts a photo of themselves in the wackiest pajamas.
  • Tell the media what you’re doing for National Sleep Awareness Month. See if they’ll interview you wearing your pajamas on the local TV news station.
  • Create content for your website and social media such as:
  • A list of 10 tips for getting a better night’s sleep
  • An infographic with statistics about how many Americans don’t get enough sleep
  • A video on how to test a mattress before you buy it to make sure you’ll sleep well on it
  • A blog post on how to tell when you need a new mattress

These are just a few ideas for attracting attention to both your business and your awareness cause. Get your team together to brainstorm, and I’m sure you’ll think of many more.

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