By Virginia Brooks

Everybody knows a company’s brand is its most valuable asset.  Successful companies articulate who they are, carefully capture the essence of what they stand for and protect their brand as carefully as they guard their proprietary formulations and intellectual capital.  So what does it mean to give your brand away?

In today’s business world, rocked by greed, scandal and unethical and downright criminal behavior, serious contesters are taking a hard look at the values their business behaviors exemplify.  Worth examining is the equity of your pricing structure, the quality of your delivery, the commitment you show to your customers and, now more than ever, the generosity of your giving back to the communities you serve. 

Rarely before is there such abounding need.  People are out of work, left with no real prospects of employment, and food banks are overrun with asks from those who were recently their donors.  In times of plenty, community prosperity takes care of those in need; in times of recession it’s every man, woman and child for themselves.It is also during tight times that companies can win friends for life and dramatically improve their public perceptions – merely by doing what’s right.  And tying company giving to your brand so that it becomes easy for outsiders to associate your altruism with the work you do is the smart way to do good well.

For example, Brooks & Associates is a company powered mostly by women.  We have chosen to take on causes that matter to women and have a positive impact on the things women care about most.  So in selecting our charitable activities for this holiday season, we embarked on a program of giving – both in kind and with monetary donations – to several organizations associated with bettering the lives of women.

Our bellwether charity is Seed Sowers – an organization that focuses on out-of-poverty initiatives especially related to women in prison.  The B&A team has much to offer the organization in terms of communications planning and implementation, and those of us in professional life have a lot to share with women trying to transform themselves and move into productive lives.  Both of these initiatives showcase Brooks & Associates’ strengths and serve aspiring women as well.  We’re giving away our brand.

Girl Scouts is another organization we give back to.  Both as a company and as individuals, Brooks & Associates’ staffers support the notion of instilling leadership skills and self-confidence in young women, many of whom will be the business and community leaders of tomorrow.  We give of our resources, we work to generate media attention for the good things the Scouts do in their communities, we work hands on with young women to inspire them to their best, and in doing so, we’re giving our brand away.

 

And we’re privileged to participate in the community relations efforts of our clients.  Sabre Holdings is a global company, and during one week each year thousands of their employees Give Together around the world.  They focus on the causes most critical to each location — they combat hunger, they support education, they seed orphanages and abuse shelters, they even find homes for homeless dogs and cats.  During that week they showcase not only their compassion and commitment to the communities they serve; they also demonstrate their incredible technology skills to identify, run, track and report giving in the many thousands of dollars around the world.  That’s what they do best for the global travel industry, too – manage complexity, bring value and promote efficiency on a global scale.  Sabre spent Give Together week giving its brand away.

Rent-A-Center understands community service as well.  Throughout the year the company launches Random Acts of Caring in communities it serves around the United States.  Unsolicited and unannounced, Rent-A-Center furnishes nurses’ lounges at hospitals in Harlem, provides a comfortable waiting area with furniture and televisions for military personnel in transit at Fort Knox, sets up computer labs at inner city schools and much more.  In addition, the company gives to the next generation of young people in underserved areas, furnishing recreation rooms for teens at Boys and Girls Clubs and raising funds for Big Brothers, Big Sisters.  Rent-A-Center understands the importance of reaching out around the country – and in so doing, Rent-A-Center gives its brand away as well.

Want to solidify your reputation in your community, further your business goals and do good for humanity at the same time?  Think long and hard about what your brand stands for.  And when you figure it out, set out to give it away.

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