Brands must take a stand. But don’t just say something.

Written by
Jon Kauffman

Purpose, Inc., episode 1.20: Melissa Anderson of Public Good Software

Key takeaway: “Do something rather than nothing. But don’t just say something.”

In this episode of “Purpose, Inc.,” host Michael Young talked to Melissa Anderson, co-founder and president of Public Good Software. Public Good has become the leader in making news actionable, working with CNN, HuffPost, USA Today, and other leading publishers as well as brands like Unilever and Danone.

If you’re reading a story about Black Lives Matter on a site that partners with Public Good, say, you may find links that take you to Black Lives Matter, where you can make a donation.

The idea of embedding an action like “Donate to American Red Cross” in an article is hardly new, Melissa told Michael. What is new is scalable technology that embeds those links automatically.

“We give brands the opportunity to sponsor these actions, which does two things,” she explained. “It drives awareness of what these purpose brands are doing to make a difference, and empowers people to make a difference alongside that brand.”

Media partners benefit from this approach by changing the impact of the news on readers—and readers become empowered to act, rather than getting depressed or feeling powerlessness. Nonprofits who become the beneficiary of these campaigns benefit, too.

You have to say something—then act on it

The turmoil of the past year has demonstrated over and over again that brands can and should respond to the events of the day—whether it’s being called to demonstrate their commitment to racial justice or environmental sustainability. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it, Melissa said. She advocated for the following approach:

  • Act when these issues hit hard. “It’s really important to prioritize, and get advice as needed, to establish where do you want to be, and your plan for improvement,” she said.
  • Focus on communicating. “Talk about what you’re doing, but even more importantly, talk about your plan to get better.”
  • Don’t just say something. “Rather than making a big statement about what you stand for, consider talking about … the plan of action that you are taking as well as empowering others to take action alongside you as well.”

Due to the fear of backlash, Melissa continued, many brands have backed away from courting controversy. “The most important thing to understand is that silence itself is absolutely a statement,” she said. “It’s a mistake to think by speaking out, you’re not staying neutral or are staying safe from criticism.”

Listen to the full conversation with Melissa Anderson:

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