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Toronto was infested with "rats" as 1,200 runners scurried through downtown as part of the 10th Annual Scotiabank Rat Race for United Way, June 10, 2010 (Hand-Out/CNW Group)
Toronto was infested with "rats" as 1,200 runners scurried through downtown as part of the 10th Annual Scotiabank Rat Race for United Way, June 10, 2010 (Hand-Out/CNW Group)

Grow: Mia Wedgbury

Community initiatives give business a brand boost Add to ...

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about a clever real estate agent who used his knowledge of local history to create a unique brochure. It’s an interesting example of using personality and interests to stand out in the crowd.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I went by a local Royal LePage office in Toronto and saw a throng of staff outside selling donated goods as part of an annual charity garage sale. The sale, which benefits women’s shelters, is an interesting example of a community initiative that can lead to positive business exposure.

Charitable giving has become almost an expected function of businesses, and on its own doesn’t usually attract much attention outside company walls. But if done right, it can help a small business make a big splash. It’s a great way to promote a company’s civic values to the public and its employees, and the benefits can go a long way - enrichment of a brand’s image, improved customer relations, increased employee morale and meaningful marketing opportunities.

But there are several things to keep in mind.

First, try to align the initiative with the brand. Experience shows that corporate social responsibility works best when customers and stakeholders see a logical fit between the company and the cause. Pet stores may opt to support animal shelters, for example, while those in the book industry often support literacy.

Secondly, it’s critical that staff is engaged. When you have the support and enthusiasm of your employees behind you, others are more likely to be energized and inspired by whatever you’re doing. Finally, you have to be passionate about your cause. The business owner has to be the cause’s champion and ensure that all necessary resources are made available.

So if you’re thinking of doing something to give back to your local community, think twice about the theme, make sure it aligns with your business and get your employees involved. And for good measure, invite someone from your local newspaper – if you put on a good show, you never know who will show up.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. With more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies, she is focused on fostering the overarching vision for the Canadian market. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients, some of the most innovative and well-respected companies in the country, to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies that drive measurable results. Ms. Wedgbury is known as an innovator, an advocate of career opportunities for women and a dedicated supporter of the technology industry.

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