GUEST POST: Promise and Purpose — How Brands Can and Should Deliver Community Investment


This week we’re excited to bring you a guest blog post by Rebecca Smillie, a Community Investment Strategist from Edmonton, Alberta. We’ve been fortunate to work with Rebecca in a number of capacities over the past few years, and each time we’ve been impressed by her knowledge, professionalism, and drive to help companies excel at investing in their communities.

Read on and let us know what you think in the comments section that follows.


Yes, every company is giving back. Yes, It’s really nice. Yes, it drives customer retention and, depending on how you activate it, acquisition as well. Here’s the thing though: while giving back has become an essential component of a business, it does not replace the need for a near-perfect user experience. Why? Let me explain:

Imagine this: you’re at a charity 5km race… You don’t even have to be running the race in this story… maybe you’re cheering a friend on. You’re enjoying the day, walking around and taking advantage of some amenities…. Maybe there’s an outdoor band, some food trucks and a bunch of little booths on site. As you’re walking around, you’re greeted by a super energetic, fun, and engaging person who’s representing a company you’ve never heard of before. They tell you all about the product, and that they recently opened shop at the mall by your house. They ask you the right questions, and give you a sample of their product. You walk away excited about the fancy new product, but more excited about this person you just chatted with and all the knowledge and personality they just dropped on you.


This company has just engaged in purpose activation. They were probably at this marathon because they believed there was an alignment between their brand identity, their value proposition, and the reach of the audience attending or watching the charity race. This company likely went above and beyond to make sure every interaction was meaningful and rewarding, because meaningful and fulfilling interactions leave lasting impressions that consumers crave.

Consumers crave these impressions so much, that they often seek out that brand later on in hopes of experiencing the same kind of meaningful impression. The problem is too often companies don’t realize that creating meaningful interactions through sponsorship or purpose activation, while essential in the fight for competitive advantage, is also a promise to continue delivering those same meaningful experiences. The stakes are high and the risk of breaking that promise looms. As a company, if you break your promise to the customer,  you don’t just lose their purchase, you lose their friends’ as well.

So what should companies do? Not engage in sponsorship? Not deliver amazing experiences at event activations? No. That’s crazy talk! Instead, your brand should focus on these:

[1]  Define service standards

What kind of experience does your company deliver at every single customer interaction, regardless of location or platform.  Write it down. These standards are how your company acts on its corporate values. If your company doesn’t have corporate values, well that’s a good place to start.

[2] Identity opportunities to align service standards with your brand’s purpose

In short, a brand’s purpose is the why behind a company — why it exists, what it does, and what it’s doing to create something bigger than itself (see the last post on Henryk Cultivated for more). Every piece of your company from service standards, to internal and external communication, should align with this purpose.


Once you’ve identified your company’s values and service standards, it’s time to find ways to align these with your brand’s purpose. What is your company doing to deliver greater value than just the products or services you sell. How can you ensure that your brand’s purpose is well-communicated to your audience, and more importantly, experienced by your audience at every interaction?

[3] Define your service recovery process

Nobody’s perfect. Every now and then, brands mess up and disappoint a customer — it happens. But how you choose to handle it will set you apart from your competitors. What’s your plan for fixing the problem? What resources do you have in place? What tools have you equipped your team with to make sure a service fail doesn’t turn into a lost customer? Write these down and make sure your team members have the right amount of authority to fix poor experiences when they go astray.

At the end of the day, what’s important to remember is that every part of your company is linked. Your public reputation, your service standards, your product quality, the way these things perform in the face of both happy and unhappy customers are all interrelated. Getting messy in one area means the possibility of losing your brand’s competitive advantage.

When you spend time to craft the perfect balance with systems to support your staff and your brand, you’re left with a resilient machine, adaptive to the changing needs and desires of customers, and ultimately delivering on your brand promise at every opportunity whether it’s through your community investment initiatives, in-store, or online.

- Rebecca Smillie, Community Investment Strategist


Rebecca is the Manager of Community Engagement and Investment for Alberta Blue Cross where she works to elevate wellness for all Albertans.

[Photography by: AyoDapo Erinle, Lordski Photography]