Within hours of the announcement that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was donating $100 million to the Newark school system, the 26-year old tycoon’s net worth was the spotlight of the financial world and a not-so-flattering movie about him debuted in New York.
Coincidence? I think not.
In this brilliant PR move, Zuckerberg is using one of the favorite techniques of all good parents – and presidents – the “redirect.” A redirect is when someone attempts to deflect attention from a yucky thing is to something else. Just ask Bill Clinton about the bombing of the aspirin factory when the world was focusing on a stain on a blue dress.
Unlike President Clinton’s efforts to divert, Mark Zuckerberg’s new-found philanthropic nature – and corresponding positive press – is more likely to produce positive results.
What can we learn about this and how it relates to our own double bottom line strategy?
Choose your CAUSE (redirect) very strategically. Unlike President Clinton, Zuckerberg has done something very positive. With the exception of a few hard-core wacko types, bombing anything – including an aspirin factory with PEOPLE in it – is not likely to be viewed as a 100% positive thing.
Zuckerberg wisely chose to focus his donation on helping kids. It is hard to go wrong when you choose kids as the beneficiary of your support. After all, everybody either has one, loves one or was one. Kids and pets – notoriously tough in movies but fabulous in cause marketing.
Make it public – very public. According to reports, Zuckerberg considered making the donaltion anonymously but the mayor of Newark convinced him that it would be better for the cause to make the donation public. (Sure he considered keeping it a secret. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Ha.) Zuckerberg chose to “come out” with his donation on the most powerful marketing channel in the world (aside from Facebook) – the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Here’s the thing about using a DBL strategy – if no one knows about it, it might help one bottom line (the cause) but it is not going to help the other (financial). In most instances, the donor’s public endorsement can be very powerful in “ripple” endorsements and new supporters. At worst, it might spark others to do similar good things.
Time it right. Timing IS everything. Is it mere coincidence that the official announcement of the $100 million challenge grant occurred on the SAME day as the public release of the movie that Facebook execs are denouncing as inaccurate and unflattering? And, isn’t it interesting that in its just-released list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, Forbes announced that Zuckerberg posted the largest gain in wealth during the last year making this 26-year old a billionaire 7 times over.
Make it count. Used wisely, $100 million can go a long way towards solving a problem – even one as monumental as public education. Although this is Zuckerberg’s first charitable donation with his own funds, Facebook users have been using the medium for years to quickly and easily raise money for important causes. Indeed, Facebook is having an enormously positive impact on the world every moment of every day.
Will this huge gift deflect some of the criticism Mr. Zuckerberg will inevitably receive as a result of the film or the Forbes 400 list? Time… and Facebook….will tell. I applaud Mr. Zuckerberg’s efforts to make a significant impact on a part of our society that is in great need of improvement. Used as a “redirect” strategy or as a fundamental way to do business, incorporating The Double Bottom Line is a very smart way to do business in the 21st century.