What Editors Want In An Op-Ed

Bob Brody

What’s the single quality you require in an op-ed piece above all? On the flip side, what’s the single quality that most undermines an op-ed submission? Finally, what’s the most important advice that we communications professionals should share with clients in working on op-eds?

Those are the three questions we recently asked, in an online survey with multiple-choice answers, of op-ed editors at newspapers and magazines around the country.
The results – from 17 respondents, including editors at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg View -- surprised me.

The choices given for the single quality most required were “news value,” “marquee-name author,” “hot-button issue,” “contrarian viewpoint,” “new research,” “persuasively argued” and “brilliantly written.”

The top pick was “persuasively argued,” with 43% of the vote. Third was “brilliantly written” (21%). “News value” came in second (36%). “New research” drew 7%. Nobody opted for “hot-button issues” or the others.

I would have bet otherwise, laying odds on substance over style, with “news value” coming out ahead, followed closely by “hot-button issue.”

The answers to the second question, about the single most undermining quality in an op-ed, equally surprised me. The choices available were “self-serving,” “conventional viewpoint,” “evergreen,” “dated issue,” “poorly argued,” “badly written,” “unknown author.”

The winner was “badly written,” with 44%, followed by “poorly argued (25%). Third and fourth places went to “self-serving” and ”conventional viewpoint” (tied at 19%). “Dated issue” pulled only 6%. Again, I anticipated a tilt toward the material itself – namely, “evergreen” and “dated issue.”

The theme of style over substance held true for our final question, too, about advice to give clients about op-eds. The options were “It’s a tough sell,” “offer context,” “give practical advice,” demonstrate your authority,” and “speak plainly.”

“Speak plainly” garnered 64%, the strongest of all responses. “It’s a tough sell” and “demonstrate your authority” came next (tied at 21%). Only then did “offer context” come into play (14%). Me, I would have speculated on context and advice claiming the day.

The topline takeaways? The editors surveyed prefer op-ed submissionsthat are “persuasively argued” and “brilliantly written,” albeit accompanied by news value. They’re also averse to op-eds that are “badly written” and “poorly argued.” In short, the rhetorical skill you bring to the table, how well you argue your case, could make all the difference. 


Tweet with Respect

Alix Floyd

Tonight marks the last of the traveling circus that has been the presidential and vice presidential debates. While constituents will tune in to see the main act, it’s the debate on social channels giving rise to those turn-key laugh-out-loud, landmark social media gaffes that have really stolen the show. And although more and more Americans are using Twitter, Facebook and other social media to express their political opinions, vent their frustrations and sharpen their critiques of the opposition, our social manners are becoming less and less refined.

For example—there are whole meme sites dedicated to the now infamous tweets like those from KitchenAid and Delegate Eleanor Norton, which have gotten national attention for their vulgarity and have since been deleted from the accounts.

So, tonight, in the hopes of avoiding a top spot on a Buzzfeed or Gawker-esque “Top 10 most inappropriate debate tweets,” here are a few debate social channel etiquette reminders that won’t make your mother gasp: 

1. Steer clear of personal attacks on candidates and their families. If you were having dinner with them, would you say it to their face?
2. Snarky and creative are fair game, insults are not.
3. Use hashtags like #DemsIRespect or #RepubsIRespect to note that while you disagree, you respect other opinions.
4. Call out misrepresentation of fact and keep people honest. Listen to the conversations carefully and promote productive learning on platforms and issues.
5. Keep it short, simple and to the point. Rants don’t prove your point.

Given that the presidential debate on Oct. 3 was the most tweeted about event ever in U.S. politics, topping President Obama’s 2008 election victory and inauguration, tonight’s debate with salient issues like the Benghazi consulate attacks and Israel-U.S. relationship is sure to be another record breaker. As you watch the debates and (hopefully) engage in this election, consider the advice of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and tweet with respect for those on the other side of the aisle. 


Facebook ads - useful when used correctly

Bradley Portnoy

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by SchmilBlick

Online advertising is an evolving landscape - and one that will certainly come in for much scrutiny, academic and otherwise. But I was surprised to see the headline of Dylan Matthews' story on Wonkblog - "Why Facebook campaign ads are a sucker's bet."

The post is a summary of an article draft by Prof. David Broockman of Berkeley and Donald Green at Columbia, which purports to show little to no lift of a state legislative candidate's name recognition based on a treatment group exposed to several Facebook ads.

Unfortunately, Broockman and Green seem to misunderstand the Facebook platform and how advertisements both function technically and can be most effectively used.

The first hint of trouble comes when they state that users appear to have seen the ads they ran "on every Facebook page all week" (emphasis theirs). While they do later establish that the campaign was unable to spend its $150 daily budget despite their high CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) bid, they attribute this to having exhausted Facebook's inventory for their targeted users.

Facebook — which is self-interested in creating a product that people will come back to — will show ads to users online a limited number of times in a given period. This is a variation on the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm that selects the posts you see in your Newsfeed. Thus, while the campaign was unable to exhaust its budget, it cannot be assumed that this is because Facebook exhausted its inventory.

This is where the candidate's advertising strategy comes in. The authors state that their click rate of 0.1% was "encouragingly low… as we are primarily interested in the impact of exposure to the candidates' name and message in the ad listing itself." Facebook Marketplace ads, with a 25 character title, and a 90 character body, a 100x72 pixel image, are to say the least not ideal message delivery vehicles.

Instead, their power is in their ability to create a lasting relationship between advertiser and user — typically through a user clicking the "like" button and consequently receiving messaging from a candidate or other advertiser in the future. By ignoring this most fundamental aspect of Facebook advertising strategy, the authors discredit their results.

It is as if they have concluded that there is no brand lift from television advertisements that people see in a crowded bar out of the corner of their eye. Of course there isn't — because that is not how people experience the medium, and the best ads are not calibrated for corner-of-the-eye viewing.

Moreover, the ad units purchased are the most basic on Facebook. In our work, we have found these to be ineffective. However, we have found great success at using newer ad units such as "Like" ads and Sponsored Stories, which encourage both current and potential fans to interact with page content. Recently, Facebook has allowed ads to be placed directly into Newsfeed, and we have seen even better results with these ads.

Those TVs in the bar? Turns out they were 15" black and white boxes, not today's 52" flat screens.

What lessons can we take from this? Certainly not that all Facebook ads are ineffective. The lesson here is that an advertising strategy cannot exist in a vacuum. At Powell Tate, we run ads only when we know that we have great content to promote, whether it's a video, an image or an interactive experience. At the same time, we don't put out content without an ad strategy to promote it.

In today's media landscape, reaching people means drawing on emotion and forming a lasting relationship — not carpet-bombing their periphery with a brief, un-engaging message.


Are you optimized for dark social?

David Leavitt

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Vox Efx

Since Facebook added the “like” button to fan pages in February 2009, the social network has facilitated over 1.1 trillion likes and now boasts over 1 billion monthly active users.

(Remember when I said that Facebook had reached its membership saturation point in the U.S.? Uh, never mind about that.)

As for Twitter, its 140 million active members send out a combined 340 million tweets per day.

Despite these gaudy numbers, optimizing your content for social means far more than worrying about your Facebook and Twitter accounts. That’s because most shared content on the Internet comes not from those two social networking sites but from what Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic calls “dark social.”

Dark social refers to the social experience that takes place outside Facebook and Twitter. For example, a friend may share a link with you via instant message, text message or email — none of which are particularly traceable when you’re looking at your referral traffic data.

In fact, dark social accounts for almost 69 percent of online referrals, dwarfing the traffic referred from Facebook and Twitter.

Madrigal’s advice: “The only real way to optimize for social spread is in the nature of the content itself.”


If you create content that resonates with your audience, then you’ve created content that’s optimized for social.

As a result, it’s just as important to focus on making your content compelling as making sure that it’s lightweight and portable.


Communicating Climate Change

Paul Massey

In today’s political and economic environment, conveying the potential impacts and consequences of climate change is more challenging than ever. Across politics, business, government, and the nonprofit sector, organizations are developing strategies to communicate on this issue to a vast array of stakeholders, influencers, and audiences.

That’s why our Social Impact team is partnering with Net Impact this week to host “Communicating Climate Change,” a discussion that will examine the issues, sensitivities, and opportunities for communicating successfully about the potential impacts and the contribution that people and societies have made to climate change. Moderated by our colleague Cindy Drucker (link to bio), a seasoned sustainability strategist, the discussion will feature leaders in the sustainability space, including:

  • Alex Bozmoski, Director of Strategy & Operations, Energy & Enterprise Initiative
  • Mark Grundy, Director of Communications & Network Engagement, Carbon War Room
  • Tim Juliani, Director of Corporate Engagement, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)

Together, the panel will examine best practices and illustrate how organizations can achieve real impact in communicating the issues surrounding climate change.

For twenty years, Net Impact has played a critical role in uniting change makers in the business, government, and nonprofit sectors to tackle the world’s largest problems. Its annual conference – happening this year from October 25-27 in Baltimore – brings together leaders from all sectors to share stories of inspiration, innovation, and most importantly, impact.

The discussion this Thursday, October 18, promises to be lively and informative. Visit Communicating Climate Change to register to attend. 


The VP Debate - Key Takeaways

Daniel Jacobs

Last night, Vice Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan squared off in Danville, KY in a widely followed and crucial debate in the 2012 Presidential Race. The VP candidates discussed foreign policy, Medicare, the economy, and social issues, offering key contrasts between the Democratic and Republican tickets in front of millions of American viewers.

According to our PoliPulse 2012 Election Dashboard, the conversation on social media channels was lively, favoring terms such as “debate,” “ryan,” “biden” and “#readyforjoe.” Interestingly, in the hours after the debate, the terms “win” and “voting for” were frequently used in reference to Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Overall however, President Obama held his social media edge over Governor Romney, with 27% more mentions and 35% more retweets.

Immediate polls after the debate showed mixed results. A CNN/ORC poll of voters gave Ryan the edge over Biden by four percentage points, while a CBS News poll of uncommitted voters gave the debate win to Biden, with 50% of those polled believing the current Vice President performed best, 31% stating that Congressman Ryan won, and 19% saying they felt it was a tie.

In the end, what’s important is that each Vice Presidential candidate gave their respective party bases the debate performance they needed. For the Democratic ticket, Biden brought much-needed energy, focus, and aggressiveness. And for the Republicans, Paul Ryan laid out his ticket’s vision by coolly, confidently and fluently explaining the policies behind his proposals.

Keep checking in for updates from the PoliPulse 2012 Election Dashboard as we gear up for the second presidential debate next Tuesday, October 16 at Hofstra University on Long Island. 



Kristen Smith

Last week, Facebook commemorated its 1 billionth user with the announcement of its first ever television advertisement, called simply “The Things That Connect Us.” The ad offers examples of the things people use to connect with each other – from the tangible to the abstract – and likens Facebook to those things.

Critics lambasted the ad calling it, as Gizmodo's Sam Biddle did, “confusing and stupid.” The Atlantic Wire’s Rebecca Greenfield called it “absurd” and “kind of silly,” with an attempt at deep meaning that lacked sincerity. But what Facebook knows – and what we as communicators know – is that things that connect us are powerful and stirring. Things that connect us move us to action.

This past weekend, I participated for the first time in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk in my area. During the walk, the words from Facebook’s ad repeated over and over in my head: “the things that connect us.” Like most who participated, I was walking individually in some ways, for my own personal reasons that are particular to me. But I was acutely aware of the hundreds of other walks that have taken place and will be taking place across the country, of the thousands of people that would be participating, for all their own particular reasons, and of the greater cause they represent. It may sound trite, but events and causes like this – in part through tools like Facebook – unite people in a common purpose.

The reality is that social media plays a huge role in generating momentum for causes, in magnifying voices, and in creating experiences that make people feel connected to something bigger than themselves. These tools don’t function in a vacuum, but they offer enormously effective ways to communicate ideas and even to bring about change.

As for the ad itself, perhaps it’s as my high school business teacher said: a good ad is one you talk about and remember. On that score, the Facebook spot seems like a winner.


Polipulse Post-Debate Insights

Kristen Smith

Tweets were flying Wednesday night and into Thursday after the first of three presidential election debates between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

In addition to terms like “debate” and “last night,” tweets about Obama focused on terms like “people,” “plan,” and “presidential.” According to the PoliPulse Election Dashboard, “altitude” also registered as a key topic of Obama tweets, in reference to Former Vice President Al Gore’s assertion that Obama’s poor performance might have been attributed to Denver’s high altitude.

Tweets about Romney focused on terms like “plan,” “won,” “big,” and “wins the election,” reflecting the sentiment that Romney gained major momentum from the debate. This sentiment has been validated by a new Pew Research Center poll showing Romney now leading Obama 49 to 45 percent, among likely voters.

Tweets about both candidates also often included the terms “lie” or “lies” and “facts,” reflecting the public’s desire to call out claims the candidates had made and either substantiate them or tear them down. Fact-checking has indeed become a popular event in the post-debate analysis games.

While interesting in and of themselves, these findings have greater implications than they may seem at first to have. These are the terms that appear in the most influential and numerous tweets. They have the ability to influence public opinion as much, if not more than, the performance of the candidates themselves.

What other people think matters. What important and influential people – in particular those with lots of Twitter followers and retweets – think matters more. And what lots of important and influential people think really matters, especially when a presidential election is at stake.

Stay tuned to the Polipulse 2012 Election Dashboard to see what topics are trending in connection with each candidate after Thursday’s first and only vice presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan.


Yes, Healthcare Matters Just As Much As Jobs.

Rachel Ryan

The issue of healthcare reform undoubtedly looms over the heads of Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) as they prepare for tomorrow’s Vice Presidential debate.

In last week’s first debate between President Obama and Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, healthcare emerged as a hot-button issue, though not nearly as scalding as jobs.

While both candidates agree that the $2.8 trillion U.S. healthcare system is unsustainable, neither offered a clear picture of what they envision as the new status quo during the debate. “My priority is jobs,” asserted Romney. But, contrary to popular opinion, healthcare is an equally powerful driver of many Americans to the polls.

A recent symposium held by the Harvard School of Public Health, titled “Health Care & 2012 Elections,” dove into the intricacies of the healthcare system as it relates to the 2012 elections, highlighting Medicare as one of the single most influential, mobilizing terms of the campaign season.

Panelists at the symposium ranged from policy experts, such as the American Enterprise Institutes’ Joseph Antos, to policymakers like former Senator Blanche Lincoln and former Senate Majority Leader, Senator Tom Daschle (pictured above), former Congressman Billy Tauzin, among others.

Senators Daschle and Lincoln were joined on the “Political Landscape for Health Care Reform Panel” by Governor John Engler.

“This election isn’t being fought over healthcare. This is an economics election,” said Engler, making a declaration that was echoed by some on the panel, who agreed that healthcare simply isn’t top-of-mind for most voters. But not everyone agreed.

“You are wrong,” grinned the final speaker, Robert Blendon, Senior Associate Dean for Policy Translation and Leadership Development at the Harvard School of Public Health. Blendon conducted an impressive polling of United States voters, which he presented. His polling included a staggering array of statistical evidence showing that healthcare is, unequivocally, one this election’s most salient issues, especially when “Medicare” is interjected.

Blendon found, for instance, that while 46% of voters think the national healthcare law will negatively impact the economy, 67% of Americans disapprove of Congressman Paul Ryan’s “competition”-based plan, perceived by many as a terrifying attempt to “gut” Medicare.

“’Health care’ was ranked third, below ‘Deficit’ in second place and ‘Economy/Jobs’ in the lead,” affirmed Blendon. “That is, until Medicare messaging came into the picture and then ‘Health Care’ shot up past ‘Deficit.’”

Needless to say, candidates are unwise to assume that the only thing that matters in this year’s elections is jobs. Equally unwise would be to assume that Medicare and Social Security are not high priorities among voters. “Medicare and Social Security are seen as the last things that should be cut, way after things like the Commerce Department or the Navy,” Blendon insisted.

Unlike the first round of Presidential debates, the Vice Presidential candidates need to address and confirm what Blendon so adamantly proved: voters really do care about healthcare and they want hard answers.


U.S. Election Goes Beyond Likes and Follows

As the general election begins to heat up, so does the digital arms race. This clash goes far beyond the simplistic jockeying between candidates for the biggest following on Facebook and Twitter — indeed the data lying beneath the surface may end up being far more important.

In January, the online news publication broke news about a top-secret Obama campaign project called “Project Narwhal,” which aims to integrate all the data the campaign has captured over the past six years — from door knocks and donations to email activations and Facebook app installs. As a result of these efforts, Obama for America now has an unprecedented, and scarily accurate, understanding of the interests and motivations of their 13 million or so supporters. That data is already fuelling a hyper-targeted outreach programme that personalises the campaign’s communication with supporters.

The Obama campaign knows the next president will not be re-elected based only on the number of his Twitter followers or Facebook likes. Facebook and Twitter are still extremely important gateways for the campaign in creating opportunities for engagement and building relationships, but simply having a presence on those social platforms isn’t enough.

Republicans are responding quickly to this data build-up with voter database platforms of their own. A conservative grassroots group called American Majority Action has released a community mobilisation app to rival tools the Obama campaign has been using.

The keys to winning are what they have always been: convincing voters, recruiting volunteers, raising money and getting people to show up to vote. This means driving people to action. Thanks to the integration of all data points into a single database, and the ability to mine that data in supporter communications, Obama for America will be more effective at driving people to action than ever before.

In 2008, the campaign knew when to ask someone for money, when to ask for volunteer hours, and when to send informational emails. In 2012, they’ll also know how much a supporter is likely to give, the kinds of volunteer activities (door knocking, phone banking, etc.) that a supporter is likely to do, and the issue messaging that will strike a chord and drive that activation.

As Teddy Goff, the Obama for America digital director, said on a panel recently: “We try to speak to people in the language of the people we’re speaking with.” Campaigns know in order to resonate in this day and age they can’t just broadcast from on high, they need to tell a story that is deeply personal and unique to each person.

The campaigns also need to know where to find their audience. In late March the New York Times reported on how in the tight Wisconsin primary battle the Romney campaign has put a significant investment in paid online video ads as opposed to traditional television spots because they know that a sizable portion of the electorate does not watch live TV anymore.

The campaigns will continue to use what they know about their audiences to serve them to tailor how and where they communicate with them. This means building a narrative with different constituent groups all over the country in sustained ways that gets them excited and gives them the tools to act.

Information travels instantaneously in the modern social political campaign and campaigns know that they can’t take a moment off. They have to create content and engage with voters every day. They know that one sound bite can knock them off their message and the only way to defend against this is to continue to deliver the story you want and empower followers to help tell it.

As the general election heats up, we will see a lot of this data-driven storytelling from both campaigns. And organisations of all stripes will be looking to these campaigns for innovations. In this socially driven world, people expect to be treated as individuals and the campaigns will have to do what they can in their power, and use all the data they have to meet people where they are.


Powell Tate Launches PoliPulse 2.0

Chris Grimm

Powell Tate today announced the launch of PoliPulse 2.0, a dynamic monitoring tool that enables users – campaign staff, corporate communicators, brand managers, media and voters alike – to spot trends, identify influencers and highlight pivot points in online conversations around key political issues and current events.

The revamped PoliPulse 2.0 will feature an Election 2012 Dashboard that tracks every Twitter conversation around the presidential campaign in real-time, and provides a conversation analysis that comprises multiple social media platforms around a new topic every week.  

“Campaigns use social media as a vital tool to drive their daily message, respond to breaking stories and engage voters,” said Pam Jenkins, President of Powell Tate, a division of Weber Shandwick. “PoliPulse offers an unequaled window into each campaign’s social media efforts and robust analysis to help determine its influence.

As the 2012 election dominates the news over the next few months, PoliPulse 2.0 will present in-depth analysis of President Obama’s and Governor Romney’s social media presence, including Facebook and Twitter; it will also display the most influential Tweets about each candidate and a list of the top 10 trending topics connected to them. Located at, the tool is free and open to the public, providing up-to-the-minute statistics 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Users can track updates to PoliPulse on Twitter by following @PTInsights.

“PoliPulse uses cutting-edge software – Crimson Hexagon and Mass Relevance – to deliver a comprehensive snapshot of the most important online conversations happening at any given time,” said Colin Moffett, senior vice president of Digital Communications at Powell Tate. “Whether you are immersed in political, corporate or brand communication, Polipulse helps make sense of the social media landscape and stay ahead of emerging issues.”

Powell Tate launched PoliPulse in October 2010 as a vanguard tool for quickly and easily gaining insights into the issues and debates shaping opinions in social media. It established an easy-to-understand graphic analysis of the billions of conversations and opinions expressed online by consumers, voters, media and thought leaders.

PoliPulse 2.0 seeks to build on this strong foundation. With access to the full bandwidth of Twitter and other social media content from Crimson Hexagon, a leading provider of social media monitoring and analysis technology, and Mass Relevance, Twitter’s official social curation and integration partner, PoliPulse 2.0 can quickly pinpoint statistical patterns in online conversations such as blog posts, Facebook posts, online forums and Tweets.


Infographic: The Potential Impact of Sequestration on Defense Spending

Greg McCarthy


The Powell Tate Creative Studio, along with defense policy experts, recently created an infographic to visually communicate the potential impact of sequestration on the defense budget. Sequestration is a series of automatic spending cuts that became law when last year’s Congressional Super Committee failed to find $1.5 trillion in savings in the U.S. budget.

While there has been a great deal written about the potential cuts to defense programs and the consequences that could ensue, the issue is complicated and its broad implications are difficult to fully grasp in words alone. Approaching the issue of sequestration through data visualization communicates the scope and impact of the issue in a quick, comprehensive and interesting way.

On behalf of our clients, our graphics team has taken many complex issues and simplified the story through infographics, including explaining the importance of maintaining 11 U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.


Why Communication is Key to Corporate Sustainability

Catie Caborn


If the growth in corporate sustainability and reporting over the past decade has shown us anything, it’s that there isn’t a standard definition or a one-size-fits-all approach to this work. Yet while companies are varied in their methods for implementing this work, a new study shows that sustainability practitioners within companies, diverse as they may be, rely on similar strategies to achieve success.

The study, titled Making The Pitch: Selling Sustainability From Inside Corporate America, sought to “understand the skills, drivers and partnership-cultivation strategies necessary for executive success” in the sustainability arena. VOX Global, Weinreb Group Sustainability Recruiting and the UC Berkeley chapter of Net Impact surveyed more than 30 corporate sustainability practitioners and conducted follow-up interviews with executives at companies such as AT&T, DuPont, EMC, Hilton Worldwide, and McDonald’s.

Respondents were asked to evaluate the importance of three possible drivers of success among sustainability leaders (note: respondents were able to choose all that apply):

1.       Interpersonal skills

2.       The ability to quantify the value of an initiative

3.       Subject matter expertise

Contrary to what I expected, 100% of respondents indicated that interpersonal skills are the attribute most critical to a sustainability leader’s success on the job, while quantifying value and subject matter expertise were highly valued by 81% and 66% of survey respondents, respectively. According to the survey, selling sustainability within corporate America is  a balancing act largely dependent on successful relationship building as well as the ability to communicate with business leaders in a way that articulates how sustainability measures will help achieve their existing business objectives.

To learn more about the study’s findings, visit: Making The Pitch: Selling Sustainability From Inside Corporate America. To read more about how best to communicate sustainability over digital and social channels, see our previous blog on Communicating Sustainability in a Social World.


Annual Corporate Giving Survey

Victoria Baxter

The Chronicle of Philanthropy issued the findings of their latest Corporate Giving Survey today. As expected, overall funding remained fairly flat with the continued economic recession.  Key findings include:

  • Of the 115 large corporations responding to the survey, cash donations grew just four percent in 2011.
  • There are 13 companies that donated over $100,000 in cash
  • Production donations are growing at a faster rate than cash donations

One area the survey also highlighted was that companies are more strategically investing their philanthropic dollars and focusing on fewer causes. This is something we are also seeing with our clients as the concept of Shared Value – focusing on the connections between societal and economic progress – is taking hold with more corporate CSR and philanthropy programs.

As the CoP article notes, this is a “long-term trend” with companies “zeroing in on social issues that threaten their bottom lines like people’s ill health, high transportation costs, or diminishing fresh water.”  CoP also highlights the positive benefits for the company by helping them to access new markets, continue to build brand equity and relationships with their consumers and engage their employees in volunteering.


Business becoming more involved in global development partnerships

Jim Meszaros

More than 45,000 leaders of governments, business and advocacy organizations from around the world gathered recently at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to explore solutions on important development issues, from food and water security to healthcare, from oceans to sustainable cities and climate change.

What made this event different from previous UN summits was a greater presence of multinational corporations, with more than 1,500 business execuives on hand to announce new initiatives and commitments. That amount compares to just a handful who were present at the first Earth Summit.

Increasingly, multilateral institutions such as the UN, the World Bank and regional development banks are partnering with the private sector to implement development strategies. They recognize that solving development challenges such as global food security, disease or energy poverty requires financial resources beyond what governments or multilateral institutions can provide.

The UN increasingly sees its role as working with its member states to put in place regulatory frameworks that reduce risk and make it more attractive for private companies to invest, create markets and provide goods and services. It is creating new public-private partnerships that pool public funding from governments and bodies such as development banks to leverage greater investment from private companies.

At Rio+20, we saw an example of this in Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative. More than 100 governments, companies and civil society organizations made commitments in Rio. In addition, the Asian Development Bank has recently pooled together a consortium of banks and corporations to invest $175 billion in sustainable transportation systems.

No doubt, multinational companies will continue to invest in development priorities through their in-house CSR programs. But today many are also looking for ways to partner with multilateral institutions and civil society organizations to advance high-impact, high-priority global development challenges.

Powell Tate, with support from our Weber Shandwick colleagues in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, helped raise the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All to the top of the global development agenda at the Rio+20 Summit.  Sustainable Energy for All was launched earlier this year by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Working with the UN Foundation, we have organized events, managed media relations and created digital tools in support of the initiative in Washington, New York, London, Brussels, Abu Dhabi, Nairobi, Johannesburg and New Delhi, as well as during Rio+20.

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