All of us in the social good/sustainability communications realm got here out of a desire to deliver messages that could make a difference. Here at Public Address, we all dove in head first either full-time or on a freelance basis from various perches – cinematographers and directors entrenched in images that sell, news media producers, creatives juggling ideation and ad agency expectation, and editors and writers ready to promote something that people really need…a little goodness.

Prosocial behavior, or “voluntary behavior intended to benefit another”,[1] is a social behavior that “benefit[s] other people or society as a whole,”[2] “such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating, and volunteering.

But, no matter how any of us got into this business, once we did, there were new forks in the road at every turn, each offering a new title.

CSR communications, cause-marketing, social good and sustainability messaging, nonprofit communications, purposeful marketing, mission-drive marketing…the list of phrases for communicating the good going on in the world of business, nonprofits and NGOs is exhaustive…and a little exhausting.

Titles like cause marketing, corporate social responsibility often cloud the good message as differentiators. While companies and foundations can exponentially increase positive social impact through partnerships and donations, their involvement in the realm of social good and sustainability  can breed skepticism.

But, in the world of social good communications and marketing, we believe that good is good. And, it can only be louder and broader when the story is better. Titles are a side note.

In the current scene, with articles entitled “CSR is Dead”, corporations like Unilever aspiring to becoming a B Corp, and the continued blurring of lines between nonprofit and for profit, we’re all scrambling for an umbrella phrase that says: “We promote your good word here!”…in preferably two words or less.

To ground ourselves, CSR is actually alive and kicking, Unilever isn’t a B Corp yet, and there are still more nonprofits than one would care to count. But, something new continues to brew in the world of ‘good’ communications. Newer companies aren’t just doing good as a side order. The trend, now, is to be good, at the core.

Purposeful and mission-driven marketing is being dumped in large quantities into the “good” pot.

Knorr, Campbell’s Soup, Seventh Generation, Country Crock, Walmart, McDonald’s – all are examples of corporations exploring (and enhancing) their roots. They’re elaborating on, and in McDonald’s case, redesigning their mission to suit consumers that want to believe in the companies they purchase from. And, the more positive their message, the more consumers will expect from them. All good, we say.

This is what we want to communicate – messages that encourage positive change, no matter what category it’s placed in or what label the marketing campaign boasts. We, like most in the business of marketing the good going on in the world, believe in all of it. Change is fed by the communication of good deeds, period, linked to big money or not.

And, that’s why we’re here, under the fast expanding umbrella of the prosocial space.


Jamie Penn is a purposeful marketing strategist, mother of three, a writer, and a social media junkie. She was an environmentalist before it was cool; loves mothering, writing, travel and food; refuses to follow recipes; and voraciously researches, writes about, and assists in video production for the companies consumers trust.

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