December 17, 2015 / by Jeff Barrett

Authenticity is the best social media strategy. Why? PR is now a two-way conversation between the brand and its audience. The brand message can be influenced but it cannot be controlled anymore.

We, as PR professionals, rely on creating goodwill between a brand and its customers. If a brand is real and personable, people want to connect with it. People dont have feelings for robots. Although I did cry during “WALL-E.”

With that shift in dynamic, random acts of kindness (RAK) have become more important than ever. Using social tools, we can easily identify people to surprise. And it doesnt have to be elaborate. Recognition is a valuable currency on social media. Im not a currency trader but the shoutout may actually be worth more than the dollar.

This holiday season, brands are creating great RAK campaigns.

Want to learn how you can connect to your audience through storytelling? Read the free Brand Journalism white paper today!

It’s Better to Give Than to Receive

RetailMeNot is a brand all about helping people save money shopping with digital COUPONS – so they decided to visit a small town in Pennsylvania called COUPON. What they found was a town of about 100 people who have an incredibly selfless spirit. They asked them what they wanted for Christmas and all they wanted was to help a neighbor, friend or family member instead of themselves.

RetailMeNot came back to Coupon to surprise and gift the town at a holiday gathering with what their neighbor had said they might want or need – Santa showed up on the roof, the town erupted into “Silent Night,” and there was an incredible light display for the town. It inspires the notion that it is better to give than to receive.

But First, Let Me Take a Selflessie

Toyota launched a campaign that gives people the chance to do something kind for someone else, using selfies. The campaign #Selflessie encourages people to snap and post a selfless selfie.

It kicked off on #GivingTuesday and runs through January 4. Every single selfie hashtagged on Instagram with #Selflessie will trigger a $50 donation from Toyota to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Originally Toyota pledged to donate up to $250,000. Due to the popularity of the campaign, they have increased that amount to $750,000.

Pay It Up, Not Forward


Panera Bread has an initiative called Panera Cares which is a special 501(c)(3) nonprofit community café that operates on a pay-what-you-can model. There are four locations nationwide.

The cafes have suggested donation amounts for each menu item that give visitors an idea of how much their donation assists those with food insecurity. If you walk in the doors of these designated cafes and pay what you have, you get your entire order based on what you can pay.

Heather Taylor, PR specialist for Stampington & Company, says:

When I was in high school, I worked at the Saint Louis Bread Company (better known as Panera Bread throughout the country) as a barista and sandwich maker. Our store manager shared with our work team some interesting numbers from the Saint Louis Panera Cares location that reported despite the model, most people who stopped by paid *more* for their meal than the menu list price noted. I was quite moved upon hearing this. My four years of working at Panera in high school were already a special time in my life, but knowing that the Panera Cares initiative still thrives today endears the brand further to me to this day.

Social responsibility is a powerful tool in PR today. There are entire agencies or spin-off agencies being built on that premise alone. For millennials, what a brand stands for is far more important than what a brand does.

The challenge I have for you in 2016 is dont wait until next holiday season to create RAK campaigns. They can be done any day, any time.

My fiancé likes flowers on her birthday, but she loves it when I get them for her on a random Wednesday. The same is true for your audience. Connect on a one-on-one level, surprise people and they will love your brand forever.

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Images: Steven DepoloMike Mozart (Creative Commons)

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About Jeff Barrett

Jeff Barrett is 2015’s Best Business Blogger (Shorty Awards), one of the 50 most influential people on social media (Forbes), the #1 Ad Executive on Twitter (Business Insider) and dances like Drake. Find him on Twitter @BarrettAll.