How Agencies can Work for Good

In this piece for FastGrowthBrands, Rob Bennett (pictured below), CEO of Rehab, explains how, in light of current events, agencies can, and should, be allocating resources to aid positive causes, both short and long term.

For some time, there’s been an ongoing conversation around agencies prioritising ‘good’ in their work. Annual festivals like Cannes Lions are celebrating not only creativity, but purpose-driven projects that do social good. Directing your energy into a pro-bono cause may feel a way to become less profitable, but key representatives from major agencies are recognising the collective power your teams can have on answering big and small societal issues and the positive knock on effects on your business – that money can’t buy.

The current pandemic has pressed the need to ‘do good’ firmly to the forefront, with everyone bearing a personal responsibility to help – wherever you reasonably can – right now. 

Creativity and innovation are more important than ever as we all look for new ways to cope with the challenges we are all facing in a very different day-to-day, and for agencies, there are two key ways in which you can help. In the short-term, you can lend whatever resource you feasibly can to a noble cause; and long term, you can focus your professional efforts on positive, progressive causes.

Short term, creative power of all sizes has responded – whether it be a giant like Google tracking the virus via Bluetooth; or the local pub that’s come up with a clever social media post to spread the news that it’s still delivering to the local community. It’s been incredible to watch people do their bit to develop grass-route initiatives to support the NHS, the community and the economy.

At Rehab, I think that we have a good model for donating resources in the short-term, which I hope others might take inspiration from. We run an ongoing ‘Hack Week’ programme where each month, a team works together to find creative solutions to pertinent societal issues, or cracks open our clients problems. Each hack focuses on a topic the team feels passionately about and utilises Rehab’s diverse skills and expertise as creative technologists, that the business employs on its client work. 

Rob Bennett, CEO, Rehab

We leveraged this model to help the burden of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry in March. We put considerable agency resource to DeliverAid – a pro-bono project to assist NHS doctor Jack Manley, who wanted to find a way of utilising the empty kitchens of local restaurants that have been forced to close as a way of feeding frontline health staff. Together, we set up the service which allows people to donate from the safety of their sofa. The money allows out-of-business chefs to cook healthy, sustaining food which is then delivered to local hospitals.

But what about long term? We don’t think the energy and drive to use creative power for good should stop. The question is, how can brands and agencies push this in their business?

Getting the balance between pro-bono and paid work is extremely tough – especially for independent agencies, though it’s important to acknowledge that there is a value to certain briefs that goes beyond the hourly rate. The skills we hone doing this work – solving real world challenges in exceptionally short timeframes and with cutting edge solutions – pays dividends for our clients in the long run. Though, it’s vitally important to recognise the importance of your team being invested in the cause, as it’s likely they’ll end up going beyond their typical role and way of working. 

Companies that don’t have the means to put cash and resources aside to work on positive side projects should still be considering purpose in the work they do for clients, or looking at how they could solve employee problems and challenges. We can all use our skills and expertise, in whatever specific field that may be, to build solutions and meaningful experiences that could make a positive difference to the world. 

We recently created RecycleThat, a voice bot which makes it easy to identify what is suitable for recycling within your area, ensuring less waste and allowing people to do the responsible thing with household waste. We also won gold at Cannes last year for a hack project we did with EarthDay Network and Amazon that allows the public to take a picture of the sky on any given day, wherever you are, and receive analysis of the air pollution present in your photo.

Though, working for good doesn’t always have to be about fighting climate change. It can be as simple as making people aware of the way they might be being manipulated or highlighting how various types of content might be damaging over a period of time. Some companies might be wary of this practice revealing some of their previous ‘dark arts’, however, they should instead see this focus as an opportunity for transparency. This may not only gain the respect of their consumers or clients, but it’s also the ethical thing to do. It’s good

The COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented, unpredictable and led us to a period of uncertainty. There has been no better time to create something positive from an event that’s beyond our control, and one potential silver lining is the way that companies have been forced to think outside the box and innovate – we hope these behaviours will carry in a world with so much space for positive change. 

Where (and if) you can, spare resources to channel time and effort into things that make a real difference and have a real impact on others. From keeping tabs on screen time for kids who are stuck indoors, connecting teachers with their students in new and effective ways, or partnering with delivery companies to help get people through this time, there is plenty that companies and creative agencies alike can be doing to help people cope. From adversity comes opportunity. Looking both short-term and long-term, the team needs to opt-in for the cause, because to deliver the best work, make it effective and timely means finding the time to make it happen and getting people on board who are passionate about it.

Finding the perfect balance between the paid client work and pro-bono is a fantasy, but we’ve seen firsthand that it can work in reality.