Masters Program: Should Brands Take a Stand

Thursday, May 4, 2017 from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM (EST)

Eastern Bank (265 Franklin Street, Boston)

Click here to attend this PubClub Masters Program

It’s a brave, new world out there. Consumers don’t just consume anymore. They influence direction, whether marketers like it or not. They have growing and expanded expectations for brands – not just the products and services they deliver, but in what they stand for. In fact, the 2016 Edelman Earned Brand study showed that about six in 10 believe that doing good should be part of a brand’s DNA.

On Thursday, May 4, the Publicity Club of New England will conduct its next Masters’ Institute on that topic. Titled “The Role of Advocacy in Communications,” the roundtable will focus on this changing dynamic and what it means for brands. Ahead of the event, we caught up with each of our panelists to answer a couple of questions about the topic.

How has the changing consumer mindset altered the importance of brand advocacy over the last several years, and what role does communications play in it?

Tracy Stokes, Senior Vice President of Advertising & Brand Management, Eastern Bank

Consumers today expect more from brands. It’s no longer enough to promise a product benefit – whiter teeth, faster cars.  To stand apart, you have to stand for something; you need a purpose.   At Eastern Bank, our purpose is that “we do good things to help people prosper”.  Communications’ role is bringing that purpose to life in a way that creates an emotional connection with consumers.  For example, our new “Join Us For Good” campaign is rooted in our purpose and celebrates it across all touch points — in digital, TV and out of home advertising, social media and PR, and in our branches.

Rich Greif (@RichGreif), Vice President Marketing, Communications and Community Relations, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay

Consumers want to align themselves with nonprofits and causes that are timely, relevant and relatable. So it’s imperative that we connect our mission to the issues and challenges facing the children, families and communities we serve throughout the region.  Communications plays a vital role in helping consumers understand how those issues impact the growing demand for our services while positioning us as a leading brand that is constantly innovating to solve these challenges.


How do you embrace, but balance the desire for authenticity and transparency that are at the heart of developing brand advocates?

Katherine Smith, Executive Director, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, Carroll School of Management

Performance is what companies achieve, culture is how they achieve it.  Both contribute to the company’s brand.  Our digital and social communications environment makes it easier and easier for customers, employees, and the general public to know more about both what we achieve and how we achieve it.  Each company’s corporate citizenship is incredibly important to both the “what” and the “how” of companies.  It’s important to current and potential employees who are making decisions about where they want to work, to customers—who on the consumer side want to see that the companies from which they purchase are aligned to their values and on the B2B side want to ensure that there is not additional risk in their value chains.  Communications, of course, is critical to all of these dimensions of value-creation.  People in companies need to know what is expected of them and to be able to share how they are doing on those metrics.  It is a virtuous, continuous cycle when done well.


Balance is extremely important in our world because we have to be sensitive about positioning the need, our services and its impact across a very diverse range of stakeholders – volunteers, children, parents, community partners, staff, donors, etc.  The stories of our mission and impact can be very powerful but we have to be very thoughtful about our messaging and how it will be perceived both by those who know us and those we’re trying to attract.


Advocacy must be rooted in a clear brand purpose that is embraced throughout the organization – from the CEO to front line customer-facing employees.   If employees don’t believe in it, no one else will either.  We had started engaging employees in our brand campaign a year before we launched.   It helped us get feedback to keep us honest, ensured employees felt that they were a part of it and that they could talk about what it means with customers.

To attend the Masters Institute, click here.


The Masters’ Institute comprises a series of private, invite-only events for PR practitioners with at least 10 years of experience. The events are free to Publicity Club of New England members and first-time non-members.

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