Protecting Your Reputation with a "Good Karma Bank Account"
Alex, I have heard you speak about Al Capone and the Good Karma Bank Account. But I just don’t have the time to volunteer at a bunch of events. Is there a way that I can create Good Karma that doesn’t take so much time? Tony
Thanks for the question Tony.
There is an incredible amount of need in the world. In fact, in your own community, I am sure that you can find worthwhile organizations that would benefit from your involvement. But, most of us, particularly most small business owners or professionals feel that they just don’t have the time or money to commit to charity.
I am here to tell you however that participating in the right kind of community organizations can provide you an almost unbelievable return on your time investment and consistent participation, combined with showcasing that involvement can provide you with currency that can be used to build your reputation in times of otherwise stagnant growth and protect your reputation in times of crisis.
Successful businesses and professionals need to make sure that their “Good Karma Bank Account” is always full of “Good Karma Currency.”
What is Good Karma Currency and Why Do I Need It?
I define Good Karma Currency as the value of your brand’s positive perception within your community, achieved through recognized good deeds.
Let’s think about a good deed as a coin. A recognized good deed earns my brand a coin. The more good deeds that I do, the more coins I earn and the larger my good karma bank account becomes.
If I become known as a frequent “good deed doer” the perceived value of my brand increases and subsequent good deeds earn me additional, higher value coins. This “good karma currency” is like a bank account. The more good deeds that you do or good karma that you develop, the stronger your brand is and the more able you are to withstand all sorts of crisis.
How Does a Good Karma Bank Account Protect My Brand?
The value of a brand is based on perception. That perception can help you or hinder you in times of crisis. Let’s look at an example.
Bob’s Cupcakery and Stan’s Amazing Cupcakes are the two cupcake shops that operate in Smallville. Both make great cupcakes, both are similarly priced, and both are located within a block of each other. In all areas, the Cupcakery and Amazing Cupcakes are virtually identical. Except, Bob has put a lot of stock in creating a Good Karma Bank Account.
Bob donates left over products at the end of the day to the local food pantry. These cupcakes are dropped off at the food pantry, neatly arranged (just as if they were being delivered to any paying event) in large bags marked “Bob’s Cupcakery, by staff wearing Bob’s Cupcakery tee shirts. Not only does Bob post a picture of his staff delivering cupcakes on Facebook and Instagram, he tags the food bank, and has a running tally on his website that shows that this year alone, he has donated over 1,000 cupcakes to the food bank.
Bob also participates in the diabetes awareness challenge sponsored by the local medical center, by creating sugar free versions of the most popular flavors of cupcakes. He video tapes the team making the sugar free versions and posts the sugar free cupcake recipes on his website and on YouTube. His staff, wearing Bob’s Cupcakery tee shirts, hands out free samples of mini sugar free cupcakes at the event and of course, he posts this online to Facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc.
When the local school said that parents couldn’t bring cupcakes to class parties anymore because of food allergies and gluten issues, Bob and his entire staff took classes on food allergies and gluten issues and posted pictures of the entire bakery holding up their certifications. Because of this, the school allowed parents to purchase the special treat, directly from the Cupcakery for school parties, of course pictures of the cupcakes and celebrations are posted online.
Because Bob goes above and beyond just running a cupcake business, he has developed a loyal fan base. The local news interviews him about these events and his good deeds. People who like that he isn’t throwing food away and is instead bringing some joy into the hearts of the less fortunate are going to choose Bob’s over Stan’s cupcake shop.
Stan’s Amazing Cupcakes has sugar free versions too, but Bob participated publicly in bringing awareness about the sugar free options to the public, he gave out free samples, and made sure that people knew about his shop by being involved in an initiative not usually sponsored by a sweets shop. Diabetics and people who participated in the event will not only go to Bob’s because they know he has great sugar free treats, they will tell others who also want sugar free treats to go to the Cupcakery.
Parents are thrilled that they can provide their kids with treats that are approved by the school. Since Bob’s certifications, the school is thrilled at not having to be the “bad guys.” Even if Stan gets certified and starts offering allergen free or gluten free options, people already appreciate, know, and trust Bob.
So, not only has Bob created a terrific Good Karma Bank Account and filled it with a tremendous amount of the good karma currency, with little more than time, he has solidified his brand reputation. Bob’s Cupcakery is not only seen as a great cupcake shop, but also as a place where the owners and staff are passionate about the community and responsive to the needs of potential consumers.
Stan’s Amazing Cupcakes is just seen as another cupcake shop.
Now, if the economy turns and the town can’t support two cupcake shops, where are consumers going to put their dollar?
Let’s say that Bob’s has an actual reputation crisis. Perhaps, Bob fires Sue (a member of staff) for stealing money out of the cash register and in response, Sue posts negative reviews online.
Sue might post that Bob cheats his employees out of wages or that his kitchen is filthy and vermin infested or that the gluten free items aren’t really gluten free. These accusations could be extremely damaging to Bob’s business, but because he has built up a Good Karma Bank Account, he can use that Good Karma Currency to defend his brand.
People will be less likely to believe anything negative about the Cupcakery because they already know and trust Bob. With some well-chosen responses to the negative posts, Bob can effectively defuse any potential negative impact.
However, if Stan’s Amazing Cupcakes were to be hit with similar accusations by a disgruntled ex-employee, Stan has no Good Karma Bank Account from which to draw and people would be far more likely to believe the negative postings.
OK, so you can see the value of developing a strong, Good Karma Bank Account and keeping it filled with Good Karma Currency, but how do you go about actually creating one for yourself?
Step One: Identify Philanthropy That Meshes with Your Brand
No matter what your business or brand, you can find organizations that need your support and will provide you with currency for your good karma bank account.
Start by thinking about your business and create a list of organizations that easily mesh with that brand. Unless your brand is specifically focused on a particular religion or political party, when creating a Good Karma Bank, it is best to avoid.
Here are a few examples of organizations:
- Arts Organizations
- Food Pantries
- Service Organizations for Retired Military
- Community Improvement Organizations
- Junior Achievement and Youth Development Organizations
- Historical Societies
- Low Income and Indigent Organizations
- Senior Centers
- Handicapped and Learning Disabled Organizations
- Animal Rescue Organizations
- Environmental Organizations
Here are a few examples of how small businesses or professionals can get involved:
- A Real Estate office or broker team can give a talk about purchasing a home at the local library.
- Restaurants, bakeries, and butchers might donate left over food at the end of the day to local food banks.
- Construction companies could participate in Habitat for Humanity or similar organizations
- Lawyers might provide a few hours of legal advice a month through various programs for low income people.
- A local movie theatre might allow their space to be used by a displaced organization on a morning when the theatre isn’t usually open.
- Doctors and dentists may provide free treatment to the indigent.
- A mortician might talk to a senior center about the practicalities of end of life planning.
Try to come up with two or three organizations that directly relate to your brand, reach out and find out how you can help.
WARNING: THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU DONATING MONEY OR FINANCIALLY SPONSORING EVENT. If you can afford to do that and are so inclined, that is great. But donating money doesn’t add anything to your Good Karma Bank Account. Creating Good Karma Currency is about DOING good works publicly, not just funding good works.
WARNING: THIS IS NOT ABOUT SELLING. If you try to “sell” your services or your brand, you will end up creating the opposite of your intended perception People that try to sell and community organizations are universally disliked and mistrusted. Your participation should be for the benefit of the organization.
So real estate brokers, funeral homes, and insurance agents….put your cards away, don’t talk about your services, and don’t sell. PERIOD!
But I Belong to the Chamber of Commerce and several professional Organizations, Isn’t That Good Enough?
This is not about industry or professional associations. Your membership to these types of organizations can benefit your brand through education, advocacy, and networking, but they rarely allow you to give back to the community and to create good karma currency.
Step Two: Identify Community Events that Shake Up Your Brand Perception…In A Good Way
In our example, most people wouldn’t have thought that a cupcake shop and a diabetes event would be a good match, but by figuring out a way that he could make a positive contribution, Bob was able to insert his brand into the event.
Think about ways that you can shake up your brand perception in the community.
Here are a few examples:
- A Real Estate office or broker team can participate in a community clean up event.
- A restaurant might provide free cooking demonstrations, focused on local fresh produce, at a local farmers market.
- A construction company might participate in an environmental clean-up event.
- A law firm might march in a civil rights parade.
- A local movie theatre might sponsor a monthly classic movie night free of charge for senior citizens.
- A dental office might hand out free mouth guards at the opening of a new skate park.
- A funeral home might sponsor a historic cemetery clean-up
Step Three: Showcase and Promote
Building your Good Karma Bank Account requires that you have the means to showcase and promote your involvement. If you march in an Earth Day Parade, that’s nice. If you march in an Earth Day Parade with your company tee shirts, and wave Earth Day Banners, and post lots of social media pictures showing your company at the event and having a great time, you are earning Good Karma Currency.
It make seem showy, it may seem cynical, it make seem disingenuous and calculating. But the fact is these organizations need people attending, helping out, and promoting their events. When companies participate and when they promote that participation it brings more people to the event, makes more companies feel like they better participate too and ultimately helps insure the organizations success.
You should shoot for at least one Good Karma deposit each month as a minimum. Get shirts and caps made up, make sure that you are posting on your website and social media, and make certain that you are including details about the organization and events. People want to engage with people who are engaging, if you look like you are having fun while renovating a children’s play area or teaching seniors how to use Facebook, people will have a more positive perception of you and of your brand.
Step Four: Participate Wholly
One of the terrific things about participating in events that create Good Karma for you is that others will also be photographing and promoting the event and will likely get pictures of you too. So, it is essential that when you participate in these events, you participate wholly. If you show up in your tee shirts, take a few pictures and leave or only seem to be participating when the cameras are rolling, people will know and they will call you out on the behavior.
Building a strong Good Karma Bank Account requires the good karma part, doing good deeds for your community will bring good karma back to you. Plus, you will meet new people (potential customers of the future) and you will get to know more about your community which will make you more resilient and responsive to changing tastes and needs.