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  • Writer's pictureLiz Hayes

Building a cause marketing strategy from the minds behind Dallas Morning News' FWD>DFW

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Cause marketing involves a collaboration between a for-profit business and a nonprofit organization for a common benefit - AKA something good! This is how FWD>DFW defines cause marketing, and they should know, having created impressive cause marketing collaborations with major brands in the Dallas region.

Recently Medium Giant's Natalie Yancy, Chief Sales Officer and Gillian Breidenbach, Chief Community Officer joined the Branded Content Project's Big Branded Call to discuss the creation of FWD>DFW, powered by The Dallas Morning News.

FWD>DFW has been able to spark awareness and action in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area by effective brand storytelling through the online content hub, brand ads in print and digital, and through social media.

"People want to read good news. We know that 90% of people want their companies to tell them what they're doing and how they're making a difference. We know that 72% of Americans will buy from a company that reflects their values," said Breidenbach. "Cause marketing gives us a different platform versus traditional advertising to maximize that good we're able to amplify and leverage our earned media by accessing those dollars through various long-term campaigns."

It all starts with a mission. Media organizations need to identify what their mission is in the cause marketing space to provide a platform for brands and causes. They also needed to secure founding sponsors that share this mission. FWD>DFW enlisted Toyota, Frito Lay and the United Way, which have all re-signed yearly since its inception. Other brands have gotten involved as signature and supporting partners.

Finding causes that are important to the community you're in is also crucial when launching this kind of strategy. FWD>DFW uses its small "J" journalists in the content team to write stories that partners find important, which are then amplified through various platforms. FWD>DFW adds value through storytelling spotlights that highlight CEO passions, guest editorials and volunteer opportunities.

"We target the key audiences based on what the companies want to do," said Yancy. "They may want to raise brand awareness or they have other metrics that are important to them. For the nonprofits, they want to obviously reach donors and volunteers, and when we combine all of that, we can impact economic advancement."

FWD>DFW's success resulted in a new revenue stream and deepened relationships with clients and customers. They also make sure the content is in front of the publication's paywall for the reader benefit, but it also allows for businesses and nonprofits to share the content on their platforms, driving audience back to The Dallas Morning News.

Not all local media companies are in major metro markets like Dallas-Ft. Worth, but smaller organizations can still achieve cause marketing success and make effective change in their communities. When FWD>DFW was launched, the team had identified critical issues with key stakeholders, including elected officials and CEOs of nonprofits and local companies. You can do the same in your market.

"The first pickle is the hardest, we were able to get the first pickle out of the jar which was Baylor, so I'm sure every one of you has a hospital system," Breidenbach said. "We offered a three to one value on pricing, because we knew that this was our commitment to the community. The marketing teams love knowing they're getting value, and then we're reinvesting in our brand."

It's taken a few years to get to this point, but the team is thrilled to have made true economic impact for the area, while also sustaining a multi-million dollar revenue stream for the news organization.

In addition to finding key stakeholders, they also recommend targeting companies that have recently located to your area. It gives them an opportunity to show the community they are not just there to make money, but to invest in the community. This type of platform also gives you the chance to tap into a company's public relations or marketing budget, in addition to their advertising budget.

Have questions about building a cause marketing strategy? Reach out and we'll set up a call to discuss it. We can also put you in touch with Gillian and Natalie to talk about FWD>DFW.


The Meta Branded Content Project is designed through a strategic partnership between the Local Media Association, the Local Media Consortium, and the Meta Journalism Project to help facilitate additional growth, engagement, and revenue success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes.

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