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Good Works!: Marketing and Corporate Initiatives that Build a Better World...and the Bottom Line by Nancy R. Lee, David Hessekiel, Philip Kotler

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Chapter 14

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Dealing with Cynics and Critics

It is ironic that marketing and corporate social initiatives, instead of inoculating companies from attacks, have been known to stimulate criticism rather than kudos. Although the opinion research we've shared throughout this book shows that most consumers appreciate corporate social initiatives, there are activists, journalists, and a portion of the population that respond with great cynicism to any communications about corporate good works. Certainly, some poorly conceived and executed programs are deserving of criticism, but negative feedback due to what we've dubbed the no good deed goes unpunished phenomenon goes beyond that.

In this chapter, we'll provide examples and analysis of this communications challenge, offer advice on avoiding or minimizing the extent of such problems, and share suggestions on how to respond when they do arise.

Types of Criticisms

There are many scenarios that lead activists, journalists, consumers or others to rightly or wrongly publicly criticize corporate social initiatives. Among the more common ones we've identified are:

  • A broader debate on the issue (e.g., should the breast cancer movement focus on finding cures for or identifying environmental triggers of the disease) that turns a company into a target for being on the wrong side.
  • Pre-existing dissatisfaction with a company or its nonprofit partner on one issue (e.g., labor practices in less developed countries) that ...

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