George Cope, then-President and CEO of BCE and Bell, speaks at the Bell Let’s Talk special announcement held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. Wednesday marks the 10th edition of Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk Day in support of mental health initiatives, an event that has become one of the country’s best-known examples of corporate outreach. Bell has donated more than $100 million toward research, community groups and other organizations during the past decade and has drawn praise for its efforts to combat the stigma of mental illness. The annual event has also been a target for critics of Bell, who have called on the company to focus on the well-being of its own employees. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marta Iwanek

As Let’s Talk Day turns 10, experts struggle to pin down its value to Bell

Social responsibility campaigns have relatively little impact on a brand’s overall reputation in the eyes of consumers

Wednesday marks the 10th edition of Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk Day in support of mental health initiatives, an event that has become one of the country’s best-known examples of corporate outreach.

Bell has donated more than $100 million toward research, community groups and other organizations during the past decade and has drawn praise for its efforts to combat the stigma of mental illness. The annual event has also been a target for critics of Bell, who have called on the company to focus on the well-being of its own employees.

The recognition has likely been a net positive, but experts say it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much corporate sponsorships contribute to a brand and reputational value, even for something as comprehensive as Bell’s efforts on mental health.

Social responsibility campaigns have relatively little impact on a brand’s overall reputation in the eyes of consumers, says Dave Scholz, a communications researcher and partner at Leger, where he compiles their annual corporate reputation ranking.

“There is some effect,” Scholz says. “It’s just not as large … as what we perceive their quality and services to be.”

Whether it is attracting employees or selling a product, Scholz says reputation is key: people want to be associated with an organization with a strong reputation.

“That means we’re more likely to want to work there. It means we’re more likely to want to acquire or use or buy their product, or service.”

Bell was ranked 260 out of 300 in Leger’s 2019 analysis — last of four telecom companies on the list, after Telus (94), Shaw (148) and Rogers (186).

In contrast to the Leger reputation ranking, Bell placed well in a 2019 ranking of Canada’s most valuable brands — with an estimated worth of $13.3 billion, it ranked third, behind the country’s two largest banks (Royal Bank of Canada at $23 billion and TD at $20.1 billion).

READ MORE: On Bell Let’s Talk Day, psychologist says let’s also listen

How much of that value can be attributed to charitable giving is hard to measure, says Paul Gareau, senior vice-president for brand and content at Kantar.

“I don’t have any data on that. I wish I did, because it’s such a great initiative,” Gareau says.

Gareau says the long-term nature of Bell’s campaign seems likely to resonate with consumers.

“The Bell Let’s Talk platform … is a super, super example of how a brand can start a movement and connect with people.”

Gareau says people are willing to pay a premium for highly respected brands and strong brands are more likely to grow in the future.

However, he says, Let’s Talk Day is only one component of Bell’s overall brand value and not “essential” to everything the company does.

“I can see how some people’s reaction would be: ‘Let’s Talk’ is great but that’s not what’s driving your overall behaviour as an organization.”

In fact, there are persistent complaints from people who have worked at Bell or one of the other companies within the BCE group.

A man told the BCE’s shareholder meeting last May, for instance, that he was badly treated by Bell when he was among about 70 people who were laid off — apparently in error — then recalled.

“I was kicked out and I wasn’t told what my fault was,” he said. “I have two kids. How do I answer to them? How? What do I tell my wife? What do I do? Help me! Is that what Bell Let’s Talk means?”

After listening for several minutes until the man finished, then-chief executive George Cope — who retired this month — thanked the man without much elaboration.

“I think no one can personally comment on someone who’s been asked to not work here anymore. So I think your emotions and your comment, we’re just going to have to respect them. Thank you,” Cope said.

Mary Deacon, who has chaired Let’s Talk Day since its inception, concedes that it has received criticism — although she says there’s more positive feedback than negative from employees.

“We won’t always get it right but we are making a very concerted effort to improve constantly,” Deacon says.

Deacon says it has also worked internally to build supports, services, benefits for its 50,000 employees in addition to the more public-facing billboards, social media discussion and advocacy.

“The experience is much, much better. We are not perfect. But we’re always learning and improving and we’re on that journey.”

David Paddon , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RDKS developing strategy to bring higher internet speeds to remote areas

Results of public survey will help ISPs build business case for funding

UPDATE: Man drowns crossing Skeena River

59-year old Prince Rupert victim pronounced dead at Mills Memorial

Donations flow into Mills Memorial Hospital

Community responds to request for equipment, supplies

School district digs in on instruction resumption

Senior official calls the process a “marathon”

Terrace dental clinic say no staff experiencing COVID-19 symptoms 22 days after dental conference

Five members of the office attended the Pacific Dental Conference from March 5-7

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Most Read