You’ve created something to help people, or you’ve finally started your green business. What next? How do you get the word out about your product so it can have an impact?
“We’ve got a climate crisis on our hands, along with a lot of other crises, and if you have an applicable skill set, you should try and solve some of the problems in the world,” LaBelle states matter-of-factly.
The pair, deeply entrenched in the worlds of marketing and social media, met at a start-up in Seattle. Neither were satisfied. They felt the burnout of Facebook advertising and thinking about dollars all day. They were tired of marketers making false claims instead of using truth and clarity.
So, they got together one day after each leaving the start-up and posed the question: “What if we could use our marketing skills instead to try to improve the world and build movements around these really important companies that are doing things to better the planet and better people?”
From there, Root & Leaf was born with the intention of helping smaller and well-intentioned businesses who don’t have the resources or money like the ill-intentioned Chevrons of the world.
Both LaBelle and Engel agree that the marketing industry—or, as LaBelle describes it, the “soulless persuasion machine”—often gets a bad rap, and for good reason.
That’s why Root & Leaf infuses ethics into every step of its processes.
The ethics of Root & Leaf
It starts with vetting potential clients, looking at their funding and what they stand for. LaBelle notes this work is not just for a paycheck. “We want to be able to stand behind the marketing work that we do for these clients,” he adds.
It’s a mutually beneficial working relationship, but what is the work Root & Leaf provides for their clients?
It starts with AMC. LaBelle explains: “AMC stands for audience, messaging, and channels. It’s the framework we use to go in and deeply understand what our clients want to achieve.”
They research the market their client wants to tap into, and then create a plan for what the messaging should be and how to get it out in the most effective, engaging, and far-reaching way possible. This work includes ads across platforms (Google, Facebook, etc.), performance marketing, email marketing, and much more. Their strategies are always uniquely tailored to the client and what the specific goal is.
Ultimately, your business may not need Root & Leaf forever. Their goal is education and success—for both their clients and their clients’ audiences.
“The ethos we work under is that we don't want to keep any of those secrets,” Engel states of Root & Leaf’s dedication to transparency and explaining, step-by-step, what they’re doing for a client and why.
Some may think they need a lot of money for professional marketing help, but that’s not necessarily the case, and especially not for LaBelle and Engel, who prize what their clients’ missions are over everything else. Engel has worked on six-figure campaigns before, and it’s taught him how best to optimize platforms for smaller businesses.
Root & Leaf engages in their own ethical practices, too, offering pro bono consultations and giving back to 1% for the Planet.
Their successes run the gamut, from legal nonprofits to ethical investment companies.
One success is with Farm Commons, which began providing virtual workshops, resources, legal support, and more during COVID-19. What started as a one-hour conversation with Root & Leaf, simply identifying ways to help, turned into multiple hours. “Here we are a year and a half later,” LaBelle says. “We’ve helped them with numerous aspects of their business, from new membership signups, to email flow, and messaging.” Rachel Armstrong, the executive director of Farm Commons, even noted Root & Leaf helped them proactively solve problems they didn’t see coming.
In another win, Root & Leaf helped the legal nonprofit Earth Law Center market their textbook about nature rights to higher education institutions. “We identified the right audience and the messaging that would resonate best with them,” LaBelle explains. “We researched decision makers at US law schools, looking at the deans of curriculum and which law professors would be most amenable." Now, at least three different law schools across the country are teaching the course in full or as part of another course using the textbook.
“I am not an Earth lawyer, I cannot go into a courtroom and argue on behalf of a river for its right to not be polluted,” LaBelle concludes. “But what I can do is make sure that those organizations doing good work have what they need to be successful.”