Drive the conversation
People are talking about you. Whether you’re part of the conversation or not, it is happening. The topic is your corporate social responsibility activities. Employees, stakeholders, and consumers are engaged and making decisions based on what they see and read.
The problem is that too often you are left out of the conversation because your side of the story isn’t being told. One is left to wonder how your absence affects your reputation in the mind of those that have high expectations of companies and want them to demonstrate a strong commitment to social responsibility.
Research shows consumers make purchasing decisions based on how socially responsible a company is and will boycott one that isn’t viewed in such a positive light.
For far too long, companies have been reluctant to tell their story. They were afraid it would come across as boastful or bragging. Somehow they felt that sharing the story would negate the good works that were being done.
I’ve talked to several senior corporate leaders in the last few weeks that have validated this reluctance. I’ve heard a consistent message. “We are doing good things, but no one knows about it. We need to do a better job of telling our story.” What was once perceived as bragging is now quickly becoming a necessity.
Corporations are increasingly recognizing that it is in their best interest to not only join but drive the conversation and share the story of how they are driving key social change.
We have learned that there is an expectation for companies to be involved. We’re also learning that there are business reasons for doing so.
According to the recently released 2017 Cone CSR Report, millennials are hopeful that businesses will take the lead to drive social and environmental change moving forward. The same report found that Americans still have high expectations for companies; 92% say they have a more positive image of the company if they support a social or environmental cause.
Here are some tips to help your company drive the conversation and reap the benefits that can come as a result.
Understand why you are engaged
Before you can tell any story, you need to be clear on the purpose and the why. Companies would do well to think about these questions:
-What does CSR mean to our company, and why is it important?
-What are we trying to accomplish through our involvement?
-Who can we partner with to help us achieve our goals?
-How will our involvement benefit our company and our stakeholders, and help advance change in societal issues?
It is best when companies align their focus areas with their corporate goals and objectives, employee interests and needs, and community issues.
Clearly articulate what you are doing
Once you understand why you are engaged, articulate the value of your efforts. Being able to articulate your message is the difference between bragging and genuine commitment to good corporate citizenship and social change.
Tell the story using multiple communication vehicles
Make sure your story is being told using a variety of channels. The time-proven methods of annual reports and press releases are still valid. Recent years have seen a growth in the number of companies publishing an annual corporate social responsibility report. All of these are effective and demonstrate the company’s commitment to social change. More and more companies are turning to social media. All of these vehicles can and should be used.
The Cone Report found that 79% of consumers say they are more likely to believe a company’s CSR commitments if they share their efforts along multiple channels.
Use your partners to tell the story. They also have communication networks and channels. More storytellers make for a better story.
Engage employees as storytellers
Feature employees who are actively engaged in giving and volunteering. Use their faces and stories in your social media campaigns and printed reports. Additionally, encourage employees to tell the story to their friends and family. They can use their individual social networks to push out the story even further. Engaging employees personalizes the story and demonstrates genuine commitment and authenticity.
The Cone Research report found that millennials are likely to tell friends and family about the CSR efforts of their employer and of companies that are committed to social change.
Promote partnerships and encourage participation
In your story, show how you have partnered with others to address a critical need and then invite those reading your story to engage with you. Consumers want to know what you are doing and how their personal actions can make a difference. They also said they appreciate a bold or daring message that makes them think differently. Use your story to invite their participation and action.
Companies are in a unique position to serve as the educator, the convener, and the catalyst for those wanting to make a difference. It all begins with joining the conversation and telling their story. Be a driver and a catalyst for doing good and reap the benefits that come from being an engaged and involved corporation.
This post was authored by Steve Greenhalgh, our Managing Director of CSR Strategy.