Some consider corporate social responsibility (CSR) an overtly transparent public relations play. A thin veil masking unsavory corporate activity. An insincere adoption of whatever social, political and economic issues are in vogue. It can be typified: Volkswagen lying about carbon emissions. Redskin’s owner Dan Snyder’s spontaneous empathy for Native Americans. The NFL’s quick adoption of a program to combat domestic violence.
But highly effective CSR marketing programs rely on sincerity, corporate integrity and targeted impact.
CSR should never be a hastily organized campaign used to navigate a particularly bad episode in a company’s relationship with the public. Getting “busted” is precisely the wrong moment to reach for, or, worse, formulate, a CSR strategy. Scrambling about looks bad, because it is bad. And shouting, “Ignore that man behind the curtain!” after an egregious act works about as well as it did for the Wizard. Any business can claim that it operates in socially and environmentally conscious ways, but consumers today are too smart and sophisticated to be hoodwinked. In fact, Cone Communication and Ebiquity’s 2015 Global CSR Study found consumers’ understanding of CSR messaging is on the rise.
CSR’s value becomes apparent when it is applied as a powerful and strategic business engine. Net Impact defines this as “injecting social and environmental considerations into all aspects of business operations, including relationships with employees, suppliers, consumers, and local communities.” The effort matters. A few years back, The Journal of Services Marketing drew a clear connection between CSR and customer trust and loyalty. And, more recently, Cone and Ebiquity identified three significant trends: 91 percent of global consumers expect “companies to do more than make a profit”; 90 percent say they would “like to see more responsible products and services offered from companies”; and, 80 percent of global consumers would “tell [a] friend and family about a company’s CSR efforts.”
Unquestionably then, building, executing and promoting a CSR strategy that links business goals and values with consumer needs and social interests makes consumers that much more likely to choose and remain loyal to specific brands.
As integrated communicators, it is our challenge to make CSR recognizable, relatable and inextricably tied to our clients’ brands. We accomplish this by elevating and demonstrating the connection between corporate commitment and broader issues. “Prove it” needs to become our communications mantra, going forward.
How? Examples like Tide’s Loads of Hope program for natural disaster victims and Google working to expand Internet access are genuine and impactful corporate efforts worth exploring. We will also be delving into planning and execution of strong CSR in future blog posts. So, stay savvy, my soon-to-be CSR-converts.
This is the first post in a CSR Spotlight blog series by Bliss Integrated Communication that will touch upon CSR’s appropriate use and forms; role in crises and business development situations; how it can be built, executed, sustained and measured; and its benefit to employee and customer morale, attraction and retention.
Photo Credit: SupportBiz, Flickr.