So your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative is finally up and running. But how do you communicate what you are doing? CSR is an integrated process, so your communications should be as well. CSR is not a PR strategy; it is a business strategy. And like any other business strategy, it requires thoughtful communications that tells your brand story in ways that resonate with your stakeholders.
When approaching CSR communications, there are several key things that can help ensure that your brand narrative and your actions make sense to your stakeholders and impact the way your company is viewed and valued.
1. Define It. CSR, corporate ethics, sustainability…there are many terms to describe socially and environmentally responsible business. Choosing the right terminology and determining what it means for your company can be challenging, but is necessary to establish credibility, transparency and a foundation for your strategy and communication efforts.
2. Find a Champion. Defined spokespeople who are passionate experts are essential for delivering your message. Not only will identifying champions help your strategy succeed internally, but doing so will also give your messages credence and appeal externally.
3. Evaluate Your Audiences. Be sure that all of your stakeholder groups – employees, investors, boards, customers and regulators – are informed appropriately. What types of information do they respond to? What is the frequency? Employees can be especially valuable in enhancing your brand. They play a key role in in your CSR strategy development, its success and communication to external audiences, so be sure to include them.
4. Create Your Branding Content. Your values should speak volumes, but you have to create content and messaging that reflects action. Think about how your CSR strategy and values tie to your existing brand strategy or reflect the priorities of different departments within your company. Leverage your brand infrastructure to share compelling and unique content with your stakeholders.
5. Be Strategic. People have tremendous control over the content they consume, so don’t flood social media or other communications channels with unnecessary information. Social media and digital channels are powerful tools that you should use, but in ways that makes sense. You may not even need to communicate every detail of your CSR efforts. Decide what messages are most important to share and with which audiences.
6. Be Consistent. While following trends is certainly important to understanding the competitive landscape – don’t change your message with the tides. Your message is YOUR message, and should be crafted to clearly reflect your competitive advantage and brand story. Consistency plays a large role in credibility.
7. Be Proactive. Don’t wait until your company is criticized to share what you have done. Whether it’s your philanthropy or environmental actions, be willing to evaluate how you can get ahead and manage the conversation about your company. Reach your consumers and communicate to stakeholders without being a braggart.