Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has evolved from the concept of being concerned purely with altruism and philanthropy. Whereas it was previously viewed by many businesses as being a ‘necessary evil’ that was a drain on financial resources, it is now being recognised as a remuneratively worthwhile activity that can have a positive impact on the bottom line. This is something that the PR professional needs to be aware of when discussing with clients the value of CSR in their operations.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development defines CSR as: “the continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large.” This encapsulates the idea that CSR is more than ‘doing good,’ it is an essential part of the development of the economy.
CSR brings value to the organisation by providing it with the ‘Social Licence to Operate,’ which is permission to sustain their performance. Being a responsible organisation builds a positive brand image and grants it credibility. With this in mind, here are five tips for PR professionals to help their clients improve the success of their CSR programmes:
Utilise the client’s skills: Tie your client’s CSR activities to their business. The most impactful campaigns and the ones that resonate are the ones that are allied to the core operations of the company. If your client is in the healthcare sphere, draw on skills to set up free medical checks. If they operate in the sports sector, consider training camps for underprivileged kids. Experience can generate success.
Review previous projects: Previous CSR projects are a great source of information for how you can improve the impact of your client’s CSR programme. There are is numerous sources of information online relating to CSR summits and conferences, with dedicated websites that reveal CSR best-practices and the current thinking of CSR leaders. This form of research is one of the best ways to refresh the process and flag-up what may be missing.
Open a conversation: Conversations, small focus groups and social media polling allows for the collection of qualitative survey data, which can let you know what’s important to the client’s stakeholders. These include customers, employees, suppliers, partners and members of the community. By taking the time to understand their motivations, goals, and needs, the programmes you develop can be crafted to best serve those interests and generate value for all concerned.
Share stories: Stories and anecdotes are just as important as data when it comes to communicating your impact. People want to hear how your client has transformed lives for the better. Human interest angles are the bedrock of good PR around CSR activities.
Measure again: The initiatives with the most impact on communities, their participants and the client’s business don’t view measurement as a one-time endeavour. The see it as an essential ongoing aspect of their programmes. Find out what works so you can do more of it. Find out what doesn’t work, so you can tweak and improve.
Ultimately, CSR is an important tool that should benefit the business, the stakeholders and the community. No organisation operates in isolation, it requires interaction with all concerned. CSR is about effectively managing these relationships to produce an overall positive impact on society and on the bottom line.