CSR Communications 101: Ten Guiding Principles
What is CSR Communications? Is it cause-marketing? Is it the promotion of corporate philanthropy? Is it distributing a press release when your employees engage in a major volunteer program? Or is it the creation an annual sustainability report that showcases your firm’s environmental footprint, fair labor practices, and energy consumption, among other items? Actually, it is all of these and much, much more.
CSR Communications involves every key department of an organization and its practice is ongoing with significant long-term goals. The agenda must be developed from the top down and bottom up and must continually be reviewed by internal and external stakeholders in order to be credible and reliable.
Some key tips to consider:
- Strive to be authentic – do not try to be a company you are not. Be honest. You will gain much greater respect if you are candid.
- Solicit support from all internal departments and consider creating an employee task-force representing many facets of the business. Employees will want to help and contribute if it’s supported from the top of the organization.
- Consider working with a reputable outside firm to help you weed through all the different processes. You will need to review environmental, labor and safety practices along with the make-up of your supply-chain. There are long-standing, well-known firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young, and many others including The Taiga Company and SustAinability.
- Working with senior management, create a list of your company’s sustainability commitments. Doing so will enable you to map your strategy going forward. These will be your guiding principles.
- Determine your audience. Who do you want to reach with your messages? Review and prioritize. Your list should include employees, partners, customers, media, financial analysts, donors (if applicable), resellers, and shareholders. How will you communicate with them? Be cognizant that it should be a two-way street. In today’s world of social media, no communications plan should be “one to many,” but rather an open dialogue between all interested parties.
- Create your means for measurement and reporting. Develop key performance indicators (KPIs) you wish to track and set up a timeline so that you are consistent in your reporting.
- Consider engaging a communications firm that specializes in CSR. There are currently many reputable agencies from which to choose. A few that come to mind include Edelman, Fleishman Hillard, and Cone, among others.
- Continue to fine-tune and evolve your strategy and consider trying some of the very innovative new CSR communications platforms that exist on the market today.
- Ask, poll and inquire – Engage with your peers and your stakeholders as often as you can. Attend industry events such as CERES, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship and BSR conferences.
- Join social networks, set up CSR RSS feeds and follow #CSR and #Sustainability on Twitter. Also, connect and follow key CSR thought-leaders and blog sites such as @elainecohen @fabianpattberg @realizedworth @OKL @justmeans @csrwire @3blmedia @vaultcsr and @davidcoethica and @alicekorngold and many more.
Do allow yourself the necessary time to cover all the points and steps mentioned above. All are vital to make your program successful and sustainable. Continue to fine tune your measurement so that you are actively strengthening your agenda and making adjustments when required or necessary. Let me know your thoughts and what other steps I should add to make this article complete. I look forward to hearing from you at @susanmcp1 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan McPherson (@susanmcp1) is a connector and active cause marketer. She is member of the board of Bpeace, a nonprofit dedicated to providing pro-bono consulting to women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Bosnia and El Salvador. She also is a member of Echoing Green’s Social Investment Council, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the New York Leadership team for 85 Broads. Additionally, she serves on the advisor to JANERA and The OpEd Project. Professionally, Susan has worked at PR Newswire for fourteen+ years in CSR, business development and marketing roles and now is senior vice president position at Fenton, where she is focusing on CSR and sustainability communications for the firm. She resides in Brooklyn and can be found many evenings blogging, tweeting and volunteering from her roof deck garden.
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