Making Corporate Social Responsibility a Positive Differentiator

19 May 2020 14:17

Being a PR professional today means bringing news outlets and the public closer to companies than they've ever come before. It's a social media-powered age wherein people want to know and understand the organizations they do business with. This may mean ensuring the company's values come through loud and clear.

Corporations that act in a socially responsible manner are in line to make better connections with young individuals who have grown up with clear lines of communication to brands. Embracing campaigns that are all about giving back, then backing those efforts up with top-notch PR outreach, can ensure that the business becomes a valued part of customers' lives.

The importance of corporate citizenship
It's essential to look beyond the idea of corporate citizenship as an element outside of a company's central business efforts. Ad Week contributor Matt Walker recently explained that it's possible to make a clear connection between what the organization does and the positive effect it has on communities. Organizations that make efforts to deepen the thought they put into social efforts can end up permanently tying their brands to good works.

Firms that truly realize the potential inherent in such programs can walk away with long-term reputation enhancements. Walker gave an example of one such event: Massive consumer products company Procter & Gamble helped 45,000 families recovering from disasters do their laundry, with the clean clothes helping them feel they are living normal life again after the displacement they suffered. P&G tied the effort in with its brand of Tide detergent, scoring a PR coup and favorable coverage all around.

Alliances and programs
Sometimes, companies don't have the internal means to engage in social responsibility programs. That doesn't mean they can't help out, however. Canadian Business contributor Paul Klein suggested alliances between big businesses and smaller, more agile firms. The large company can fund the efforts of the entrepreneurs and launch programs through them that improve lives.

Keeping up with the PR demands of such a program would naturally be more complicated than promoting one run by just by a single organization. However, a well-equipped PR department or agency should be up to the task. Perfecting the messaging behind this type of effort could prove to be a perfect use case for media monitoring, determining how sources in the region are covering the campaign and adjusting outreach accordingly.

Transparency as a business strategy
Speaking of PR and communication necessities, it is clear that just as positive corporate citizenship is an enabler of connections between brands and their young audiences, problems can dent this relationship. Havas Worldwide research highlighted the most proactive and socially conscious 20 percent of customers, explaining that 7 in every 10 of these global citizens now perform research on brands before buying and two-thirds avoid firms they deem negative.

PR departments with effective media intelligence strategies and tools will naturally be better prepared to deal with this rising and influential consumer segment than organizations without. Negative coverage, no matter where in the world it begins, can spread quickly today. By monitoring and comprehending media of all types and from numerous regions, PR departments can ensure the brand gets to tell its side of the story with maximum warning.

Getting ahead of problematic reports is especially important due to the psychological impact such an item could have. If an organization defining itself by good works is disparaged without providing a counter-argument, it could lose some of its hard-won credibility.

An integral feature
The age of corporate social responsibility is ripe with opportunity for PR departments to increase their importance to organizations as a whole. The age of the faceless corporation is coming to an end, driven by the need to know what brands do with their resources and whether they are interested in leaving the world a better place.

A well-executed and managed PR strategy is integral to becoming this type of modern corporate entity, as even the greatest philanthropic efforts can have a negligible effect on branding if they aren't promoted in an effective way. When people don't have to look up an organization's social programs before dealing with it, and they simply know through the media coverage it has received, PR departments can congratulate themselves on a job well done.

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