The most impactful and sustainable corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are informed by a company’s mission and values — and are designed to deliver meaningful and measurable outcomes.
A compelling CSR program can improve brand and reputation, plus it will resonate with your customers.
According to the Reputation Institute’s March 2016 Reputation Leaders Study, the most successful companies and organizations fully integrate CSR into their strategy and brand — the program is then infused into everything they do.
Findings from the study show that these companies are able to establish a powerful link that ensures that their corporate purpose helps improve their overall reputation.
Following are three steps successful companies take to build and then share effective CSR programs:
1. Ensure that CSR is derived from and integrated into your corporate purpose and strategy
CSR is a key driver of reputation. Merely checking the “CSR box” is not enough. The communication of overall CSR goals and achievements helps build trust within a company and across all of its business units and brands. As most business leaders know, trust is an invaluable asset in today’s highly-competitive global marketplace.
2. Make sure your CSR program is meaningful and authentic
REI, the national outdoor retail co-op, made headlines in 2015 for closing its stores nationwide on Black Friday. REI employees and customers showcased their activities throughout the day via the handle #OptOutside to show how they spent the day outdoors. In addition, REI donated $5.9 million to non-profits and invested $60 million in the “outdoor community.”
It was a bold move - rejecting Black Friday commercialism to compel people to take time to get out and enjoy nature. The campaign worked because it was honest and delivered against the company’s mission and brand. This is what businesses can realize when they take time to develop a meaningful and creative approach to CSR. In this instance, a major retailer chose nature over commercialism – which is totally authentic to this outdoor-focused brand.
3. To ensure the right story gets heard, companies must organize a consistent message and a shared storyline, and then broadcast it across multiple media platforms
The REI effort generated a significant amount of both earned and social media attention. It is no longer enough to publicize CSR initiatives in corporate board reports alone. Good CSR storytelling is dynamic and interactive. It uses the power of storytelling, combined with the ubiquity of social media channels to leave an emotional impression that remains when the memory of underlying plot points disappears.
A company’s reputation is about legitimacy and is largely owned by external stakeholders. Reputations are based on the experiences, judgments and perceptions of others. Consumers want to hear your story — they want to be proud of doing business with you — they want to “share” and “like” your story. When done right, CSR storytelling can achieve more than just good publicity, it can lead to lasting customer loyalty.
Regan Lamb is the chief marketing officer at OTM Partners. Her areas of expertise include corporate social responsibility program evaluation, design and execution; strategic planning; messaging and brand-enhancement. Previously, Lamb served as executive vice president of Program Development at Envision EMI. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., she is also president-elect of the American Marketing Association’s D.C. Chapter.
March 1, 2016 - OTM Partners is hiring an Account Coordinator to assist in the coordination and administration of ongoing programs including activities of nationally branded communications programs.
March 29, 2016 - The American Marketing Association DC Chapter (AMADC) is featuring Regan Lamb, Chief Marketing Officer at OTM Partners, Tom Raffa, Founder at Raffa, P.C., Anthony Shop, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Social Driver, and Sara Steele, Lead Manager, Sustainability at The Dow Chemical Company at their monthly How To lunch. It will be an interactive session focused on the role of corporate social responsibility (CSR) storytelling in brand and reputation management. The panelists will explore compelling ways to get the message out regarding CSR initiatives and tips for integrating this important component into your brand management work.
Storytelling is a crucial part of managing your company’s brand. Research has shown that stories are a key tool for human memory. People remember things that show a before and after scenario, a cause and effect, leaving the listener with an emotional shift. For brand management, just as with a good novel, a compelling story can resonate with consumers and improve a company’s brand.
February 22, 2016 - Over the weekend, a German news outlet reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asked Volkswagen (VW) to produce electric vehicles and help build charging stations for electric vehicles as part of a solution to the alleged VW diesel emissions test issue that surfaced last year. Neither EPA or VW have spoken about this rumored federal government request (or is it a demand?), but it’s well known that the EPA is in talks with VW over their diesel vehicles and the emissions testing fiasco.
This news report raises a corporate social responsibility issue (CSR) that may have ramifications to automakers and lots of other federally regulated industries. Quite simply, is it CSR when a government agency asks, demands (or as part of a legal settlement — requires), a business to do something separate from the issue at hand? Diesel isn’t electric. And yes, they’re both in the pollution or emissions arena. Nevertheless, many questions surface from this news report. Is government required penance still CSR? Is it even an appropriate government function? Or should it just be chalked up to the dynamics of today’s innovative legal settlement process between business and the government? Opinions will certainly fall all over the spectrum on this one, and it’s safe to say CSR is right in the middle of it all.
November 2, 2015 - OTM Partners is hiring an Account Executive to oversee the coordination and administration of all aspects of ongoing programs including planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and managing program activities of nationally branded communications programs.
Account Executive Job Description