PR Account Executive and long-term charity volunteer Catie Allwright outlines key considerations for businesses to positively impact their wider communities and earn consumer trust.
Social media, together with the internet, has changed the relationships between brands and consumers. With more information available in the public arena and an increase in direct and transparent communication channels, businesses are held more accountable for their actions than ever before.
The modern-day consumer is incredibly savvy to brands, seeking to spend their money not only on quality goods and services but with companies that they trust. Organisations need to earn this, demonstrating that they are morally in tune with their audience.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) highlights that your organisation is ethical and cares about causes much wider than itself. This can encompass things such as daily working practices, community relations, charity partnerships and much more.
However, doing good for the sake of it can look desperate and shallow. By finding a way of implementing CSR campaigns that are relevant to both your organisation and its audience, you can reap the benefits of increased brand awareness, heightened reputation, news coverage, charity expertise and boosted staff morale. How do you know which route to go down? Here are my top tips to demonstrate CSR in a way that will resonate.
1. Look at your daily working practices
Are you already doing something that’s ethically powerful? Are you waste-free, solar-powered or cruelty-free? If not yet, could you be? Are there steps that you could take to counterbalance your daily working practices to be more environmentally friendly, such as using biodegradable packaging? This can be publicised on your website and products, can inform messaging in any content and could, crucially, give you the edge over competitors.
2. Start inside
Your people can be your best assets for championing CSR. Could you implement a charity programme? Support your employees with causes close to their heart by allowing one day a year for doing something charitable, or match their funds raised. Nominate a charity of the year and hold fundraising events such as bake sales, car washes and auctions of work perks (an allocated parking space, an extra day of holiday, etc.). Again this is simple, relatively low-cost and shows your commitment to making a difference.
3. Consider your audience
What’s important to your customers, given their demographic and behaviours? If your target audience is young people, help to champion them and have their voice heard. If you’re in the food and beverage industry, work with groups that tackle obesity and teach healthy cooking to families. You could get some really useful insight in return from the charities’ research that can add weight to your health claims. If you have a B2B audience, what industry-wide issues are there? Is there a lack of diversity or skills gaps? If so, could you work with educational bodies to promote your sector as a viable career option for a broader range of people?
4. Look around you
Community relations can be a fantastic way to raise your profile, particularly if your audience is limited to a particular location. Which charities are based near you? What events or sports teams could you sponsor? What do you have to offer in kind? If you have large offices, lend conference space out to small local businesses for free. Take this one step further by investing in start-ups or supporting entrepreneurs. If you’re in animal healthcare, invite homeless people from your local area to get free check-ups for their pets. Again, you could take this further by raising money (internally and externally) to pay for any treatment or basic necessities.
Some charity initiatives that I think work really well are Skittles giving away its rainbow in support of Gay Pride, cleaning brand Ecover’s initiatives to reduce ocean plastic, and Tesco’s recent campaign with the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK that allows customers to round their shopping up to the nearest 10p and donate it, if they’d like to.
You don’t need to overcomplicate matters: the beauty of these examples is that they are simple. They fit with their respective audiences and sectors, they’re focused on specific causes – equality, the environment and health – and they make a real difference in heightening awareness, changing attitudes and raising valuable funds.