Corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities give companies a human face, portraying them as caring and responsive, with purpose and deeper meaning. The positive change they bring to society, or simply those in need, pays off not only by emanating a good image—but also by connecting to potential and current customers on a more emotional note, through shared values.
Recent research by Omnicom Group's Cone Communications, conducted in the United States, reveals that nine-in-ten Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause. This data alone is substantial enough to challenge your current approach to CSR and make you squeeze more of what you already do.
Raising awareness about CSR initiatives in today's digital age is much easier than before. Your own communication channels—websites, social media, newsletters, email campaigns—are your best allies in doing it. Since CSR is about real, good, selfless deeds that inspire others to follow suit, it will quickly make its way to your audiences’ hearts. Implement the five steps below to your marketing and communications plan to drive more visibility.
Craft a Compelling Story with a Human Face
Usually a CSR initiative’s impact is best conveyed by numbers, including how much money was donated to a cause, how many people benefited from it and how long it lasted. Although numbers are a powerful tool to show reach and impact, you need to add a real human story to provoke emotion and build connection.
If you were a journalist and were assigned to report on any statistics or numbers-based trend, the first thing you'd do is find people that best express it. The same goes for photojournalism. The most impactful photos are those that capture humans in situations of intense emotions, be it festivities or dangers. People naturally move their eyes to where other people are. Show the faces of the people you've made happy, recount their challenges, if any, and how you managed to relieve them. No pompous words, just simple, human language.
Develop a Community
Hardly has the world ever had the means to be more socially connected. Thanks to the internet and social media, anything from funny user-generated videos to political movements can gain traction and captivate thousands of followers, even if just for a couple of hours.
According to Omnicom Group's Cone Communications' study (cited above), two-thirds of Millennials use social media to engage around CSR. Finding people that care about your social initiative might be as simple as posting a tweet. Dedicate a special section of your website and social media to the causes you support. Post regular updates to keep your audiences informed. Use lots of visuals and make your story appealing. Post by post, tweet by tweet, it will start spreading and reaching more people. Before you know it, you'll have built a community of true allies that would now think of your company as a person they'd like to have as a friend. And of course, they'd choose you over your competitors.
To further boost your CSR visibility, connect with other organizations and individuals that support your cause. Partnerships will expand your reach and serve as a third-party validation of your contributions. Focused on business results and priorities, few for-profit companies can consistently dedicate an immense amount of time and resources to CSR regardless of their desire and goodwill. Joining forces with someone else will help you share the responsibility and provide the resources to have an even bigger impact.
Bring Forward the Unsung Heroes
Gone are the days when media stayed away from positive company stories, seeing them as hidden advertising. In today's insecure world, good news is not only more than welcome but also proactively sought after. Grab this opportunity. Maybe while working on your CSR initiative, you've met many inspiring people—people that create small miracles every day, overcome challenges in an unconventional way or are simply bold enough to dream big. Pitch these unsung heroes to media and enjoy the deserved positive coverage and reception. Your audiences will be proud to associate with a brand that is recognized by society for making the world a better place.
Become an Expert in Your CSR Field
As part of your CSR activities, you might have been exposed to many unknown facts and trends in the fields you’re contributing to. Share your knowledge while building your profile as an expert. Write case studies and blog posts, produce infographics and contribute by-lined articles to highlight important developments your wider audience might be interested to see. Secure speaking opportunities for your executives to present your CSR efforts as a good practice. Become the go-to source when it comes to the field of your CSR initiative.
Often underrated, CSR activities are a valuable source for bringing fresh perspectives to your marketing and communication efforts. With the trend of more and more young people associating with brands with a deeper purpose, exposing your social goods can play a major role in engaging your audiences. Need inspiration? Have a look at our biggest CSR initiative, Telerik Academy, on our website and see how we’ve communicated our impact with the help of our own CMS, Progress Sitefinity.