How to Ef­fec­tively Com­mu­ni­cate CSR Suc­cesses

Thai-American Business (T-AB) Magazine - - Front Page - Writ­ten by: Deanna D. Pa­jkovski

Amer­i­can com­pa­nies in Thai­land don’t only do well; they also do good. From large multi­na­tion­als to small busi­nesses and star­tups, com­pa­nies rec­og­nize the im­por­tance and ben­e­fits of in­vest­ing in com­mu­ni­ties where they work and live. Cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity ( CSR) is not a trend – it is a core value of do­ing busi­ness. It is no longer ac­cept­able to do a lit­tle bit of en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment here and some com­mu­nity in­volve­ment there; com­pa­nies are ex­pected to con­struct a sound frame­work of ac­tiv­i­ties that are aligned with their core val­ues and en­hance their re­spon­si­ble busi­ness prac­tices. The ques­tion is no longer whether or not to in­te­grate CSR into your cor­po­rate agenda but how to do so, as data shows that not en­gag­ing in CSR can ac­tu­ally hurt a com­pany.

WHY IS CSR IM­POR­TANT?

Be­yond the ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits of mak­ing the world a bet­ter place, CSR is ex­cep­tion­ally good for busi­ness. So­cial phi­lan­thropy has proven to be very pow­er­ful in in­flu­enc­ing con­sumer at­ti­tude and con­sumer be­hav­ior. Stud­ies show that 88% of con­sumers are more likely to buy from a com­pany that en­gages in ac­tiv­i­ties that ben­e­fit so­ci­ety. In the age of in­formed and so­cially con­scious con­sumers, com­pa­nies that have built and re­tain a rep­u­ta­tion for car­ing about the en­vi­ron­ment and so­cial is­sues en­joy greater cus­tomer loy­alty and brand recog­ni­tion.

A suc­cess­ful CSR strat­egy can in­spire con­sumers to be­come brand am­bas­sadors and spread pos­i­tive word- of- mouth about the com­pany or prod­uct. The in­ter­net mag­ni­fies this ef­fect as con­sumers are us­ing so­cial me­dia plat­forms to com­mu­ni­cate their en­thu­si­asm for a com­pany or brand be­cause of its so­cially re­spon­si­ble prac­tices. There is a flip side to this coin though. Con­sumers have been known to ‘ pun­ish’ com­pa­nies they be­lieve are not be­hav­ing in so­cially re­spon­si­ble ways by boy­cotting their prod­ucts and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to do the same.

Look­ing closer to home, CSR is an ex­cel­lent tool for in­creas­ing em­ployee en­gage­ment and ded­i­ca­tion. The Mil­len­ni­als, your fu­ture work­force, are hy­per­aware and have high ex­pec­ta­tions of CSR ef­forts. They are not only likely to switch brands to one as­so­ci­ated with a cause – they have also been known to switch em­ploy­ers if they per­ceive the com­pany as so­cially ir­re­spon­si­ble. Polls have found that 78% of Mil­len­ni­als con­sider the com­pany’s CSR strat­egy when choos­ing where to work. So­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity is also a pow­er­ful mo­ti­va­tor for ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ees and fos­ters em­ployee loy­alty, com­mit­ment, team spirit, pride, and sense of be­long­ing and pur­pose, which pos­i­tively af­fect em­ployee pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Last but not least, well de­signed and well com­mu­ni­cated CSR ef­forts help dif­fer­en­ti­ate your com­pany from the com­peti­tors, gen­er­ate pos­i­tive pub­lic­ity, im­prove your busi­ness stand­ing, and pro­vide ac­cess to in­vest­ment and fund­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. You sim­ply can­not af­ford not to do CSR.

COM­MU­NI­CAT­ING CSR SUC­CESSES

If a tree falls in a for­est and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This is a ques­tion that has been pre­oc­cu­py­ing philoso­phers for cen­turies. Nowa- days, com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sion­als won­der: if a good CSR cam­paign is im­ple­mented, but no one hears about it, does it make an im­pact? Of course it does, but a widely com­mu­ni­cated CSR ef­fort can have a mul­ti­plier ef­fect. In ad­di­tion to im­prov­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of the com­pany and af­fect­ing con­sumer be­hav­ior, a well- ex­e­cuted CSR PR cam­paign has the power to mo­bi­lize other com­pa­nies, in­sti­tu­tions, and in­di­vid­u­als to join the ef­fort, re­sult­ing in in­creased aware­ness and greater ben­e­fits to the cause. Sim­i­larly, one com­pany’s ef­fort can in­spire other com­pa­nies to take up their own so­cial causes, cre­at­ing a so­ci­ety- wide rip­ple ef­fect of well­be­ing.

How CSR suc­cesses are com­mu­ni­cated, how­ever, is es­sen­tial in de­ter­min­ing whether your cam­paign will be seen as a gen­uine act of phi­lan­thropy or a self­serv­ing mar­ket­ing ploy. It is a very thin line to walk.

Your CSR re­port is only one medium for com­mu­ni­cat­ing your CSR im­pact and the share­hold­ers are only one seg­ment of your tar­get au­di­ence. When you im­ple­ment com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives, your stake­hold­ers also in­clude your em­ploy­ees, cus­tomers, com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives, NGOS, and the gen­eral pub­lic. Con­se­quently, you should think be­yond num­bers and fig­ures and com­mu­ni­cate sto­ries: of hu­man in­ter­est, of change, of im­pact. Your stake­hold­ers will want to hear why the cause is im­por­tant, what the ex­pected ben­e­fits and who the

The ques­tion is no longer whether or not to in­te­grate CSR into your cor­po­rate agenda but how to do so, as data shows that not en­gag­ing in CSR can ac­tu­ally hurt a com­pany.

in­tended ben­e­fi­cia­ries are, and how you in­tend to turn a one- off ef­fort into a sus­tain­able course of ac­tion re­sult­ing in last­ing change.

Be­fore you start strate­giz­ing about the type of me­dia you need to en­gage, the opin­ion lead­ers you need to woo, and the num­ber of views, clicks, and shares you need to jus­tify your PR bud­get, it is im­por­tant to con­sider the power of the mes­sage. A good mes­sage res­onates, and when com­mu­ni­cated in an hon­est, au­then­tic, con­tin­u­ous, and re­spon­sive man­ner, it will go a long way in get­ting you that much- cov­eted me­dia cov­er­age.

EL­E­MENTS OF EF­FEC­TIVE CSR COM­MU­NI­CA­TION

• Trans­parency and hon­esty First and fore­most, your com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs to be trans­par­ent and hon­est. Your cus­tomers are in­formed about your prod­ucts and the causes you sup­port; con­nected with other con­sumers; en­gaged in so­cial causes; and they have a wealth of in­for­ma­tion at their fin­ger­tips ( lit­er­ally). Fudg­ing num­bers and facts is a very dan­ger­ous game to play in the age of in­for­ma­tion and shar­ing, and it could cost you a lot more that your rep­u­ta­tion and cred­i­bil­ity.

• Au­then­tic­ity

For a CSR cam­paign to be au­then­tic, the mo­tives be­hind the sup­port need to be clearly vis­i­ble and the con­gru­ence be­tween the com­pany’s func­tion and the cause needs to be high. For ex­am­ple, if a com­pany that pro­duces mink coats an­nounces that their cause of choice is erad­i­cat­ing cru­elty to an­i­mals, this might raise more than a few eye­brows and lead to a wellpub­li­cized visit by PETA ac­tivists. Sim­i­larly, don’t try to ob­scure the fact that there are busi­ness in­ter­ests be­hind your com­pany’s sup­port for a cause. Con­sumers are aware that a busi­ness’s bot­tom line is profit and pre­tend­ing oth­er­wise might make them ques­tion your mo­tives. The mo­ti­va­tion driv­ing a com­pany’s sup­port for a cause is im­por­tant be­cause the pub­lic re­lates mo­tive to the com­pany’s char­ac­ter. If con­sumers be­come skep­ti­cal of your mo­tives, it will quickly sour any pos­i­tive feel­ings they might have had to­wards your brand, and thanks to so­cial me­dia the neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity will spread like wild­fire.

• Con­ti­nu­ity and Fre­quency

In­form­ing stake­hold­ers of your CSR ef­forts and suc­cesses should not be rel­e­gated to the an­nual CSR re­port and an oc­ca­sional press re­lease with ‘ be­fore and af­ter’ pho­tos. Find a mech­a­nism that will al­low you to keep stake­hold­ers reg­u­larly in­formed of progress, chal­lenges, ob­sta­cles over­come, and lives changed. Your com­pany’s com­mit­ment to the cause and to CSR in gen­eral will be mea­sured in terms of the longevity, fol­low through, and im- pact of your ef­fort. A study showed that when a com­pany’s CSR ef­fort was short- term, con­sumers thought that the com­pany was par­tic­i­pat­ing in CSR only to meet oth­ers’ ex­pec­ta­tions in­stead of act­ing on the prin­ci­ples of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. So keep the stake­hold­ers ap­prised of your con­tin­ued ef­forts, keep the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tions open, and do not be afraid to also com­mu­ni­cate fail­ure – vul­ner­a­bil­ity is re­lat­able.

AMCHAM AS A CHAM­PION OF CSR

AMCHAM mem­bers are clearly com­mit­ted to cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity. In the eight years since the AMCHAM CSR Ex­cel­lence ( ACE) Award was es­tab­lished, the num­ber of com­pa­nies that were rec­og­nized for their ex­em­plary CSR ef­forts in­creased from 2 in 2007 to 62 com­pa­nies in 2015. Good cor­po­rate cit­i­zen­ship and en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble busi­ness prac­tices are two of the Cham­ber’s fun­da­men­tal busi­ness prin­ci­ples that all mem­bers are ex­pected to ad­here to.

In or­der to fur­ther en­cour­age in­vest­ment in com­mu­ni­ties, in 2004 AMCHAM founded the AMCHAM Thai­land Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion ( ATCF). The Foun­da­tion pro­vides schol­ar­ships to Thai univer­sity stu­dents, spon­sors teach­ers to in­crease the English­s­peak­ing ca­pac­ity of young Thais, and matches donors with needy schools around Thai­land through the Adopta- School pro­gram. Adopt- a- School is a one- stop, ready- made CSR pro­gram for com­pa­nies lack­ing the re­sources to de­vise and im­ple­ment their own projects. Donors are matched with schools in need of ren­o­va­tion, fa­cil­i­ties, or ma­te­ri­als, and the pro­ject is vet­ted, im­ple­mented, and su­per­vised by ATCF. We even pro­mote the do­na­tion and re­sults of the pro­ject through AMCHAM’S chan­nels. If lack of time or know- how has been the only thing hold­ing you back from par­tic­i­pat­ing in CSR, we have a pro­ject tailored to your bud­get and pref­er­ences with your name on it. All you have to do is claim it.

Ben­e­fi­cia­ries of AMCHAM’S Adopt- a- School pro­gram

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