CSR Communications 101 – My Take

What is CSR Communications?  Is it cause-marketing?  Is it the promotion of corporate philanthropy? Is it distributing a press release when your employees engage in a major volunteer program? Or is it the creation an annual sustainability report that showcases your firm’s environmental footprint, fair labor practices, and energy consumption, among other items.  Actually, it is all four and much, much more.

CSR Communications involves every key department of an organization and it’s practice is ongoing with significant long term goals. The agenda must be developed from the top-down and bottom up and must continually be reviewed by internal and external stakeholders in order to be credible and reliable.

Some key tips to consider:
  • Solicit support from all internal departments and consider creating an employee task-force representing many facets of the business.  Employees will want to help and contribute if it’s supported from the top of the organization
  • Strive to be authentic – do not try to be a company you are not.  Be honest.  You will gain much greater respect if you are candid.
  • Consider working with a reputable outside firm to help you weed through all the different processes.  You will need to review environmental, labor and safety practices along with the make-up of your supply-chain.  There are long-standing, well-known firms such as PriceWaterHouseCoopers and Ernst & Young, and many others including The Taiga Company and SustAinability
  • Working with senior management, create a list of your company’s sustainability commitments.  Doing so will enable you to map your strategy going forward. These will be your guiding principles.
  • Determine your audience. Who do you want to reach with your messages?  Review and prioritize.  Your list should include employees, partners, customers, media, financial analysts, donors (if applicable), resellers, and shareholders.  How will you communicate with them?  Be cognizant that it should be a two-way street.  In today’s world of social media, no communications plan should be “one to many,” but rather an open dialogue between all interested parties.
  • Create your means for measurement and reporting.  Develop key performance indicators (KPIs) you wish to track and set up a timeline so that you are consistent in your reporting.
  • Consider engaging a communications firm that specializes in CSR.  There are currently many reputable agencies from which to choose.  A few that come to mind include, Edelman, Fleishman Hillard, Cone and of course, my firm, Fenton.
  • Continue to fine-tune and evolve your strategy and consider trying some of the very innovative new CSR communications platforms that exist on the market today.
  • Ask, poll and inquire – Engage with your peers and your stakeholders as often as you can.  Attend industry events such as CERES, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship and BSR conferences.
  • Join social networks and follow #CSR and #Sustainability on Twitter.  Also, connect and follow key CSR thought-leaders and blog sites such as @elainecohen @fabianpattberg @realizedworth @OKL @justmeans @csrwire @3blmedia @vaultcsr and @davidcoethica and @alicekorngold and many more

Let me know your thoughts and what other steps I should add to make this article complete.  I look forward to hearing from you at @susanmcp1 or smcpherson@fenton.com.