Working for a company that takes its Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) very seriously, and being responsible for the company’s marketing, one of the challenges I face is getting the balance right. We are proud of our commitment to CSR and from a marketing perspective we want to shout about it. But at the same time we don’t want to appear boastful or give the impression that our CSR initiatives are just a marketing ploy.
Based on a combination of experience (good and bad), talking to others who are in the same boat and gauging feedback from those who have seen other marketing campaigns I feel that I now have a clearer idea of how to go about it.
I would say the key criterion, which forms the foundation of everything else, is to be genuine. This may sound like ‘stating the blinking obvious’ but I still see some CSR initiatives that really don’t come across as being more than a publicity stunt.
Once that requirement has been satisfied, everything else also falls into place. A genuine heart-felt approach comes across as just that, particularly when using social media channels. In fact these channels are ideal for involving the people behind the initiative, whether they are in the same company or from other parties that are involved in the same initiative.
To that end, it’s also important to recognise and celebrate the participation of other parties – for example, by following their tweets and re-tweeting when appropriate. There’s no point in trying to hog the limelight, it defeats the underlying purpose of the initiative and creates quite the wrong impression. Having said that, connecting with everyone else who has an involvement is also a very good way of spreading your message to a wider audience so there is a marketing benefit. It’s just that this shouldn’t be the priority.
Underlying all of these points is the need to be consistent and that is what we are now working towards in my company. The first step to achieving that was to recognise what we need to do and try out a few different ways of getting there. Now we’ve reached the stage where we can apply a tried and tested process, which also has the inherent flexibility to be adapted to different types of initiative.
So that’s the theory, putting it into practice is where the fine-tuning will kick in. So watch this space.