A 2017 survey unveiled that 85% of employees believe US organizations undervalue empathy, which is a 5% increase from 2016. Fewer than half of those employees rated their companies as empathetic. And research continues to show an increase in consumers’ interest in purchasing through ethically-minded companies, but a decrease in the trust of brands and the organizations behind them. This leaves a particularly interesting challenge for effectively communicating CSR efforts to employees, business partners and customers alike. The CSR storytelling best practices we put together here are important to finding balance in marketing impact while evoking trust.
Lean on Data
Numbers are concrete details that explain impact in a universally understood way. In other words, your finance department will be just as impressed as consumers who are shopping with a heart. Everyone understands the meaning of a dollar, but there are other examples of hard hitting data points. Think in terms of how many people were helped, hours volunteered or products provided. Not only will these provide colorful images, but they bring life to your cause and help audiences connect to your accomplishments. Above all, numbers can be used to prove impact and goal attainment.
Choose Fact Over Politics
When it comes to communicating your CSR story, remember to consider your audiences and values. There are instances when politics or policy can’t be avoided, but in most cases your communications don’t even need to mention them. Steve Zaroff, Chief Strategy Officer of McCann North America gives this simple piece of advice:
“Choose culture, not politics.”
The audience for your CSR strategy is massive. At the most basic level, it includes employees, customers and business partners. If your communications become too politically charged, you run the high risk of alienating a segment of your audience. The best and most inspiring route is to instead focus on the facts. State the issues your effort is solving. Data can be a great way to show the bigger, factual picture. Explain your overarching goals and allow the rest of communications to be filled with the actions you are or will be taking. And never forget the results. Internal and external CSR communications are about gaining traction and motivating participation in your cause. Being too partial could build walls between your audience and cause.
Align to Values
There isn’t a single bit of CSR advice that doesn’t mention values at least once. Company values are foundational. If handled carefully, they are a sure ticket to authentic processes of all types. That includes everything from internal company strategies like performance management to external company strategy like customer services policies. Values are a way of remaining intentional in decisions. They are established through and reflections of your company’s goals, mission and priorities, so it only makes sense that communications would be rooted by them. This is done most simply by ensuring the company voice rings through. Consider a personalized note from your leadership if the occasion calls for a different tone.
Diversify Your Content
Half of the challenge in getting your work noticed lies in choosing the right platform. Diversifying your content will ensure you speak to your longtime supporters and employees, while grabbing the attention of new audiences and your consumers (who may not follow your accomplishments as closely). Each organization has their own standards in content creation, so take time to critically review your current process and what can realistically be adjusted in the future.
Before deciding your new strategy, consider the various channels available to you and what each requires. For example, social media posts might take 15 minutes to create, but reach hundreds of thousands of networks whether they’re interested in your effort or not. Company blogs take a bit longer, but are often read more by those who already follow you. CSR impact reports are in-depth and can take a great deal of attention to create, however, they can be used as resources by everyone from the press to your internal marketing team.
Choosing Your Channels:
- Social media, depending on the platform, will be great for quick bursts of information and visuals. Tweets should consist of images, quotes and statistics/data. Facebook and LinkedIn posts can get a little more text heavy, but should still mostly support or tell a quick, digestible story. In all cases, social media can and should rely heavily on visual support through images and video. Where applicable, use hashtags to grow your opportunity of being seen. (NOTE: Social media is fast-paced, which means it’s a great medium for quick updates. Unfortunately, moving too quickly can mean mistakes. Be sure your communications receive the right amount of vetting.)
- Blogs will provide great real estate for imagery in addition to telling a more detailed story. There is room for everything from leaderships’ quotes, data, audio or visual media and anything else you can dream up. These typically remain relevant longer than social posts, but they sometimes consist only of your existing audience. Consider publishing the content from company blogs onto an executive’s LinkedIn page for greater traction.
- Press releases can do wonders for building interest and explaining impact to those who may not yet know you or your brand. Be sure to find one or two interesting angles that a writer or syndicate will be interested in picking up or featuring in a story.
CSR storytelling is crucial. Without it, your efforts may go unnoticed or your cause might never gain the support it deserves. These CSR communication best practices will help your company build a strong relationship between your audiences and the philanthropic and volunteering efforts you hold dear. If you’ve already nailed CSR storytelling but can’t seem to connect with your audience, CyberGrants might have a solution. Our CSR software and giving management system brings your efforts, goals and reporting all to one, unified platform. Check it out or schedule a one-on-one demo to see if it might be right for your organization.