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25 Jun. 2015 | Comments (0)

At a time when so many organizations are demonstrating a commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR), simply operating with a sense of purpose is no longer enough. If CSR is really going to make an impact on the business, as well as on society, a company’s social policies and impacts must be effectively communicated. This is the premise of Communicating Social Impact, a new report authored by Vicki Wray that presents the findings of a 12-company research working group convened by The Conference Board.

Yet these important accomplishments and relationships are often hard to convey. When done well, companies benefit—through increased customer loyalty, higher employee engagement, stronger relationships with influencers and regulators, and the identification of potential programmatic partners.

There is a fine line to strike; communications and corporate citizenship professionals are challenged with how best to publicize positive aspects and serious social engagements to a skeptical audience, while being authentic and keeping a long-term view. How, in essence, does any single organization make sure that its social impact story is heard rather than falling silently in the CSR “forest”?

Key findings

Among other things, the report finds:

  • A ‘master narrative’ crystalizes the essence of your CSR commitment and engages and activates your stakeholders To be successful, your overarching social impact message—what we refer to as a master narrative—must authentically reflect your company values and capture how your CSR is delivering against your brand promise.
  • CSR “stories” will have the greatest impact on your most important audiences Data does not move people in the way a good story with emotion does. Data are important for internal reporting purposes, but alone do not provide an emotional connection to the activity.
  • Alignment of CSR communications into the business starts with the integration of CSR strategy into business strategy CSR messaging becomes much more powerful when integrated into the broader brand and corporate image. Building that bridge, however, can be difficult.
  • Present measurable bottom-line results from CSR communications to help prove your value and build credibility Your end goal and resource allocation will determine which technique will best suit any given situation, ranging from usage statistics to surveys.
  • Employee awareness and participation is critical You want employees to be your advocates—your brand ambassadors—and need them to be able to speak intelligently about your CSR efforts.
  • Social media is an effective channel for storytelling and a way to listen to and learn from critical stakeholders The very nature of social media—its transparency and two-way flow—makes it a relevant tool for the CSR communicator, allowing you to create a very personal sense of collective enterprise with the people your company cares about and vice versa.

Download Communicating Your Social Impact.

  • About the Author:Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson is Principal of Parky Communications, a communications agency specializing in sustainability and CSR reporting and communications. He serves as the Co-Leader of The Conference Board Cor…

    Full Bio | More from Alex Parkinson


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