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The Right Way to Communicate CSR

what are you doing to make things better-blog

“Why don’t we get credit for all the good things we do?” asked a CEO of Mark Kramer. As a cofounder and a managing director of the social-impact consulting firm FSG and a lecturer at Harvard Business School, Kramer is an authority who should have a good answer — and he does.

His reply in a Harvard Business Review article is insightful: Companies err in using a one-size-fits-all strategy in communications. He argues that individualized messages are required for four different audiences: corporate watchdogs, employees, investors, and customers. Each audience needs a singular appeal to effectively communicate a company’s CSR efforts. Kramer underlines the importance of smarter messaging strategies. “Increasingly, opportunities to create shared value that benefit both the company and society are becoming an essential part of corporate strategy,” he says.

“In order to truly impress the public, companies need to take leadership on an issue. The public is impressed when a company proves by its actions — and its CEO’s actions — that it stands for important principles and is willing to make hard choices based on those principles. These messages come from the news media, not from paid advertising or sustainability reports. The company must take a bold and timely stand on one or a few important social issues.

“But just doing the right thing doesn’t mean you’ll get credit for it. Get the right message to the right audience. Partner with the activists and regulators, show your employees how to find purpose in their work, describe the financial and strategic benefits to shareholders in your annual report, and have the courage to take a public stand on the issues that matter in your business.”

Read the details here.

John Howell is editorial director at 3BL Media.