CSR: The most important tool in Public Relations today

Many years back, for the consumers, the world was divided in two – the branded and the non-branded.

It was the time when brands meant quality and reassurance. Those days are fortunately or unfortunately gone.

But, even today, the consumers see world in two parts – a good corporate citizen and a bad corporate citizen. Consumers don’t worry about quality any more. It is a given that any product worth buying will meet the quality standards. What matters is – are you responsible as a company who cares for the environment? Do you care for the community you are surrounded by? Do you care for the people who work for you?

These questions are always at the back of the mind for the people who are your current and potential consumers. It is a given that if you are a product worth considering, then you are a product that is a good corporate citizen. You don’t get extra marks for being a good corporate citizen. But you don’t even come on the consideration list if you are not.

Whether we like it or not, in the world of digital and social media, you are always exposed. You are vulnerable. Any moment, any action by your global workforce, any slipup can ruin your reputation. As Warren Buffet says, it takes twenty years to build a reputation but few minutes to ruin it. It is probably even more temporary than that today. Look at the #Metoo movement. Reputation built over years ruined in a few seconds due to bad behaviour.

So how do we prevent such disasters?

PR needs to highlight the CSR contribution continuously. But mind you, it needs to be genuine. It can’t be only for show as the cameras are smart enough to detect your emotions. And social media is quick enough to gauge your pretense.

So what should we do?

Participate & propagate

Any activity around you that you feel enhances the benefit of the community you are in, jump in. Activities like marathons, tree plantations, metro travel or anything that does not cost too much money should be voluntarily chosen for participation. Encourage the employees who participate and then propagate your participation on social media. It will help you be seen as a company that’s a lot of fun to work with and at the same time people will observe that you are socially aware and concerned.

Spend time with the under-privileged

Almost all corporates today support some NGO or the other. And most of the time, the results of the efforts of the corporates are lost in pie-charts and graphs. No one in general public who probably is the consumer of your products gets to see any of them. That is where, PR people can add value. They can make these messages more humane and add more visibility for these messages. Your CEO spending time with a group of under privileged children has more visibility on social media than the number of children you have supported in a year in the form of statistics. Let the finance teams’ deal with the figures. In the real world people care for human connect not financial prowess.

Groom the future generations

The student population is the future. It doesn’t cost much for your leadership team to spend time with their educational institutions grooming the future leaders. These students look up to their seniors who have made it big in life. These students will help you get more visibility on the social media by just the investment of your time. And you can reap the benefits of being visible.

Take a stance and propagate it strongly

Take a stance as a company. Take up some cause and propagate it. If you support animal welfare, then promote yourself as a company that believes in it and stands firmly for it. Let the employees of the company voice their opinions on the topic in various forums and social media. It will help you be seen as a company with a heart and a conscience. There will be a lot of people who may not like you but there will be more number of people who would love you for being honest.

Conclusion

The time is not for people who are neutral. The time is for people who are highly opinionated. And since the people are the consumers, they want their brands also to be opinionated. And that’s the job we PR experts pride ourselves for anyways. We feel we are the champions of public image and awareness. So let us put our skills to good use and make our brands more prone to emotional and human connect than just being mere statistics.

Tilak Chowdhury
DGM - Corporate Communication at Egis-India
Tilak Chowdhury, manages the communication and CSR of the India Region for the Engineering & Project Management Company Egis.

Egis is working on some very prestigious projects in the country which include eight metros projects, three airports, two smart cities, one port, many urban projects like Chattrapati Shivaji Memorial in Mumbai.

He has more than 15 years of experience of working with large multinational companies in advertising, journalism, public relations, exhibitions, internal communications and branding. He has been associated with brands like Jubilant Life Sciences, Ambuja Cement, Kinetic, Mahindra in the past.

Tilak enjoys reading, watching movies, shopping, blogging, travelling and food.

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