The Corporate Communication department in every organisation works towards maintaining and managing the company’s socially evolved perception. This is known as the Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR function of a company, and, it forms a very important part in the Communication department.
Corporate Social Responsibility is about how a company engages with the society at large by getting involved with various communities. This could be done by making monetary contribution for helping a certain social cause, could be done by engaging with a community in person, adopting a community/village for its social progress, or any such medium.
Today, more and more organisations are becoming aware of the CSR engagement and of how they can help in making a difference. Communications department plays a big role in getting the organisation engaged with the right cause, and to create awareness about this through the right channels like building a story through media, social media platform or creating an event around it.
It is the job of communications department to create a proper CSR report which must be mindful of the company’s achievements, and the people who will read it like employees, clients, NGOs, shareholders. The report can then be shared with all the stakeholders through e-mailers, internal communications, newsletters, etc.
Yes, it is imperative this gets talked about. This helps in building the company’s social image amongst employees, amongst clients, competitors, in their respective industry, investors, basically amongst all the various stakeholders, who are in any way connected to the company.
This talk about Corporate Social Responsibility should not be limited to a one time thing, every year. This needs to be regularly fed to public, by a regular communication. The communication department must ensure to weave stories around the cause, and share with media as and when there is a probable coverage in line.
Public Relations, as a tool of communication, is the vehicle that enlightens and shares with the world the progress made by companies who are successfully embracing the strategic and integrated nature of CSR. But this must be undertaken very cautiously.
If the organisations try and publicise their CSR achievements aggressively with the aim to use it as a marketing tool, there is a risk of them achieving the exact opposite result from what was intended. When and if this happens, i.e., when CSR is seen and utilised as fixing a reputation issue or as a PR fix, this PR becomes tantamount to result in negative publicity for the concerned company. Hence, although this does need to be publicised, this needs to be done with extra caution without appearing too desperate.
It is hence, the role of the PR professional to offer insights into devising and deploying CSR programs that will truly resonate credibly with key stakeholders and with the public in general.
The communication resource of a company resides in a unique position characterised by sound knowledge of the variable needs of stakeholders, and with the 24/7 information flow for social media, the online blog space, and the compelling mandate for social reporting, he/she needs to be adept with technologies and various channels of communication.
The communicator should lightly handle CSR initiatives until the program gains momentum. They must ensure that their message is low-key and less promotional, based on factual information and transparent without intentional omissions. By employing more controlled and interpersonal media channels such as corporate websites and face-to-face promotional events, the communication professional can leverage CSR activities to be relevant to external stakeholders.
Allow me to conclude by saying that Corporate Social Responsibility is all about smart business actions and constant improvement while building integrity. The communicators must report these actions and events as and when they occur, this is important. However, the danger occurs only when the showcasing precedes the actual work and is used as a marketing tool.