Why CSR And Internal Communications Are Closely Aligned

A purpose in business is no longer a trend but a must. It determines the way organisations think about employee engagement, which means internal communications is key in communicating, instilling, and reinforcing the sense of purpose and values of an organisation. Yet, for a long time, internal communications have always been considered the poor cousin within organisations and not given due importance, but no more. As companies are expected to demonstrate how their mission statement and their action are helping to create a better environment for the people and the planet, internal communications are an important step in this process.

Good internal communications are more than just relaying a message from senior management to the workforce. It takes planning, listening, adjusting, monitoring, and analysing. Between misunderstandings and lack of engagement, and not listening to the opinions of the workforce, there is a lot of room for error. The changing working behaviours along with new demographics joining the workplace, means organisations need to ensure that their internal communication strategy stays relevant, useful, and actionable.

Younger generations are looking for different ways to listen and talk with leaders and peers. There is more focus on collaboration, communication, and transparency and is why internal communications have sprung to the forefront of an organisation, influencing the way employees interact with the objectives of the company.

At the same time, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) during this global pandemic has emerged as a driving force for all types of businesses worldwide, and to ensure everyone within an organisation is aligned with the purpose and values, and is working authentically, the internal communications policies are vital for this delivery. The messages you send, actions you take, and examples you set for your employees, stakeholders, and vendors can be just as beneficial or detrimental to your success as the ones the marketing department is preaching to your prospects. If the two don’t match, you’re in for a rude awakening.

Moreover, a company’s reputation is determined by its brand promise. So how can large, distributed companies with thousands of middle managers maintain a consistent brand promise? The answer is – internal communication with clear goals and messages, well-trained workers will significantly safeguard a brand’s reputation. I think it is important to define the difference between internal CSR and external CSR. External CSR refers to the actions that corporations take to satisfy the expectations of their customers or prospects. Internal CSR programs seek to add satisfaction, happiness, and fairness to the lives of employees and internal stakeholders.

According to the 2020 Zeno Strength of Purpose Study, which surveyed 8,000 international consumers, across eight markets (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Singapore, Malaysia) shows that consumers stand ready to give their hearts, voices,

and wallets in support of ‘purposeful brands.’ The Zeno data also revealed that consumers are engaging with socially responsible brands, and there is pressure on all types of organisations to make their external marketing promises match internal actions. From procurement to employee advancement, to diversity and inclusion – everything is under the microscope of public scrutiny. In an ultra-connected world, consistency is key. When the marketing message do not match the way employees and vendors are treated, word gets out quickly and your marketing initiatives fall flat. Also, when employees are not aware of the CSR values or aligned with the purpose of the company, then that’s when the organisation is open to risk, where publicity initiatives quickly turn into crisis management scenarios.

What good is a strong authentic CSR program if your employees are not engaged with it? Engagement requires a strategic plan for internal communication that is fuelled by creativity and strong messaging. No matter the size of the company, it is important that all individuals and departments, understand how their roles are important in contributing to the larger goals of the business. Poor internal communication about CSR can have several impacts on efficiency, a major one being that individuals and departments may not understand how the program impacts their organisational functions, and, as a result, they may take no action to effectively support CSR program goals.

Communication should always, involve a leader within the company and apart from the content of the message itself, when leadership shows that they value the CSR initiatives of their organisation, they are validating it for other employees and lower-level leaders. Their involvement, or lack of involvement, has a trickle-down effect. Ideally, a CEO or other high-level executive will serve as the face of the company’s CSR initiatives.

Here are some quick ideas of how to ensure your internal communications and CSR initiatives are aligned:

  • Launch an internal social media platform with channels dedicated to your CSR goals or topics.
  • Internal news should be delivered all the time, not only during times of crisis.
  • Distribute a regular email newsletter dedicated to internal communications and highlight your CSR efforts.
  • Ask internal influencers to help spread the word about your programs.

Internal communications will always have to overcome challenges, and as businesses evolve, it’s important to keep assessing your internal communications strategy to ensure it’s compatible with the continuing changes within the business. Bad communications can lead to deterioration in culture, productivity, and efficiency – and often it is only spotted when it’s too late.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sangeeta Waldron
Sangeeta Waldron is an award-winning public relation professional and founder of Serendipity PR & Media. Her latest book, 'Corporate Social Responsibility Is Not Public Relations' is out now in India, published by Jaico Publishing. She is also a guest lecturer and international speaker.

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