6 Things I've Learnt About CSR Communications

Lessons shared from my honeymoon with 3BL Media
Apr 18, 2011 4:33 PM ET

David Coethica's Blog

 It's getting close to six months since I took the European Director reins at 3BLMedia and what a honeymoon it has been.

3BL were one of the first good friends I made when I stumbled into the blogosphere and Twitterverse like Bambi on ice, instantly forging a strong and like-minded relationship. Over two years or so they guided and helped me to understand the landscape, until we decided to announce our formal marriage back in November.

I'm a CSR strategist by nature with a healthy dose of creativity and passion for innovation thrown in. I've encouraged many clients to step up their communications but never really dealt in the specific detail such as my latest role requires. My learning curve has been closer to a vertical rocket launch, but all good fun. I've already learned so much and wanted to share a couple of the key messages so far:

Few companies connect CSR to social media

In particular, reporting is missing out. Go to CorporateRegister.com's website or the latest list on The Environment Site and go through each report one by one to see how many reports (from names I thought better of. Ikea for example) are still pdf files or microsites hidden away and not even adequately connected. Some passively encourage feedback and a few have a kind of 'share' button somewhere if you look hard enough.  The gold medal goes to SAP for their latest outing with engaged social media thought running throughout.

and connected...

... Few companies get social media

The first in a series of non-bombshells. "Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once" to quote a cheesy, discontinued and very British sitcom about the resistance set in wartime France - Social media is about conversations and dialogue, not broadcasts and monologues. No matter how big you are you still gotta talk to the little guy/gal. Please don't hide behind protective PR firms that don't get social media either. Yes, somebody in particular did wind me up.

CSR isn't mainstream

Non-bombshell number 2. It's something we aspire to but even though we are seeing continual improvement it's still very, very much a niche. My travels across communications have reminded just how niche CSR is on the grander scale. Consumers are the weakest link. Those at the leadership end of the spectrum are  beginning to feel bold enough to challenge the very audience their revenues depend on. Good luck for all our sakes. We all need to work harder than living in our CSR comfort bubble and ensure those who don't know, get to know and in a way that has meaning to the punter on the street.

Big numbers aren't everything

Non-bombshell number 3. The 'our network or audience is bigger than yours' positioning statement is common across many communications fields. Whilst we are in desperate need to get beyond preaching to the CSR choir, quality and engagement is absolutely key. Even though Malcolm Gladwell is no huge fan of social media changing the world he was spot on with his understanding of key individuals in society as conduits for social epidemics. Oh, and if your original message is rubbish, sending it to millions won't help. Don't shoot the messenger, shoot your marketing firm.

The metrics industry

Being able to measure ROI is important but there are so many different and confusing metrics out there that it's essential to focus on those material to your objectives. Too many communications people focus on the metrics in their own right, to impress peers and not the quality of the benefit received.

CSR people often have to manage communications too

Apart from some great communications companies out here such as Edelman, Cone, Futerra etc., mainstream marketing and communications haven't got a clue. Even the ones who can create an average document or campaign are missing connecting to an engaged audience. Many CSR professionals are the forgotten cog in the communications wheel. Managing the integrity of the message from the raw data to its final presentation is no easy task, and often overlooked. The communications people may have the financial responsibility here but the CSR person often manages (moral and formally) the quality.

It's an exciting time for CSR with many organisations stepping up their communications, so many more lessons to be learned and passed on to you.

I'm on  mission to build the 3BL LinkedIn group - Got something to say, to ask or looking to connect head over to browse and join in the CSR / sustainability / cause marketing conversations.

Disclosure: CorporateRegister.com and Cone are clients of 3BL Media

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