Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): it’s such a blanket term. Companies know they should be doing it, but aren’t always clear on the how, or importantly, the why.
Many struggle to decide where it should fit into their organisation. Some see CSR as an HR function, with a strong CSR strategy rewarded by engaged and committed staff who are aligned with the company on what it stands for. Others, like myself, see CSR as PR and marketing function. Here’s why I believe a CSR campaign is a PR campaign:
CSR and sustainability are different
Both are new territory for many companies. However, many companies lack understanding of how sustainability is about improving business practices to reduce carbon footprint, while CSR is about being a responsible corporate citizen and the communication of that commitment both internally and externally.
The development of a CSR strategy needs a PR brain
A good CSR strategy is relevant to a company, its employees and core values and PR professionals are experts in identifying relevance. For example, if you’re a property development company, you should select a cause that offsets all the environmental damage you’re doing – not saving homeless dogs.
CSR is a PR and marketing channel
Consumers care about the ethics of the company they purchase from. It makes good business sense to have a CSR strategy aligned to a PR strategy that leverages brand partnerships. CSR is an opportunity for companies to build reputation and differentiation from competitors.
Having worked in both the charity and consumer sectors, I have experienced both sides of the coin when it comes to CSR programmes. I believe that companies must have a CSR strategy and commit to being good corporate citizens as their foremost priority. But any company with good business sense should leave CSR with the PR professionals as, after all, a CSR campaign is ultimately a PR campaign.