Knowledge Centre

CSR Communications: Be Humble, Don’t Brag

By Wayne Dunn

Wayne Dunn

Wayne Dunn is an award-winning global CSR expert with extensive teaching, writing, lecturing and Advisory Service experience. He is supported by an extensive faculty and advisory team.

#CSR Communications: It’s not all about you – not if you want to engage and be effective. Your company isn’t perfect, it didn’t accomplish great things all by itself, and it sure didn’t engage in a CSR program because of an altruistic motive. So don’t report it that way.
CSR & Sustainability communications can create business value and foster improved social impacts. But not when they are based on fanciful corporate delusion, and shouted from the hilltops to impress rather than inform.
Let’s be honest, when an organization frames a story so they become the hero it is rarely true, and it doesn’t work – unless you have some narcissistic internal audience you are catering to. If that’s your company culture, you have my sympathies.
If you want your communications to reach and resonate with your stakeholders; to facilitate stakeholder alignment and business value; to positively support your brand and image and to be believable, here are six touchpoints to consider:
  1. Focus on value and impact. What value was created? For who? What is the impact? Why is it important? – Don’t forget to include value for your business and why that is important. Your company isn’t a selfless, altruistic angel. Trying to portray it as one costs you credibility.
  2. Share credit. Generously. Acknowledge partners and collaborators. Talk about their role. Share their stories. It will add credibility and your stakeholders will be much more likely to read and share your communication. Make it all about you and your wonderful and noble efforts and nobody will buy what you’re trying to sell. In fact, you are more likely to destroy reputational capital than to enhance it.
  3. Tell stories. Feature people. Keep it interesting. Facts are OK, but facts alone are boring.
  4. Use pictures and images. And limit how many of them include your logo and branding.
  5. Acknowledge shortcomings. You’re not perfect and neither is your work. Discuss lessons learnt and areas where you will improve in the future. Projecting perfection isn’t effective if you want your communications to create value for your company.
  6. Use the SDG Framework. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) were adopted unanimously by the United Nations and form the development framework for all countries, most major organizations and is very likely to be important to many of your stakeholders. By integrating your impacts and stories into an #SDG framework they will likely resonate well and facilitate further engagement and collaboration.
If you do this, the story of the role that your firm played will not only tell itself, it will to told and retold by others.
Done properly, CSR and sustainability communications are valuable for your business and brand. They facilitate stakeholder engagement, enhance access to financing, improve employee recruiting and retention, support marketing and business development, improve government and regulatory relationships. Done poorly, they simply make your business look self-centered and narcissistic.
CSR and sustainability communications require significant inputs of time, money and other resources. Don’t waste that investment.
As always if you have any questions about this article or would like to know more about how we can help your organization realize the benefits of CSR to your future business growth, please send me an email.