Purpose, perception and positioning: the 3 Ps of effective CSR communication

Written by Himani Rathore

Robot wearing a VR set
May 20, 2021 | Ritika Jauhari

The year 2020 has been tough for everyone. It took a pandemic to make us realize that we all need to be socially and environmentally more responsible. The expectation lay more from corporates. Today, a lot of issues have ballooned into bigger problems that need immediate prioritization, be it, healthcare, sanitation, livelihood creation, skill development, education, women and girl rights, domestic violence or climate change.

During the pandemic, the Government of India made consistent efforts to inspire more and more companies to provide social support and also issued a directive that all expenditures incurred on activities beneficial for society during Covid-19, will be added as the permissible avenues for CSR expenditure.

Many companies supported campaigns to build awareness around social distancing, staying at home to contain the virus spread, sanitation and hygiene. All these are part of the company’s larger CSR communications strategy.

https://www.vecteezy.com/free-vector/csr by Vecteezy

Several brands also changed their logos and taglines to draw attention to several relevant issues and support the nation in its fight against the pandemic. These efforts were reflected in the ad campaigns and other corporate messaging by brands. My personal favourite were the cartoon comic strips by Amul. During a time, when the pandemic dampened everyone’s spirits, these cheerful cartoons advocated socially relevant issues like ‘flattening the curve’, ‘following the practice of Namaste’ and ‘expressing gratitude to doctors and frontline workers’ in a light-hearted yet impactful manner.

Pandemic or not, CSR is an integral to any company.

CSR initiatives by companies also provide an opportunity to build impressive campaigns to communicators like us and amplify them not only in traditional media, but also on social media platforms in the most effective manner.

From a communications point of view, the time is ripe for companies to drive the message that they are aware and committed to improve lives, most importantly, showcase their PURPOSE and deliver VALUE.

A few imperatives for successful CSR led communication campaigns are:

Leading your CSR story through Purpose

Effective CSR communication plays a huge role in building and sustaining a positive image of any company amidst its stakeholders.

Every company, whether big or small must showcase its Purpose of being. Our objective is to guide corporates to define this Purpose and instill Trust amongst key stakeholders through creative storytelling.

If we need to win the trust of the people we cater to, we must care for and invest in issues relevant to our specific consumers and issues that could benefit from the company’s experience, expertise and skill through crisp unequivocal messages that are compelling but not pompous.

Consistent content can shape Perception

What most brands forget, or lose sight of, is consistency in storytelling — whether it is, social or environmental concerns, sustainability, education or health, all CSR initiatives must link back to your company’s larger PURPOSE. This ensures consistency and authenticity.

In order to emerge as a committed partner to a social or humanitarian cause, a company needs to actively participate, contribute and lead forums relevant to the same. The same needs to amplify in a balanced yet impactful manner through various traditional and social media platforms. Consistency is key in all aspects — frequency, tonality and content.

Another important consideration is that there must be consistency in the way the company, its key representatives i.e. official spokespeople as well as the employees engage on their social media assets.

Today, companies are investing in building these strategies along with the annual corporate and business planning. It is integral to the overall reputation building efforts of the company.

Who do you communicate this Purpose to?

External and internal communications

Popularly and officially called Corporate Social Responsibility, I like to decipher it as Responsibility towards organizational “Culture” and “Society”.

Therefore, every company’s CSR initiatives should be adequately communicated to consumers, both internal who represent culture and external who represent the society.

When people work for a company, they must feel motivated and inspired by their leaders. Companies are investing in employee relations, and cause-worthy campaigns constitute an important part of their employee engagement strategy. Employees must be aware and proud of the “purpose’’ that their company stands for and driving through its CSR efforts.

A recent study by Research Gate found that “there is a positive influence of yearly increase of

CSR investments on the sales of companies in the healthcare sector, agriculture based sector and information technology sector.” [1]

CSR has evolved. From a philanthropy to becoming an important part of business decisions that has an impact on the company’s reputation, competitiveness and growth.

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