Corporate social responsibility has evolved over the past few years as more and more organisations take a larger role to actively participate in social and community projects, and the B-BBEE scorecard has also made provision for organisations to score points to enhance their ability to do business with various entities such as the government by being ‘good’ corporate citizens.
When the King Committee produced the first King Report on Corporate Governance in 1994, doing business took on a new meaning. Organisations quickly realised that they couldn’t work in seclusion from the communities they operate within.
The report continuously highlighted the fact that good corporate governance and social inclusion go past the work performed in the workplaces, making it impossible for organisations to ignore the impact of social, ethical and environmental issues on their businesses and the economy.
Globally, organisations employ corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a PR strategy to strengthen relations with immediate community members in order to boost sales and loyalty. That is why one of the specialities and applications of PR should include community relations and CSR especially for corporate PR.
Where are organisation getting it wrong?
Sadly, there are still organisations who don’t see the return on investment of PR nor do they realise that it plays an important role in ensuring that the organisation’s CSR initiatives and actions reflects favourably on the company’s reputation.
A catch 22 maybe?
Doing business in the 21st century has become more than just the rands and cents, it includes the organisation’s carbon footprint and impact it has on society, which indirectly influences the profit margins. This is where leveraging on your PR strategy could prove favourable. However, for the strategy to work, PR practitioners should create comprehensive initiatives that are aligned to the organisation’s overall vision and communicate these initiatives with internal and external stakeholders.
The benefit of ensuring that customers, suppliers and the local community knows what the organisation is doing to make a positive difference to the community normally reflects in the profit margins.
At the end of the day the onus is on the organisation to ensure that their CSR and community relations programmes are aligned with not only its interests but the community’s welfare as well.
And the CSR and community relations programmes must consist of actions that demonstrate the organisation’s sincere recognition of its responsibility to the society in which it operates.
CSR, the secret weapon of any organisation
A rookie mistake is not including the organisations CSR initiative in PR strategies especially when trends show that customers prefer supporting organisations, they respect but more importantly organisations that invest in communities they operate within.
Frequent corporate social responsibility initiatives encourage customers and other stakeholders to stay involved with the business. This stimulates growth and positive changes in the broader economy by creating opportunities and value for people who make up these communities.
Throwing money isn’t community relations
Community relations includes an organisation’s interactions with community in which it conducts its business within. These are social outreach programmes corporations set up to fabricate relations and encourage a comprehension of the role and obligation a corporation has to its local community.
Most organisations enhance their community relations by taking an active interest in community problems, sponsoring and supporting youth activities, purchasing materials and supplies from local communities, investing in community education and supporting local charity drives.
With the increased openness and inclusivity, we are seeing more and more organisations utilising public relations to publish more information about their CSR expenditure and projects. Articles about CSR projects and initiatives appear regularity in mainstream media as well as special features and supplements such as the Sunday Times annual CSI magazine. Organisations should embrace using such platforms to showcase in-house CSI projects that enhance community relations.
As a business, if your CSR strategy does not include publicising your CSR initiatives, you are not giving yourself enough credit and are missing out on an opportunity to enhance your image and community relations. And this is one opportunity organisations shouldn’t overlook.
Leago Monareng is a PR consultant at Glasshouse Communication Management.