David Coethica's Blog

Demand more good.

Posts Tagged ‘pr

Could Weakness Become Your Opportunity?

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A lesson in the art of vulnerability, or how to click with your ‘date’ using Corporate Social Responsibility.

 

One of those socially invisible bleached out pachyderms insists that companies should constantly defend a cloak of presented perfectionism. As the corporate communications functions of businesses tentatively emerge, like the first struggling amphibians out of the water from the control and broadcast mentality, we are seeing fascinating case studies and pockets of enlightenment.

Does anybody believe businesses are perfect? Does anybody think they even come close, ever? The countless surveys and reports on reputation and brand perception suggest Read the rest of this entry »

Are You A Small Business Communications Expert?

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Do you have experience in CSR, social enterprise, business advice, marketing, PR, human resources – or just about any other aspect of business operation?

Better CSR Advice for SMEsCan you offer any insight on small business CSR communications?

I’m off to Berlin next week to co-host a workshop on CSR communications at an invite only conference not-so-snappily called ‘Better CSR Advice for SMEs‘. 100 small business advisers from across the EU (only 3 from the whole UK was a surprise but I’m glad to have got one of Brussels funded Willy Wonka tickets) are preparing to gather to network, share and take away the latest practice back to their home towns.

We only have a hopeful a mere 45 minutes throughout a 24 hour event to explore what I consider to be the most important topic in the small business / CSR debate, and I’m hoping to take as much ammunition in with me as possible.

What are the key questions? What are the key answers?

 

  • How do we educate small businesses about the benefits of CSR?
  • Who should do it?
  • What are the best ways for SMEs to communicate to their boards, employees, suppliers, customers and local media?
  • What resources are available to help SMEs get their messages out?
  • What are the current communication trends to be exploited?
  • Which SMEs are already good a communicating?

 

Please head over to the blog post on the Coethica website to get the full story & submit your feedback and share this link with your networks.

 

I’ll report back after the event to share the workshop discussions.

 

 

A Bird In The Hand

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greenwashAny CSR activity is better than nothing.

I’m astounded by those that sit in ivory towers and proclaim that superficial CSR is abhorrent and should be cast asunder. We should always prefer a business to have righteous intentions but sometimes you just have to take what you can get. Some people just don’t know any better. Does that make them the dark lords of capitalism?

For CSR, PR can be the best of times and it can be the worst of times, usually dependant on which side of the equation leads the way but for many it can be the first foray into the world of wider responsibility. For many businesses a superficial approach to CSR can be like a first date; it might be a bit of fun and worth the investment on the night but the real results lie in the more enlightened longer term commitment. Organisations do not climb the developmental ladder in one large step. CSR probably more than any other management concept takes time to be culturally understood, to mature and for most needs to be imperceptibly incremental.

Not one single company on this planet has an ideal approach to responsibility so let’s agree that everybody is at varying stages of imperfection. A business attempting to constantly balance perpetually changing economic, environmental and social issues is acting within a perfectly unstable scenario.

The devil’s greenwasher’s are already scaring many away from trumpeting their own environmental successes for fear of reprisals. Honesty and transparency has never been such a valued commodity. If you’ve achieved a genuinely great success tell people! Somebody will always complain, its human nature (especially in the UK) that doesn’t mean the majority of the audience won’t be impressed, grateful or remember you, especially if your intentions are honourable.

There are a few organisations out there that do manipulate the agenda in Machiavellian type orchestrations and some are easier to identify than others. Oil companies don’t give away $15.5 million unless they don’t have to, ask Shell about Nigeria.

Maybe it’s me alone that sees so much naive CSR throughout the markets and even more so at the smaller end of the business scale, but within that naivety there are literally millions of truly inspiring yet basic initiatives that are tangibly helping those outside of businesses’ main radar. Those who wilfully, knowingly or continually exploit stakeholders or resources deserve any adverse attention they get (anybody fancy a cigarette?).

If you wanted every business that is using CSR superficially to stop, especially naive less aware small and medium sized businesses, you’re going to destroy a substantial amount of benefit being delivered where it’s needed most AND stifle a breeding ground for more meaningful activity down the line. Bad use of CSR can be a great learning experience akin to good customer care dealing with a complaint. It’s up to those who know better to guide those who don’t.

I don’t really care what a businesses’ motives are as long as they are doing something. It’s easier to change these people than those who pig-headedly bury their heads in the sand and do nothing.

Written by davidcoethica

July 15, 2009 at 11:09 pm

CSR for Smaller Businesses – Communication

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Judging by the response and comments the 10 Top CSR Tips for Small and Medium Sized Businesses post was a huge success.

 

The next few posts in this series are going to focus on more tips across particular themes within the CSR agenda and include Environment, Employees & Workplace, Suppliers, Community Engagement, Charity / Good Causes and Communication.

 

I’m still trying to keep the management jargon out to make this as easy to implement and see results as soon possible. I will also look to widen the discussion beyond pure commercial returns and address the other environmental and social benefits to reinforce why all businesses can, and need to play their part.

 

 

This week’s topic is:

 

 

CommunicationBoy making a funny face

 

I’ve bypassed Environment and Employees even though these are probably the two biggest areas to look at in terms of actions and gone straight to Communication. The reason for this is simple. Almost every small business (not all, there are a few baddies out there!) is already engaging in nuggets of ad hoc or reactive great CSR initiatives but most don’t know or understand them fully. I’m focusing on communication because everybody can benefit today, right now.

 

To help you understand this I need you to take 10 minutes to ask yourself the following questions.

Please take the effort to write your answers down on recycled paper:

 

1.   Has your organisation ever given cash or support to a charity or good cause? This includes allowing employees to fundraise on work time, local junior sports clubs, churches etc.

2.   Do you recycle or have you reduced your energy usage or waste in any way?

3.   Has your organisation ever gone beyond basic legal requirements to recruit, improve productivity or retain your employees?

4.   How do you select a supplier? Is it just about best price or do you use only local businesses, or consider environmental issues?

5.   Does your organisation have a formal or informal list of values about how you should operate on a daily basis?

6.   Has your organisation ever helped another business out without asking for payment?

 

 

I’m no clairvoyant or magician but I think your piece of paper has a few notes.

 

The big question is who have you told and how did you tell them about these great initiatives? I know small businesses don’t have marketing departments or external agencies, or in most cases even somebody internally responsible for marketing. This should be everybody’s responsibility. Most marketing people don’t really understand how best to use this ammunition anyway.

 

 watercooler

Rule 1 – Just Do It!

 

So how do we avoid missing the moment, getting stung with a ‘greenwash’ label or sticking our head too far above the parapet? My rule of thumb is, if you’ve acted on your best intentions, achieved something real with integrity and you feel comfortable with that – go for it! It’s in the owners / managers / shareholders interest to raise the company profile whenever possible! It’s also great for raising the profile of any worthy cause you support.

 

 

Rule 2 – Be Selfish

 

The first thing you need to do with any good news is put it on your own website, Facebook page, Twitter, notice board, note by watercooler – whatever you control yourself. It’s your news. Wouldn’t your customers like to hear it from you first, as well as backed up by another source?

 

 

Rule 3 – Tell Everybody

 

Don’t just focus on getting media coverage with a view to increasing sales. Put as much effort into telling everybody internally (employees) and close connections (suppliers, customers). Use your newsletter (or start one), sales PowerPoints, notice boards, team meetings, employee handbook – everywhere! One good tip is to identify the company gossip and get them involved in the initiatives themselves!

 

 

Rule 4 – Befriend the local media

 

You don’t need a PR agency or marketing department to ring the local paper and say ‘hello who would be interested in this story?’. Local coverage is usually free and great advertising. I would strongly encourage somebody to actually ring, not email and make a personal connection with the best person you can at the local paper or radio – even in today’s online dominated society. It may even cost you a whole lunch. Good stories in the local press can get picked up nationally – don’t underestimate the local press! You may not get instant direct sales from this but it will seriously begin to build your company’s reputation.

 

 

Rule 5 – Get others to do your work

If you’ve delivered a project with a partner or good cause get them to help with your profile. They will probably have their own media opportunities and networks you can use, as long as you’ve spent the time to build a good relationship. Charities have big databases and PR expertise!

 

 

local-paperRule 6 – The media prefer bad news

 

After 8 years winning awards for Everton Football Club by creating ground-breaking community projects I know how hard it can be to get press coverage for anything ‘good’. Bad news sells papers unfortunately. There has to be an angle or human interest story to get the media hooked. Try to be creative. Focus on an individual member of staff or person / project that benefited and their personal story, rather than trying to sell the business advert every time – people (and the media especially) want to read about people. Always include basic contact details such as company name, website, logo or phone number somewhere and hope it makes it past the editing!

 

 

Rule 7 – Word of Mouth

 

In my opinion, this is one of the best ways of communication for building reputation. It’s not great for selling directly but absolutely fantastic for a slower burn and credibility. Your aim is to get people talking about you as much as possible. You have to give people something talk about even if you company isn’t the big story. A bit part in a big story can work wonders.

 

 

Rule 8 – Complaints are wonderfulgreenpeace-activist

 

Whenever you talk about most areas of CSR you can easily stimulate passionate discussion, especially as humans we enjoy catching people out. Conversation can head toward climate change, sweatshops, sexual harassment and many emotive subjects. Grasp this opportunity with both hands, don’t be afraid of this. As I said earlier, if it’s a good initiative done with best intentions go for it. You may well find an awkward individual intent on loudly disagreeing or attempt to turn the story around for their own ends. Treat this like any customer complaint and engage in an open, honest communication and you could

potentially have a great salesperson in the making

if handled well.

 

Okay, that was probably as much PR for dummies as CSR.

 

Just remember if your business sees something tangible from your CSR initiatives they are more likely to do it again and hopefully bigger and better, which is great news for all those issues out there that need our help. It’s just about identifying the best win-win scenarios for everybody.

 

 

What suggestions have you got to help smaller business communicate to get the most out of the CSR approach?

  

          

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