The public interest communications firm Fenton hosted another Twitter chat yesterday, this time focused on effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication. For one hour, 40 participants from several countries exchanged over 450 tweets about companies who communicate CSR well, who needs a boost, and discussed some of the better strategies.
Expressing yourself in a blurb that is 140 characters or less may seem restrictive at first, but dishing out short, pithy comments actually can help you hone your message. To that end, the message of yesterday afternoon’s chat, guided by the hash tag #CSRChat, was that while a CSR report is a start for companies who wish to communicate their sustainability , transparency, and social initiatives, the report is only a platform, not the vehicle itself.
The discussion often brought up companies who communicate CSR well, such as Timberland, Marks & Spencer, Nike, and Vodafone, and while a few companies were mentioned for having poor CSR messaging, the conversation focused on what was done right, not on what needed improvement.
A few highlighted and “retweeted” comments included:
- Social media can be an effective medium, but many companies are too concerned about what their employees would say on several issues. Several participants echoed that companies may fear what employees say on social media platforms but should not blame social media.
- The quality of engagement and communication throughout an organization is a far more relevant metric that the quantity of conversation–in other words, great CSR content beats volumes of prose.
- It is up to companies to find internal champions to grasp the messages and most important talking points, then let them loose to spread the world. Many participants believed that CSR communication to a company’s internal stakeholders were either a top-down or bottom-up affair–or even both. The C-suite and worker bees all know what needs to be done, but often the middle layers of management can either stall or obfuscate the message.
Much discussion flowed about who was responsible for communicating CSR–was it public relations, executives, human resources, market, or all of the above? I threw in my 2 cents (which was a challenge–as many of you may know, Twitter can be skittish at times, so I had to bounce from my third-party Twitter dashboard, to the Twitter site itself, and then to bit.ly, which was a ridiculously fast path to carpal tunnel), and tweeted that all departments should be engaged: let’s not forget the engineers, product development managers, and designers who are involved in the creation of the products and services that keep a company’s revenues humming in the first place.
Fenton will continue to host these Twitter fireside chats every two weeks. The medium is a great way to keep you on your toes, intellectually nimble, and quick to counter or add to a point. If you are a Twitter fiend and are interested in the next round, follow Fenton’s tweets.