How Can Companies Communicate Social Change?

communication-definitionBy John Comberiate

In today’s changing technological landscape, Shannon Herbert asks us, how do companies communicate their Social Change?  In her work at National Geographic as VP Integrated Marketing, she has found the answer in being a storyteller for their corporate mission “To inspire people to care about the planet”.  This is accomplished through four core steps: Have a Story, Partnerships, Inspiring and Engaging your Customers, and Evaluating your Results.

Have a Story

Shannon explains that in order to talk the talk, you must have already walked the walk.  First you have to identify the message that will resonate with your customers through experience serving social need.  At National Geographic, they fund “explorers” who traverse the world finding the stories that tell the planet’s tale, inspiring all who hear.


Individual corporations are not alone in their quest for Social Change.  There are many out there striving to reach the same goals.  Shannon explains there is value to be gained by pooling resources when companies with complementary brands can work together to build credibility with their customers and effect larger change.

Inspiring and Engaging your Customers

With Social Media, companies now have the ability to engage their customers on a personal level.  Customers have a voice in the direction the company takes and can develop a sense of ownership.  Companies need to foster these relationships on a personal and relevant level and empower them to make a difference.  Shannon shares the story of Yoplait working with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation where donations aree made for each lid customers save in the month of October.

Evaluating your Results

When your company makes the effort to effect Social Change and share the results, take the time to measure what you have done and the impact.  Look at the comments your customers make on Facebook, the followers on Twitter, and the feedback you receive.  Be proud of the difference made and push to reach new heights in future projects.


Shannon warns that the path to Social Change does not come without potential problems.  When creating change, there is always resistance.  She offers some ways to avoid pitfalls along the way:

  • You want to make sure that your story is defendable; respond with confidence in what you are doing and your reason why.
  • Be transparent with your partners so they know the actions you are taking and can defend them if needed, your exposure is their exposure.
  • Don’t forget the basics, know who your audience is and how to connect with them.
  • Know that it’s a long-term process, building your brand doesn’t have to happen overnight.

Making Social Change is vital to business in the modern world but the impact of the change is dependent on how effective it is communicated to the customers.  Technology has given companies the tools to create a new kind of conversation, one that can enhance a company’s brand and engage its customers like never before.  That is, as long as it’s communicated correctly.

John Comberiate is a first year MBA student in the Accelerated Part-Time track at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School.  Working as a blogger and as member of Toastmasters International, he is developing the skills needed to spread the word about Social Value creation occurring in the world and how people can get involved.

The posts on this page are contributed by students from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business in conjunction with the newly launched Center for Social Value Creation. The center's mission is to develop leaders with a deep sense of individual responsibility and the knowledge to use business as a vehicle for social change. These posts are a way to continue the dialogue outside of the classroom and share the viewpoints of Smith students on the challenges and opportunities of triple bottom line thinking.

2 responses

  1. John… enjoyed your story… I’m working on a project now that empowers social change agents to communicate their breaking news directly with their audience… not an easy pitch but it has to start somewhere… go to my website, click on my blog and read my application to the knight foundation news challenge on the blog – or click on the link for the full application.



  2. Interesting post John. There is a big difference though between walk and talk. I think most organisations are still doing the talking when they believe they are walking, the case above may be an example of that. You want to walk – put your profit on the line and create a tangible social benefit we can see, not just read or hear. Its actually not difficult to do but how are your share holders going to respond?

Comments are closed.