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It’s Okay to Brag: Why Your CSR Mission Needs to Be Marketed


By Ava Kelly

We have entered the era of the global citizen. Thanks to technology, today’s consumers make up an informed, interconnected community that has a heightened awareness of the human circumstance — from Syrian refugees to a lack of clean water in Africa. Impact that was once only possible through the platforms of politicians or business moguls can now be brought about by anyone with an Internet connection.

Consumerism is in full force, but it’s behaving differently, shifting from a focus on economy to consciousness. As shoppers take their hard-earned money to the stores, they’re looking for brands that have also embraced a global outlook. In fact, a majority of them say they’re willing to pay more for an item if the company selling it is attached to a humanitarian cause.

We’re all aware that this is why having a corporate social responsibility statement is so crucial nowadays, but its existence is just the beginning.

For corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts to be significant, companies need an integrated marketing approach that incorporates the story behind their CSR to create consumer awareness and deepen people’s understanding and engagement.

Tell the world about it

Talking about your CSR mission won’t cheapen your efforts; it does just the opposite. Today’s consumers want to support sustainable, responsible companies with their purchases.

How are they supposed to know that your brand fits the bill if you don’t show them that it does?

One study recently revealed that brands see zero economic benefit to having a CSR plan when it’s implemented without an effectively-integrated marketing and communications strategy focused on consumers. However, the study concluded that a well-marketed CSR initiative will increase a company’s stock value exponentially — with an average value increase of more than 3 percent — and significantly reduce its idiosyncratic risk.

The message is clear: Regardless of its existence, if you’re not marketing your CSR, you’re potentially losing out on millions of dollars.

How to strategize your marketing

Traditional marketing campaigns tend to be narrowly targeted, aiming to sell one particular product to a specific group of people. Additionally, marketing functions are often spread across different departments or even outsourced to marketing agencies, creating disconnected one-off campaigns.

This siloed marketing approach makes it nearly impossible to effectively communicate CSR efforts and initiatives through a cohesive, consistent, and holistic message. This is a common issue: A 2013 study by Cone Communications and Echo Global found that 70 percent of consumers felt confused by the messages brands communicated in their CSR campaigns.

To be most effective, your company’s CSR must become a consistent element in every impression your brand makes. It needs to be embedded in the content and ingrained in your identity.

Here are four tips to help you effectively market your CSR mission:

  1. Keep marketers in the loop. Because most marketing departments operate separately from the CSR team, it’s especially important to ensure everyone understands everything your company does daily in its commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Bring marketers into the conversation — especially around strategy — and constantly keep them updated on your efforts and objectives.

  2. Communicate everything. As someone who’s immersed in your CSR mission, small developments and happenings might not seem very noteworthy to you. But from a marketing standpoint, nothing is too boring if it’s supporting communities and the environment.I personally would love to see the Gap Foundation do more of this. Though it’s doing work on an unprecedented scale to improve sustainability in textile production, there has been very little marketing to show the public how the company’s strong ethics influence the day-to-day decisions it makes, as well as the impact that has on the product itself and on consumers. (The same goes for McDonald’s and its CSR.)

  3. Keep a schedule. Develop a marketing calendar to ensure a consistent flow of CSR-related communication. This will ensure that consumers stay informed and enthusiastic about your brand’s mission. Try to engage them in this process.At Reelio Cares, we have intentionally created key tent-pole events throughout the year that publicize our outreach initiatives. This has really maximized our traction within our target audiences.

  4. Don’t forget to celebrate. Do you support only fair-trade products? Is your production now 100 percent sustainable? If so, make a big deal about it!Remember when REI gave all its employees a day off on Black Friday? The company wasn’t shy about that bold decision. Instead, it created an entire #OptOutside marketing campaign around it. REI’s willingness to celebrate led to countless tweets, posts, and articles about its mission — and consumers definitely took notice.

Global citizens are motivated by opportunities to make our world better, and they’re looking to support companies willing to stand up for the causes and issues they believe in.

If your brand is doing the right thing, don’t leave millions of dollars on the table because you want to be modest or because your CSR isn’t part of the next product launch. Make your CSR mission a fundamental part of your marketing efforts.

Image credit: Flickr/Ron Mader

Ava Kelly is an artist, change agent, educator, digital strategist, manager of Reelio Cares, and founder and CEO of Love Notes Records. While working on a project at the YouTube Space LA, Ava met Pete Borum, CEO of Reelio, and knew this was the platform that had the potential to change the way nonprofits and brands marketed their causes in the digital space.

Since coming on with Reelio, Ava has presented at the Creativity World Forum on how to change the world before you turn 30; brought more than 20 nonprofits and 500 people together at the YouTube Space to connect and learn about how nonprofits can leverage the platform; and implemented YouTube campaigns with the biggest YouTubers, biggest nonprofits, and biggest brands to develop a culture of social responsibility in the digital space. Ava believes her generation has an unprecedented capacity for compassion and loves being constantly challenged and inspired by her peers. Check her out on the social media things @AvaKellyMusic.

3p Contributor

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