CSR: A Feel-Good Investment or Digital Strategy?By Ashley Stein

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become the “it” initiative for companies looking to capitalize on sustainability and humanitarian efforts.

So much so, CSR has evolved from companies simply donating corporate dollars to global non-profits, to companies sending employees into emerging geographies to work directly with its initiatives’ partnering organizations.

As CSR continues to evolve, grow, and downright become a strategic business investment, it’s imperative digital groups understand how to integrate these initiatives into their content marketing strategies.

On an easy level, digital groups can share CSR stories with their audiences and hope for engagement.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, digital groups are capitalizing on unique ways to integrate CSR programming directly into every day strategic approaches.

Not sure where you land on the spectrum?

Follow this step-by-step checklist and learn how your digital strategy can capitalize on preexisting CSR work.

Ensure your Company’s CSR Strategy Serves a Strategic Business Purpose

You won’t be getting much further down this list until you have met this criterion. When CSR is done correctly it has a direct connection back to its industry.

Below are just a few great examples of companies clearly aligning their CSR work with business strategy.

AT&T: It Can Wait®Responsible use of technology campaign.

Campbell’s: Hunger Initiatives—Promoting global nutrition and wellness through influence across the food value chain. 

Merck & Co., Inc.: Access to Health—Improving access to healthcare worldwide.

Understand Your CSR Programming Objectives and Your Target Audiences

Depending on the type of CSR programming, and the depth of your digital strategy, you’ll be surprised to see how frequently these two overlap in objectives and targeted audiences.

Take the following example: Several digital strategies have the objective of attracting top talent new hires—drawing them into the company’s online world and getting them to apply.

Now pair this with the fact that today’s job searchers are attracted to companies participating in CSR programs and you have a beautiful marriage between the two.

Consider following the lead of Texas Instruments, and add to your careers page a “what we stand for” corporate citizenship and volunteerism section.

Look for Opportunities to Overlap CSR and Digital Campaigns

As companies move towards skills-based, employee engagement CSR, these stories suddenly become opportunities to showcase your organization’s employees, rather than simple feel-good investments.

Consider adding small elements of CSR work into your digital campaigns. You’ll find by doing so you are adding another small dimension to the campaign you originally planned out.

Take Johnson & Johnson for example. Their blog integrates several of their CSR initiatives into daily content.

Fully Integrate CSR Communications Into Your Digital Content Marketing Strategy

And I’m not just talking about creating Facebook or Twitter posts each time your company does good work in its community. Blogging, podcasts and online video series are all tactics you can integrate into your pre-existing content marketing strategy.

Microsoft and Coca Cola both do this, and they do it well.

Get creative and understand the benefits from implementing a humanistic approach into your digital strategy. You will be surprised by the increased engagement when a relatable human side is presented in your digital campaigns. 

CSR programming is more than just a “feel good” investment when done right. Take the time to analyze your company’s community initiatives, understand its objectives and see how your digital strategy can leverage these preexisting communications opportunities.

Who knows, it may end up being the smartest decision your digital team makes this year.

Ashley Stein

Ashley Elaine Stein is a Communications Specialist at The Dow Chemical Company and Co-Presenter for “What Brand Are You?” personal branding seminars. Her professional experiences include work in corporate social responsibility, digital and business communications. Thoughts and opinions do not reflect that of current or previous employers.

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