Wednesday 19 September 2018

Gina London: Four ways to improve CSR and communicate vision

Gina London
Gina London

Gina London

On Valentia Island, where I was fortunate to spend the past week, the locals held a swim on New Year's Day. Donal, who runs Walsh's Foodstore in Knightstown - just steps away from where the swimmers gathered before they braved the icy waters - told me the event was in honour of his cousin, Aidan, who died last year.

The swimmers and their friends raised €1,000 for their local hospital. Not bad at all, considering that only a fraction of the 600 people who live year-round on the island turned out. This community coming together to make a difference reminded me that companies are communities too.

As we move into the first full working week of the new year, now is a good time to point out that Corporate Social Responsibility is the key driver of any company's public image.

You don't have to work for Rolex, Lego or Disney - companies with the top reputations for CSR - to understand its importance.

The 2017 Global RepTrak report from the Boston-based Reputation Institute ranked more than 240,000 organisations around their products, services, governance and innovation. Announced alongside the global top three, the top-ranked companies in Ireland, according to Reputation Institute, were An Post, Kerry Group and Bord Bia.

The research demonstrates how customers and employees look to a company's CSR brand to form positive perceptions. In this era of fake news, leaders in companies must work extra hard to maintain a sense of purpose for employees. Organisations that are perceived as more open, genuine and communicative - inside as well as out - will improve sales, employee engagement and attract better talent. Where your own organisation may rank on the CSR scale likely depends less upon the list of charities to which you contribute and more upon how holistic your approach to CSR is. With that in mind then, here are four recommendations to help you and your organisation improve your CSR.

1. Integrate CSR

From top to bottom, how inter-twined are your CSR strands? Do they radiate from your vision statement to each employee? Step back and carefully examine your vision statement. Does it capture elements of doing social good? Does it capture anything at all? Messaging, by definition, should be repeatable, emotional, brief and clear. If your vision isn't "visionary" and can't be repeated by your employees, you should consider updating and refining it.

Next, assess how well you are communicating your sustainable business goals throughout your organisation. The answers may surprise and redirect you.

2. Encourage employees to turn off

I recently toured the massive Dublin compound of offices that house Google, which is listed in RepTrak's top 10. From its on-site medical clinic, gym and swimming pool to the free coffee bars and myriad of healthy snack drawers, employees' needs appeared to be taken well into consideration.

"That's because they want their employees never to leave," scoffed a friend when I mentioned how impressed I was. But in today's mobile device world of always being connected, aren't all employees everywhere working at a Hotel California?

We used to call it 'burn-out'. but now it's more like constant stimulation overload. Such overloaded employees should be encouraged to take breaks. Google also provides real swing sets and relax-pods. Promoting reflection, refreshment and re-charging is essential

3. Structure cross-collaboration

When departments get out of silos and stretch horizontally to become more communicative, everyone benefits. I've worked for over a year with a company to flatten its structure to cross and combine employee skills toward common goals. This goes for cross-company as well.

Since 2014, for example, Marks & Spencer, Nike, General Motors, along with a growing host of other top businesses, formed a coalition committed to fighting climate change under the unified banner 'We mean business'.

Open source yourself and your company. The world will thank you for it. And so will your employees and customers.

4. Teach and deploy storytelling

How do you captivate every audience? Through vivid storytelling. Sure, you can include detail points and data - but only as support for your story. Not as the story itself. And don't relegate story-telling for only your external marketing materials. From monthly internal communications meetings, to quarterly client update reports, this is the way every presentation should be approached. Getting into the habit of rich storytelling will also enable you to best tell your own CSR story.

While not a new term, CSR continues to grow in importance. With many millennials settling down, starting families and looking to make ethical purchases, promoting corporate social responsibility externally and internally is quite simply expected and should not be underestimated in value.

So, once again, here at the beginning of the new year, it's the perfect time to re-invigorate your company's employees. You may not be able to get them all to join you for a fund-raising swim in the refreshing Atlantic this January, but you can encourage them to contribute an array of energising new ways that you can give back - to the community they work with and the community around them.

Together, we can make a difference.

Are you preparing a listening session or New Year's survey for your team? Would you like me to facilitate? I can! Let The Communicator help! Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

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