At a recent Associated Grant Makers event, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship presented highlights from their sixth biennial survey about the attitudes and commitments of business executives toward corporate citizenship. The survey revealed a lot of critical information about the future of corporate citizenship and the integral role it will play in business growth and sustainability. I encourage everyone to read the survey, which will soon be available here.
During the question and answer portion of the event, an attendee asked about the best way for a company to talk about its citizenship work without seeming boastful. It was a great question because so often, companies downplay their work or fail to talk about it at all.
But we all know that the reason our companies engage in charitable giving is to both effect positive social change and garner visibility. A Cone Communications 2013 Social Impact Study found that 88 percent of Americans are eager to hear from companies about support of social and environmental issues. As this study and a variety of others have shown for years, consumers want to know what companies are doing to support social and environmental causes and will avidly support those that do in an engaging and authentic manner. And yet it still seems to be an area where companies take a restrained approach.
Here are some things to consider when communicating about your social investments:
What to Communicate
One of the biggest challenges is determining what is most important to communicate. Determine which audiences you want to reach, the best way to reach them and which information will be of most interest since your key stakeholders (customers, employees, peers) will not want to and don’t need to hear about everything you are doing. Evaluate all of the programs and activities you are executing throughout the year and identify which ones will matter the most and be of importance to your audiences. Then ensure that any and all messages communicated are consistent, effective and clear.
How to Communicate
Once you determine what to communicate, figure out which platforms are most effective for the message. Often times I see companies create a social media plan that is parallel to their public relations plan that is parallel to their digital marketing strategy. Start with the initiative; determine the key messages and then version the message for the communication channel that makes most sense. Be open to using different social media platforms like Snapchat or Vine to tell your story through images and video. Hopefully you are able to leverage as many tools as possible to ensure you have an integrated communications strategy.
When to Communicate
Finally, it is so important to figure out when to communicate all of your news. Do you Tweet once a week? Distribute a press release monthly? If you are approaching communications from this perspective, I think you will box yourself in versus letting your news drive the timing of your outreach. Similar to the strategy of figuring out what to communicate, determine as best you can all the programs, initiatives, events and grants you have planned in a year and then identify the best moments in time to share the information with your audiences. Look for external moments in time like a recognized month (a grant to a breast cancer related organization during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month) or at a time that is of significance to your nonprofit partner (kick off of 20th anniversary year). And don’t forget to have your nonprofit partner help tell your story too!
The bottom line is that employees, customers, peers and many other audiences want to hear about what a company is doing and how they are addressing social issues. Telling these stakeholders about what you are doing in an authentic manner through creative communications is the only way to achieve a company’s business and philanthropic goals. So get to telling your story!
Briana Curran is Vice President, Charitable Giving Manager for BNY Mellon in New England. She is responsible for providing fiscal and fiduciary oversight for the distribution of approximately $2 million in corporate and charitable trust fund grants throughout Greater Boston.