Doing good, but failing to get the credit
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Holmes Report
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Doing good, but failing to get the credit

Paul Holmes

One of the first definitions of public relations that I ever heard was perhaps the most elegant and simple: “Doing good and getting credit for it.” A new piece of research from Grayling suggests that a great many companies, in the UK and around the world, are doing good but failing to get any credit for it. The Grayling Pulse study finds that only 28 percent of companies with a corporate social responsibility strategy are integrating their CSR activities into their corporate communications strategy. Those same companies are spending just 10 percent of their communications budgets talking about their CSR or sustainability budgets; they are largely convinced that mainstream media have little interest in CSR stories, and yet only about 12 percent are using social media to tell those stories directly to stakeholders. Perhaps, as I speculate in the opinion piece I wrote to accompany the study, this is all a reaction to the charge that many CSR programs are “just PR,” or perhaps it’s a noble—if misguided—impulse to deny any self-interested motivation for good deeds. My own view is that companies ought to be seeking every last drop of credit they can earn for their good deeds (but not one drop more). That’s partly because I think that stakeholders—employees and customers and communities and regulators and shareholders—have a right to know what any company they support is doing, but it’s also because I want CSR to succeed, to be embedded in the way organizations operate and communicate. I worry that if companies don’t derive a real business benefit from CSR—and one of the biggest potential benefits is improved stakeholder relationships—then their commitment to CSR will eventually waver. If CSR is presented as pure altruism, the next CEO might decide it’s an expensive luxury. That’s far less likely to happen if CSR is seen to be delivering business value. For that to happen, PR people need to make sure they are communicating the company’s responsible actions internally and externally, and then measuring their impact on the strength of a company’s relationships and the value—improved employee loyalty, customer recommendations, less onerous regulation—those relationships deliver to the bottom line.  
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