Paul Holmes 11 Oct 2010 // 3:06PM GMT
Echo Research has conducted some interesting research into corporate social responsibility practices, and I agree with the thrust of the company’s findings, which is that CSR and sustainability efforts need to be more substantive and authentic if they are to help companies rebuild public trust. But I have to admit it irks me to see two references to “PR” in Echo’s release, both of them associating the term with spin and superficiality. First, Echo founder and president Sandra Macleod says that CSR has evolved beyond “PR-driven greenwash.” Later she insists that the more substantive approach her analysis recommends is “not a PR exercise.” I see stuff like this all the time, of course, and it always irks me. And it irks me even more when it comes from someone who has earned the respect of the PR industry. Good CSR is, in fact, a public relations exercise. Good CSR means changing the behavior of an organization so that it is better aligned with the needs and expectations of the broader society in which it operates. It is hard to imagine anything more likely to improve the relationship between an organization and its public than that. Look, I understand that most lay-people, many clients and even an alarming number of PR practitioners believe that the term “PR” connotes words rather than deeds. But if we accept that trope rather than pushing back against it, hard and often, we are surrendering our industry’s credibility.