Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and communicating it effectively is significant in enhancing reputation and positioning an organization as an important member of the community. In the Middle East, some companies are stepping beyond charitable donations into CSR initiatives aligned with the development of sustainable national projects. Though in general, the UAE CSR landscape is positively changing, some organizations need a boost in publicizing their commitment in an authentic manner.
To some organizations, CSR initiatives need not be announced or promoted widely as it goes against their culture and values. However, more customers and investors tend to favor a company that shows their commitment to social and environmental development. The challenge lies on how an organization can effectively communicate these CSR initiatives while reaching a broader audience to encourage and inspire positive changes.
This is where public relations come in play as a medium or a tool to help distribute the stories, which are most often presented through sustainability reports, press releases, publicity programs both internally and externally. PR agencies and professionals play a vital supportive role in this aspect.
PR agencies in Dubai and in the UAE have been incorporating CSR with various public relations messages. As a communications and public relations company, CommuniGate Middle East listed down key points on making the most of Corporate Social Responsibility by effectively publicizing them.
Actions over words
The strongest and most effective way of communicating CSR is to show, rather than just announcing. Stakeholders trust companies who have real outputs and impacts on staff and communities than those who limit their CSR initiatives to mere announcements. The role of public relations in this context is to ensure that customers and communities are aware of an organization’s efforts and CSR activities and one way to do this is to leverage social media through posting of videos and photos rather than merely describing.
Be accurate and truthful
In communicating CSR initiatives through public relations tools, it is imperative to present the truth, avoid exaggeration and greenwashing. Organizations should present facts and actual accomplishments to build trust and credibility. For instance, if publicity materials will include CSR activities, then it should show something tangible and if needed, a balanced reporting. This entails using press releases and PR tools to show negatives and positive of innovations, programs and milestones, backed by data and statistics.
Messages should be consistent with the company’s values and philosophy
When an organization supports one cause, expect criticism from opposing side. Most often, organizations weight in on issues because consumers demand for it, but their stand should be authentic to the values and philosophy of the organization. Public relations tools can emphasize human stories in this context, or highlight employees’ volunteerism. The message is clear- corporate and social responsibility is consistent to the company. This builds credibility and more impactful CSR engagements.
Leverage the online world
Today, online and social media channels are the most significant outlet for communicating CSR activities, providing an opportunity to connect with community members, increase awareness, expand programs and monitor how CSR programs impact target communities. CSR can be presented through digital PR and marketing tools such as press releases, Facebook events, websites news announcements, and video platforms for a wider audience.
Publicity can be a key part in communicating CSR to establish partnerships with sectors and not-for-profit organizations, encourage loyalty from customers and stakeholders, and help improve reputation. At the same time, an organization should view CSR as part of a continuing process in building long-term value.