CR can be a difficult concept to understand and integrate into business operations. What is the correct definition? There are several different terminologies/definitions of CR (corporate citizenship, corporate sustainability…). The lack of consistency in the communications of what CR actually is an inhibitor. It is important to balance, firstly, the need of companies to provide and transmit individual definitions of CR to stakeholders, and secondly, to take into account the general understanding of CR by the public.
What an organisation says about CR represents their motivations and intentions. They are held accountable to what they promise. Therefore it is imperative that you communicate in a way which is understandable to stakeholders AND yourself in order to embed your CR strategies and actions in the public’s conscious.
In order to do so, develop and disseminate a communications strategy using experts and infrastructure. This should include:
- Identify what you want to communicate – be sure that the message reflects your organisations future aspirations and your current realities. Be credible and relevant.
- Develop, validate and adapt what you want to communicate – it is critical to communicate internally to your employees, test to see if they understand the terminology you have chosen – get feedback. Research shows that employees are influenced by internal and external perception (reputation and internal value system). This means that employees are a good way to measure if your communication of CR is appropriate and credible. Using their opinions and knowledge to develop CR strategy also contributes towards authenticity. Nevertheless, external stakeholder input is still very important – this will give an insight into the opinions that are being formed on the messages sent out.
- Define your audiences and cluster them – employees, stakeholders (issue specific clusters), geographical differences in interpretation should result in different clusters for different regions.
- Disseminate the messages – implementation of CR is crucial, you need to get the timing right. Develop or ‘piggy back’ onto a strategic communications framework. You need to choose the right channels for the right audiences (formal and informal internal communication with employees, different modes of communication for stakeholders combined with the right volume, frequency, tone…etc)
A strategic approach to communicating CR is about building foundations for the future so that things begin to work automatically over time.
Please find attached a link to the article in full, with all the details of the case study and other examples.