Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Managing Online Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting

In the social media space, everything people do or say has an effect on the brand to varying degrees. As a reputation manager, PR practitioners are working to ensure that all print and digital activities are consistent, transparent and building dialogue to strengthen the brand.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) balances public interest with business interests to grow. It's an approach to sustainability that businesses take to create long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing various environmental, social and economic risks. This approach stems from an owness to self-regulate activities due in part to the growing importance that the public, media and special interest groups place on holding business accountable for their actions. This is an important opportunity for an organization to communicate their business reason for being, over and above generating shareholder value.

The production of a dedicated sustainability report adds tangible business value through the presentation of a company's key financial and nonfinancial information. Many companies have them. In Canada, the large Canadian banks come to mind as having some of the best.

The internet affords integrated reporting opportunities that cannot be done on paper. Here are some things to keep in mind when building the conversation about CSR on social media channels.
  • Earn the respect of the community through meaningful content. Add something to the conversation rather than simply disseminate "good news" company key messages.
  • Be authentic and as transparent and honest as possible. Consult your company's training policy on social media disclosure before diving in.
  • Remember the human element in your communications- always be warm, friendly and engaging.
  • Talk about the transformation process. Businesses do not become "green" overnight and customers get annoyed when they are presented as such.
  • See how people respond to information and include relevant insights in your analysis reports for your senior management team to inform their strategic decision-making.
  • Do your best and leave the rest! You can't change everyone's mind but you can share with them what you know.

Food for Thought: Which businesses do you think do a good job of leveraging the social media space in their CSR reporting?


  1. This is an interesting blog post about CSR. I like your emphasis about honesty and authenticity as I believe this is integral to PR's involvement in CSR.

    Social media space can be an excellent place to build reputation in a continous way rather than bombardment by CSR-related advertising. Pity I can't actually think of any examples off the top of my head...!

  2. No worries! One example of a company that is going to really need to boost their CSR efforts on every level, not just for themselves but also their industry, is BP with the recent catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This just set the company back 10 years, as it did and still does for Exxon Mobile, and it gives ammunition and a current example to grassroots activities and environmental groups who, rightfully so, protest and contest the ravenous role that the oil drilling industry can have on the environment. It also marks the creation of a broader stakeholder audience / end-user group because people who did not pay attention to them before, definitely do now. BP may become known for single-handedly destroying what was left of the Gulf region ... can you think of any ways they can work to salvage their relationship with stakeholders to demonstrate their CSR activities?