Years of using the GRI and other frameworks has got us used to communicating our CSR actions in a plain numerical way. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not bad. Sustainability reporting is a tool that has a certain purpose, for a certain audience and for certain situations. However, if you want to communicate your CSR more effectively in order to continuously engage your internal and external audiences you may want to try the following 3 Ss.
Use the art of STORYTELLING
Although it is just recently that we have been hearing this concept, storytelling has been around since Aristotle’s times. If this is now the key ingredient for very successful content marketers and star salespeople, why not use it to get CSR to the hearts of our audience? I second Bernadette’s philosophy that the secret to spreading ideas relies on making people feel via storytelling.
Communicating your Corporate Citizenship in a narrative form could sound a bit challenging at first but think it this way, most of what we do in the CSR field (if not everything) is people oriented, either as doers or recipients. There you have the characters for the stories.
One of our main goals as CSR professionals is to improve peoples’ lives in various situations; in the workplace or in the community or in our supply chain. There you have the scenarios.
We create value for our stakeholders through our programs and projects which comprise a sequence of actions in order to deliver positive outcomes as a result. There you have the plotline; beginning, middle, and end of the story. The thing about CSR is that it is a never-ending story, so you won’t have any trouble finding the “Perpetual marketing” that they refer to in these 5 Secrets to Use Storytelling for Brand Marketing
Next time that you have a message to communicate about CSR, think; how can I make it into a story? Who are the characters? What do they do and what is happening around them? What is the happy ending?
Here is a source of great examples and tips for inspiration on Corporate Storytelling and Your CSR Strategy
Make it SPECIAL
The story that you tell about your CSR will be crucial, however, you want to make it truly SPECIAL in order to make it more compelling. And I mean SPECIAL in capitals, bolded, in italics, underlined, multi-coloured and with shadow effect.
It is true that good storytelling is mostly about using powerful, emotive words and stimulating copy (check out Belinda’s mind-blowing copywriting tips here); nevertheless, to get your message through you also want to make it memorable by having your audience using as many of their senses as possible to get your message.
Accompany your text with captivating images. As I suggested to present your sustainability business case, try to use unique images, avoid cliché photos and remember that less is more. Use real photos of your stakeholders as much as possible, but choose only those that are well taken –you know what I mean; good angle, lighting, timing, etc.
If the channel or platform allows it, you could use videos too –but keep them short, please. If you find that burdensome, make an interactive presentation with the images you have for that CSR message; it could be as simple as a Power Point or Prezi one, and try to use sound effects if possible.
There are heaps of ways to present messages creatively nowadays. Sit with any of your geekiest marketing or communication colleagues and ask them to unleash their creativity for this. I’m sure that if you set them the challenge and if this is all aligned to the overall business and marketing strategy, they will come up with very SPECIAL ideas for your sustainability communications.
Now, SOCIALISE it!
You probably think that what I mean is to use of social media; Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. etc. Yes, of course, but posting your SPECIAL CSR STORIES in social media and leave them adrift like a boat on the web ocean will not be enough.
What I mean by “socialise it” is that you involve people in the promotion of that message. For example, when you post your message in Facebook or LinkedIn, tag those that are part of the story or that appear in the picture (here is how to tag in LinkedIn posts just in case you haven’t done it before). It has a double benefit, they will feel acknowledged but also they may comment on it which means more exposure for your message.
I have a peer that gets tons of likes and shares in her CSR posts because every time that she posts something she sends an email or give a call to her internal CSR champion network and ask them to comment on her posts and share them in their own social network platforms. Some may think that this is cheating, but I think it is resourceful -and a great way to get colleagues actively involved.
When I say “socialise it” I also mean to use your traditional (non-digital) networks to communicate your CSR; when waiting for a meeting to get started, at lunch time or even while having beers after work; with the CEO and senior managers, your colleagues, your clients or your friends. People love listening to interesting and spiring stories –even more if they involve someone they know. We are the storytellers of our CSR par excellence, so don’t be shy and let’s spread the love!