FROM THE COMMS CUPBOARD, Episode #3

Improving employee engagement through CSR

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John and Shaun discuss the various angles of corporate social responsibility (CSR) while in dingy comms cupboard isolation.

Is there an opportunity in communications to create better employee engagement by being more transparent about CSR? It’s one of many questions to ponder, and topics include charitable giving, disingenuous PR, employee inclusion, Gordon Gekko and sugared water.

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Episode transcript

John: Do you think it’s important that companies give back …

Shaun: Things they borrowed from me? Yes.

John: Do you think they should give back to their communities? Should they be doing more than what their core offering is?

Shaun: Well, I think it’s a nice idea. It’s that idea of being ethically responsible.

John: Yeah, having social responsibility.

Shaun: Yeah, I think it’s a great idea.

John: Have you seen a great example of it; something that made you think, yeah they’re OK?

Shaun: It’s usually the companies that people hate. I’ve actually seen some great work from Nestle and Coca-Cola. I’ve worked closely with those companies in the past. While some may say that they walk a fine line ethically and morally, and that they only have their own interests at heart, sometimes it takes for these giant companies and their giant wallets to do something good, and it gets ignored.

John: Would a cynical person then say, it’s just PR?

Shaun: Yes. I might say the same thing. Does it matter if it’s genuine or not, as long as it’s done?

John: This week, we’ve seen lots of organisations come out and support people. Some of the notable ones – places like Pret offering free coffee to NHS workers, or any number of places offering free meals or discounted meals to people supporting the effort around the Coronavirus. But I think a lot of companies do a lot more all of the time, don’t they?

Shaun: I think so, and without there being a crisis. I shall refrain from naming this company, but I did read about one recently that was helping NHS staff “get ahead of the queue” kind of thing. But when it came to the practical side of it, there was nothing in place, so that other people who didn’t work for the NHS could get in there and take what they wanted as well. It made me feel like: so the notice went out, they did their bandstanding. Bandstanding? Grandstanding?

John: Grandstanding.

Shaun: “We’re going to help the NHS”. And that advert went out across social media, emails and all that sort of thing. The message was out there: Oh, isn’t this a great company. They’re going to help. But when it came down to application, it wasn’t there. It did make me feel like … hmm … maybe it wasn’t so genuine after all. They’re just copying everyone else and making themselves look good. It left a bad taste in my mouth. Yet, some companies don’t wait for the cataclysmic event, and they just get on with it, and they help. Perhaps they do it out of guilt!? 🤭

John: I like it when a company does something good and it’s linked to what they do. If it’s a technology company supporting schools, because they know they’re going to need more coders or people who know certain things, they know that if they support the education system, that’s going to help them as an organisation. It’s kind of genuine because they are doing it for themselves, but it’s going to help a lot of people and potentially create future jobs. There’s a lot of potential there. I think it’s almost about being open and transparent about your intentions. It’s not just about charitable giving. It’s about what we do, how does it impact people properly, and what’s the value for them and for us? That’s what I like.

Shaun: I like that too. Companies with conscience.

John: Yes.

Shaun: Companies with conscience may be the wrong phrase, because that maybe implies that they’re doing something bad and need to make up for it somehow!

John: It’s the end of “greed is good”. 🤑

Shaun: What was his name again?

John: Gordon.

Shaun: Gordon Gekko. Did Gordon Gekko have a charitable side?

John: He may have done some sort of percentage giving, I don’t know 😸 We never saw it. I don’t think it was important for the story.

Shaun: Poor Gordon.

John: Poor Gordon. But in truth, I think there’s a lot of value from being responsible. If you support the people who work for you, or the communities where people who work for you are, it adds value beyond their paycheque. If you support the schools of the children of the people who work for you – the infrastructure, the town, the area.

Shaun: Do you think all employees are happy when their company starts splashing out money in things they may not necessarily be close to, or agree with?

John: Probably not. How I would handle it is you need to get them involved. I think anything you do that’s socially responsible, you should also include your employees. Give them opportunity to volunteer and be part of it, and help make decisions. One of the best things I’ve seen is … a lot of companies have charity partners, and people in your company should choose who that is. It’s important that people connect with what they’re trying to do. Quite often in big companies, you see big fundraisers, or being asked to give money on certain days of the year. Let people choose who that is and make it personal for them.

Shaun: So they feel like they’re connected in some way to the decision, and that the company’s money is theirs to help spread the good cheer 💸

John: You build engagement; you build connection with who you work for. Hopefully you work a bit harder because you want them to succeed as well. You’ve made it a more desirable place to be. You mentioned some big companies at the start who some people might think are not doing great things in the world, but I’m sure they do a lot of good things as well.

Shaun: Coca-Cola – one of the biggest brands in the world … Would you say the biggest brand in the world? The most recognisable …

John: Definitely one you’ll see wherever you go.

Shaun: They sell sugared water. It’s a famous quote from somebody, isn’t it: sugared water? 🤔 But it’s not all about profit. And many organisations – some we don’t know – have benefited in some way from the Coca-Cola dollar, and that’s got to be a good thing.

John: So do you think it’s important from a communications perspective that everyone knows that?

Shaun: Could be dangerous!

John: Is it just as important to say that they do it, and that you don’t need to shout about it? Isn’t there more responsibility from not shouting about it?

Shaun: If you don’t tell people you’re doing it, you can’t take them on the journey and the story. It’s an opportunity for the marketing department – and here’s the marketing side of me coming out – is that it’s an opportunity to tell a story of something you’re doing outside of making sugared water.

John: To increase your sales.

Shaun: To increase your sales, but you’re helping a community in Africa build a well, and you’re spending your money to do it. Why not tell the world?

John: Yeah. I think people would want to know. They might feel better about themselves while they drink their sugared water.

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