Bin your website section on CSR if you really want to be known as a socially responsible business

I can’t help feeling that when it comes to communicating corporate social responsibility(CSR), it’s still a bit of a tick box exercise for many businesses.

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Piece on CSR in the website somewhere. Tick.
Piece on CSR in the annual report somewhere. Tick. Tick.
Some community related news on the intranet somewhere. Triple tick.

So big green ticks all round which is fine of course if, as a business, you’re not really committed to CSR and don’t consider it to be an integral part of what you do, and what you want to be known for.

This piece on integrated reporting in last month’s PR Week makes for an interesting read. Integrated reporting, the article says, ‘describes a movement in corporate reporting to intertwine the financial information in annual reports and the non-financial content usually found in separate CSR reports’.

If there is real commitment to CSR from the board level down, shouldn’t integrated reporting be obvious, and shouldn’t every piece of communication help illustrate what your business stands for when it comes to the environment, the community around you, and how your business functions in a sustainable way?

Get rid of the CSR section
So why have a separate CSR section on your website (or even a separate site altogether as I’ve seen with some) or intranet. Why not integrate elements of CSR throughout the site? And how about abandoning that hurried attempt in the annual report to pull together all your charitable endeavours and try to reflect your company’s CSR approach throughout the report. Think about every single touch point your business has with employees, clients, and other stakeholders and ask yourself whether it communicates your CSR values.

A luxury car maker doesn’t need to have a section on its website somewhere that says ‘luxury’, it simply reflects those values throughout its brand; in its product, how it behaves and how it communicates. Communicating CSR should be no different.

 

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To boldly go…grammar rules are there to be broken

Nurse: “Would you like me to gently prop you up?”
Elderly patient: “My dear, try never to split your infinitives.”

BlackboardSplit infinitives. Does anyone care anymore? Well, yes, lots of people do care and I’m not knocking them. Having said that, language changes and evolves, and so should our interpretation of the rules.

 

A pedant’s obsession with rooting out split infinitives for example, seems unnecessary particularly when a re- write would sound, well;

Nurse: “Would you like me to prop you up, but gently?”

…clumsy.

It’s important to know what’s wrong and what’s right, but good writing can exploit that knowledge to flout the rules and create interest. The point being: Rules. Are. There. To. Be. Broken. Sometimes.

And, another thing, who said you can’t start a sentence (or a paragraph) with a conjunction? But just make sure you don’t overdo it.

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Good PR shouldn’t sound like PR

I heard a Chief Executive the other day providing some perfectly legitimate information about the performance of his business and then being derided by the business journalist interviewing him as providing  ‘just a load of PR’. Unfair, I thought.

It’s funny how an industry – Public Relations – that devotes itself to managing the reputations of others, has such a shabby reputation itself. The media, the public, all demand greater transparency and access to information. But when it comes, that extra information is derided as ‘puff’ or manipulative PR.

It’s all good
Who’s to blame? Well, we all are to some extent. Hiding behind corporate and financial jargon doesn’t help. Who watched the BBC’s Twenty Twelve mocumentary on the Olympics and failed to recognise some element of truth in the ludicrous language pedalled by the team.

What to do about it? We could perhaps start by working with the spokespeople we work with and ‘rehearse’ to talk in a language that not only makes sense but is emotionally more engaging.

The Chief Executive of Ocado was also on Radio 4 talking about the performance of his business the other day. He undoubtedly had some good news to share but much of it was hidden behind phrases like:  “there’s an enormous channel shift, we’re at an inflexion point in the market” or “customers who rely on us to deliver outstanding quality to their homes”. In both instances, I know what he means but I can almost hear the journalist sighing.

What about sharing an interesting delivery anecdote for instance, or some feedback from a customer? Don’t tell me the market is at an inflexion point, tell me about how many thousands of loaves of bread have been bought online in the last 12 months?

The point is, we can help people like the Chief Executives of the world relate what they do in a way that not only makes for better radio/TV/ or whatever channel you choose, but might actually do a great deal for stripping away the general cynicism that PR has attracted.

After all, really good PR shouldn’t sound like PR at all.

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How to be a champion blogger…(in thirty seconds)

So you’ve set up a blog on your website. What next?

Have a view; be short and punchy; be topical; invite (and make it easy for) people to share your blog. Pictures too. Readers love those. Particularly ones of cuddly cats…

Lion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What else? Oh yes:

  1. Readers
  2. Like
  3. Lists

They also like links to other useful sites.

And like a well functioning digestive system, good blogs appear regularly and often.

Oh, and don’t go on. In the digital age, attention spans are notoriously short…hello? Anyone still there?

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I read stories (I consume bananas)

Since when did we all start to consume content? I read content, I watch content, I listen to content but do I really consume content?

Have a listen to the creators of JacksGap on the BBC’s Media Show, a massively successful You Tube channel. How they love to talk about consuming content.

Is it just me or is there something slightly uncomfortable about content becoming a metaphorical feast? Is it just a commodity to be eaten?

It’s jargon of course which, ironically, is often employed to cover up the lack of content – or at least interesting content.

Fortunately I haven’t started to read content to my children, they still prefer a bedtime story.

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