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Being a PR professional today means bringing news outlets and consumers closer to companies than they've ever come before. It's a social media-powered age wherein people examine the organizations they do business with. This often now means ensuring the company's values come through loud and clear.
Corporations that act in a socially responsible manner make better connections with young individuals who have grown up with clear lines of communication to brands and often seek out companies who give back. Embracing campaigns that are all about giving back, then reinforcing those efforts with top-notch PR outreach, can ensure that the business becomes not just a part of consumers' lives but a valued one.
It's essential to look beyond the idea of corporate citizenship as an element outside of a company's central business efforts. Adweek contributor Matt Walker recently explained that it's possible to make a clear connection between what the organization does and the positive effect it has on communities. Organizations who deepen the thought they put into social efforts can end up permanently associating their brand with the good work they are contributing to the community.
Firms that truly realize the potential inherent in such programs can walk away with long-term reputation enhancements. Walker gave an example of one such event: Massive consumer products company Procter & Gamble helped 45,000 families, who were recovering from disasters. P&G helped the families do their laundry, and with the clean clothes, they feel a sense of getting back to their normal life again after their displacement. P&G tied the effort in with its brand of Tide detergent, scoring a PR coup and favorable coverage all around.
Sometimes, companies don't have the internal means to engage in social responsibility programs. That doesn't mean they can't help out, however. Canadian Business contributor Paul Klein suggested alliances between big businesses and smaller, more agile firms. For example, bigger businesses with more resources can help fund entrepreneurs to achieve a common goal to improve the community.
Keeping up with PR demands of such a program would naturally be more complicated than promoting one run by just by a single organization; however, a well-equipped PR department or agency can double the impact of a collaborative effort. Perfecting the messaging behind this type of effort could prove to be a perfect use case for media monitoring, determining how sources in the region are covering the campaign and adjusting the story and outreach accordingly.
Speaking of PR and communication necessities, it is clear that just as positive corporate citizenship is an enabler of connections between brands and their young audiences, problems with corporate social responsibility programs can dent this relationship. Havas Worldwide research highlighted the most proactive and socially conscious 20 percent of consumers, explaining that 7 in every 10 of these global citizens now perform research on brands before buying and two-thirds avoid firms they deem negative.
PR departments with effective media intelligence strategies and tools will naturally be better prepared to deal with this rising and influential consumer segment than organizations without. Negative coverage, no matter where in the world it begins, can spread quicker today than ever before. By monitoring and analyzing media of all types and from numerous regions, PR departments can ensure the brand gets to tell its side of the story with maximum warning. Getting ahead of problematic reports is especially important due to the potential psychological impact. If an organization defining itself by good work is disparaged without providing a counter-argument, it could lose its hard-won credibility.
The age of corporate social responsibility is ripe with opportunity for PR departments to increase their importance to their organizations. The age of the faceless corporation is coming to an end driven by the need to know what brands do with their resources and whether they are interested in leaving the world a better place. A well-executed and managed PR strategy is integral to becoming a responsible, modern corporate entity, yet even the greatest philanthropic efforts can have a negligible effect on branding if they aren't promoted effectively. A well-executed PR plan will ensure that the community and those that care most about social responsibility will be in the know well before they even hop onto their computers to do some digging.