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As a communications professional, you know intuitively that public perception can impact your campaigns, for better and for worse. These days, not much is more top of mind with the public than matters related to Environmental Social Governance (ESG). Research shows that customers, investors and other stakeholders are placing an increased focus on ESG initiatives, with companies leading the charge finding themselves with more opportunities and happier customers.
Unfortunately, it’s a category that’s expanding all of the time, making it a major challenge to stay on top of how your efforts—and those of your partners—are being covered by the media. To help, this post outlines a simple, five-point ESG monitoring system that can help you stay ahead of the curve and protect your brand’s reputation.
How suppliers behave can have a significant impact on the companies they serve. If one of your suppliers develops a bad reputation, particularly one connected to ESG-related missteps, the fallout can lead to a “guilt by association” that taints your brand.
Take, for instance, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 situation in which some of the new phone models would unexpectedly catch fire. The issue turned out to be faulty batteries provided by a Samsung supplier. But even though Samsung didn’t produce the batteries, they were still held accountable. The company faced fines, lawsuits and a costly product recall, tarnishing its brand.
To avoid a similar problem, monitor your major suppliers' daily news coverage for ESG-related activity. Proactively identifying problematic stories about vendors can provide valuable time should you need to develop and disseminate messaging on the matter.
MORE: How to Navigate Political ESG Pushback
Your company’s partner organizations should also play a role in your ESG strategy. Working with brands with compatible ESG goals will help avoid potential conflicts and enhance your efforts. Think of it as the opposite of guilt by association by basking in the glow of others’ accomplishments. To that end, a successful ESG monitoring program should also keep tabs on all your partner organizations.
If a partner is making great strides in the ESG space, these successes should be celebrated and reported, in part, as your own. Take, for example, the Coca-Cola Company. They have goals focused on helping communities worldwide address sustainability challenges. As a result, the company has formed key partnerships with nonprofits committed to sustainability initiatives. The success of these nonprofits reflects positively on Coca-Cola.
By tracking partners, you can also identify any negative coverage. The scope and nature of this news can help you determine if your relationship with this partner should be reevaluated or discontinued.
Every company is compared to its competitors, which means it’s essential to keep tabs on your competitors' ESG-related coverage.
For example, Ford was recently honored for its leading efforts in sustainability. News like this created an opportunity for Ford’s competitors to respond by touting their own ESG achievements, staying in the good graces of their customers and other stakeholders as a result.
Monitoring your competitors’ ESG news is also helpful as a benchmarking tool and a means of identifying when your competitors have come up short so you can avoid making a similar error.
MORE: Gaining executive support for ESG communications
Your ESG monitoring must not only look out but in. Leveraging earned, owned, and shared media channels to proactively communicate your company’s ESG plans is critical. Still, monitoring news and social media platforms is equally important to understand how those efforts are being received.
Are your ESG-related key messages resonating with your audiences? Are ESG topics being discussed or covered that your company isn’t prioritizing but should? Are your potential customers and future partners even aware of your company's efforts to achieve its ESG goals?
Questions like these are crucial to answer and will allow your ESG program and accompanying communications strategy to grow and evolve.
Beyond monitoring your own company, competitors, suppliers and partners, it also helps to stay atop general ESG news and trends such as supply chain developments, state and federal-level legislation under consideration and shifts in consumer sentiment regarding, say, equity in hiring.
For example, President Joe Biden recently used his first veto to preserve a recent U.S. Department of Labor rule about ESG funds in 401(k) plans. The regulation unwound a previous one that barred employers from considering ESG when evaluating where to invest retirement funds. Keeping a pulse on news like this from around the globe helps one better determine which way the social-political winds are blowing¾ and what that may mean for your brand.
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If you’re ready to implement this five-point program, Nexis® Media Intelligence is here to help. Our free-to-use ESG Tracker lets you enter your company’s name and see the media mentions for a quick view of how your ESG messaging is perceived. This powerful tracker also features visualizations around key ESG factors.
Going a step deeper, Nexis Newsdesk™, the platform and content powering the ESG Tracker, makes it easy to establish ongoing monitoring, helping to keep you informed about the five monitoring points we discussed in this post. The tool also allows you to set up customized micro-sites to keep decision-makers across your company informed in real time.
The ESG movement has grown rapidly in the last decade and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Be sure to check out our new e-book: “The Ins and Outs of ESG: A Guide to Building a More Sustainable Organization.”