Posts Tagged 'CSR'

Can Starbucks Recover?

It is indeed ironic that Starbucks finds itself the target of complaints about racism, insensitivity and customer service. For much of its history, Starbucks has been a standard-bearer of progressive corporate leadership on a variety of social, cultural, racial, customer service and corporate social responsibility issues—which only goes to point out that no company can afford to overlook the quality of its ongoing relationships with its customers and, in addition, the power of social media to generate a communications crisis within minutes.

First, let us admit that we’ve previously lauded Starbucks on several occasions for forward-thinking, courageous, and even bold stands on a variety of quality-of-life and social justice issues. From the much-despised Race Together initiative to progressive stands on employee relations, equity in leadership and pay, and establishing and setting a high bar on a range of everyday communications issues (digital and social media marketing), we like Starbucks and think they’ve set an example worthy of many corporations taking note. Nonetheless, we’ve also recently become disenchanted with some changes ushered in by Starbucks, which begin to raise the question we asked in some of our earlier social media posts re: Philadelphia, and even before: Has success spoiled Starbucks and caused it to take too much for granted, when it comes to its customers? And will one day of racial sensitivity and customer service training (designated corporate-wide for May 29) change that scenario? Bottom line, apparently had Starbucks started to believe—like too many banks and investment firms before it—that it’s too big to fail, or even immune to a stumble. The past few weeks should’ve changed that picture substantially.

So where has Starbucks gone wrong? Like many entrepreneurs, we consider ourselves aficionados on this, as we spend a lot of time in Starbucks or running to Starbucks while conducting business. Here are a few problems we’ve noted of late. …

Disappearing Chairs

As we’ve noted in one of our social posts, in the past months, chairs have been noticeably missing from Starbucks changing business model. One of the things that has made Starbucks not only convenient, but indispensable in our informal, shared-workspace economy, is that Starbucks is, generally, an inviting place to conduct business. It’s convenient (practically omnipresent), more invigorating than the average office, and a good place to mix informal mingling with business function. I’ve seen everything from small-group meetings, to tele-conferencing, to actual business social activities held in Starbucks sites.

Losing A Neighborhood Gathering Place

As one journalist recently described it: “Starbucks, a brand that has positioned itself in our national consciousness as not just a restaurant chain or retail operation, but as a ‘third place’ meetup spot for the community.” So, this sudden removal of seats from a growing number of stores (across the Chicago area at least), is something of a slap in the face to loyal customers—business and social users alike–who Starbucks encourages to make repeat visits.

So, perhaps the issue facing Starbucks in the Philadelphia case is about more than race, although its apparent that ugly racism may have strongly influenced the situation. Could it be that Starbucks was already losing touch with the people and the community values that made it a global juggernaut?

Perhaps it was too much to ask that a major corporation combine all the amenities of the local neighborhood café, bookstore, community center and local hotspot. But Starbucks offered an implicit promise to be all that, giving it a special local appeal. And it was diverse, in staff and clientele. But those mom and pop coffee shops and cafes that many of us abandoned for Starbucks are probably now muttering a major “I told you so!”

Can Starbucks pull it all together quickly to stay of damage caused by that shop in Philadelphia and other bad moves. Time will tell. The company has at least announced it’s closing the shop for one day in May to talk about race, and we hope many other customer service issues. Many of us will wait and see, before we make our way to a final exit.

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Public Relations Diversity, Advancing Your PR Career, and Tech Social Responsibility

Thus far, March has been ripe with new ways to learn from the public relations paths (sometimes missteps) of others. Here’s our round-up of good reads covering various topics in PR.

How to Create Racially Sensitive Ads

We found this timely article in Entrepreneur, with the idea of helping small businesses avoid the big-budget mistakes of many corporate giants. The article offers practical solutions to what appears to be one of the greatest mysteries of today’s media landscape, in PR, marketing, advertising, digital marketing and public relations, etc.—How to Create Racially Sensitive Communications. See if you agree …

Rising in the PR Ranks

Also, every day some pros find themselves moving from entry or intermediate levels of PR to supervisory or senior management roles. How can you best position yourself for that career change. Laura Slingo offers this sage advice via PRWeek.

Facebook and CSR

Then, on a topic we’ll discuss more later, recent days have cast a long shadow over the Facebook juggernaut, bringing front and center an issue we’ve long advocated—greater social responsibility in the tech industries. This time it’s the issue of privacy and corporate social responsibility; previously it’s been diversity in tech. So, from Bloomberg, here’s a closer look at the making of a CSR issue that now has many people rethinking Facebook usage.

As always, we’d love to hear back from you on these and other PR issues. Let us know what’s going on in your comments below.

Tech Diversity Includes More Than Gender

Let’s not limit the #GoogleMemo debate and tech diversity issue simply to gender. While Google engineer James Damore ignited a firestorm around the already simmering gender diversity in tech issue, gender isn’t the only area where tech companies are lacking accountability.

The tech industry has a lot to answer for in terms of racial, ethnic, age as well as gender diversity. Yet, it’s pace to address those issues has been almost glacial.

Flashback to 2014

This issue first burst into public consciousness around 2014, with the public release of diversity data (i.e., racial, ethnic and gender breakdowns of tech workers—note age data was not included.) For an industry so ubiquitous in contemporary society, the results were both shocking and shameful. Those results looked something like this, as we reported in a previous post.

USA Today reported that one percent of Google’s tech staff are African-American, while two percent are Hispanic. Yet, these groups comprise 12 percent and 16 percent, respectively, of the total population. Asians, who comprise 12 percent of the US population, represent 34 percent of the company’s tech workers. Similarly, 83 percent of Google’s tech workers internationally are reported to be male. When non-tech positions are included, male workers still dominate, at 52 percent

In the same year, a Tech Times story described Apple’s workforce as composed of 70 percent men, 30 percent women. It also described the ethnic make-up as 55 percent White, 15 percent Asian, 11 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Black, 2 percent Mixed Race, and 9 percent undeclared.  *These figures were said to include employees of their retail stores.

Back then, we noted that Fortune magazine offered the most extensive review of tech companies and diversity.

Fast Forward to the Present

Since then, both the EEOC and the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as Rev. Jesse Jackson,  have drawn attention to and prompted some action on this issue. Yet, except for some high profile hirings at companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Intel, etc., the overall diversity profile of major tech companies remains largely unchanged.

Yes, the leaders of these companies—sensitive to optics and wary of regulation—have taken some steps aimed at diversity. These include sponsoring tech boot camps, hosting gender and diversity meetings, and even developing some campus partnerships with universities serving largely underrepresented groups, especially African-American and Latino students. (Not to mention the high-profile hirings mentioned above). Yet, very little has happened operationally in these companies—except apparently to make even the discussion of diversity more contentious among insiders.

Diversity Doesn’t End with Gender

The truth is due to the size and impact of tech companies on American and global cultures, diversity in tech is effectively the civil rights issue of our era. African-American, Latinos, and non-native tech adults (read, older) cannot afford to relent on this issue. It has been shown time and again that diversity in tech isn’t simply a “pipeline” issue that will be resolved with more STEM classes for young people, more boot camps, or more  diversity meetings—all of which are overall helpful. What will move the needle and change the daily picture in these companies is more diverse hiring—including African-Americans, Latinos, Baby Boomers, etc.—individuals already educated, trained and with valuable work experience in the fields needed throughout the tech sector—in both tech and non-tech positions. Only then can we expect to see the kind of dynamic culture shift that a diverse world demands and that an industry that prides itself on “disruption” should wholeheartedly embrace.

P.S. Over the past few years, we’ve written a lot on diversity in technology and public relations. Please be sure to check out our earlier posts.

How Tech (and PR) Companies Can Increase Diversity

A real-life parable on the importance of inclusion

diverse tech workers

We think that diversity in public relations and technology companies—two of the global world’s most thriving industries—is one of the most significant issues of our time. To that end, we write a good deal about the issue. Our post below, a real-life parable on the importance of inclusion, focuses on tech, but could as well be written about public relations today. As always, we welcome your feedback and comments at the end.

Given the opportunity, do you think most African American or Latino youth would opt for an entry-level job at McDonald’s or one in tech? Of course, the answer in our tech-driven world is a virtual no-brainer: most would no doubt choose the burgeoning world of technology. Which is what makes this story so important.

Diversity through Mentoring

Nearly two decades ago, at least one technology company took the initiative to offer a similar opportunity to a few talented high school students. One result of their pioneering and perseverance is Jessica L. Williams, a 34-year-old information networking and technology manager in Chicago.Jessica_intro With the aid of an early start, now at age 34, she’s comfortably immersed in middle management, with 15 years of experience in technology–eight of them as an information networking manager, and the last two working for one of the largest convention centers in the United States. How and why she got to her current position is an instructive lesson for both tech and PR—two industries now under fire for the inexplicably low representation of women and minorities within their ranks. It’s worth noting here that Williams is an African-American woman, whose life experience contradicts the oft-heard canard that there aren’t qualified African-American techies out there. The point is these industries have to do more to develop and/or find diverse candidates.

Back in the 1998, during the early phases of the dot-com boom, an upstart technology firm, SDI Solutions, took the initiative to offer promising high-school students their first exposure to the fields of business and technology through the firm’s First Chance Initiative. Williams was one of those students. A junior at Whitney Young High School at the time, she had no idea what the technology field had to offer, as she hadn’t ever known anyone who’d had such a career. She only knew that she was good at math and science, and that people at school urged her to follow the tech path. The downside—she thought—was that she’d have to give up her job at McDonald’s, which provided additional income that she and her family truly needed. (Williams was parented by a single grandmother). Fortunately, she discovered that First Chance was a paid internship. As she would also learn, it also offered her tutoring and mentoring in a transformative experience that came to be a defining moment in her path to a career.

Finding a Niche in a Varied Industry

As an intern, my first introduction to a technology career was in marketing, then later coding. It was only by talking to people on the job that I learned about information systems technology [as a career option].”

Williams also found other supports at SDI, which led to her scuttling her plans for a post-graduation pre-med education in college, and put her on a path through business and marketing, coding, technology networking and systems design—all within the same tech company—during the heady days of the dot-com boom. Those varied work experiences led her to her niche in information systems networking. She finished her Bachelor’s degree with a concentration in business, with emphasis on technology. The company also provided support in her senior year of college to become a Cisco-certified networking associate. In all, through a series of progressive work and learning experiences, she became an established technology veteran with more than a decade of career stability at the same company.

Which is not to say the path to her current position as Technology Infrastructure Manager at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, was without challenges.

Challenging Workplace Insecurities


Jessica_talking2

My first [career] challenge was being typecast as a ‘young intern’.” As I grew professionally, “it was hard for me to be taken seriously for project management and other leadership roles.

It was only through proving myself by working on ‘special projects’ that I got the chance to show what I could do.”

One of her biggest challenges, she recalls—a challenge not uncommon to women, especially women entering the male-dominated fields like technology—was insecurity.

I had to learn to overcome the mentality that if I didn’t know something 100 percent initially, that I couldn’t do it. Instead I learned how to figure things out while working on the job.”

Asked about the current criticism of the tech industry as not being diverse enough and whether the dominant tech companies are prepared to live up to the corporate social responsibilities expected of other leading industries, Williams responds,Jessica talking 2

It doesn’t matter whether the tech industry is ready or not [to play a leadership role in social responsibility]; the social expectation is there, so the industry simply has to step up and meet [that societal expectation].”

Starbucks, Pushing the Bounds of CSR: Is That a Good Thing?

We knew when we first read about it, that we’d write a post about it. Howard Schultz and Starbucks had done it again—proven to be an agenda-setter on public engagement and corporate social responsibility (CSR). No, we’re not talking about the #RaceTogether initiative—but we’re including our thoughts on that in this post too! The impetus really began with Starbucks’s salute to military veterans in its For Love of Country recognition.Starbucks
For Love of Country may not be as familiar as Race Together, but it predates and overlaps with the much ballyhooed #RaceTogether. For those who may have missed it, Starbucks joined forces with journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran to produce a book and related advertising and media push to herald not only the courageous service of military veterans, but to also raise some prickly social issues–namely, who fights our wars in America’s all-volunteer army (and who doesn’t), and how those who do are acknowledged for their service.  (Not nearly meaningfully and substantively enough by the rest of us.)

We were impressed that Schultz, as a corporate leader, not only stepped out front on this sensitive topic, but then went one step further—in the minds of many, one step too far—by prodding us to talk about the contentious issue of “race.”

Starbucks tweet

 

Whether you thought well or ill or the #RaceTogether effort, or even question a company raising pangs of consciousness about the social justice of an all-volunteer army, or any other societal woe, we think there’s a lot to be gained by companies taking leadership on social issues.

There’s a long history of companies doing well by doing good. You’ve read some of our posts on Henry Ford and a whole array of others before and since who’ve put their money and their mouths to lead or join important social and civic conversations. Indeed, it’s well established that a socially active or PR savvy CEO brings added value to a company and even an industry

As further affirmation, just look at what tech moguls were able to help accomplish when they found their collective voice against sex bias and discrimination in #Indiana.

So we think it’s a good thing that CEOs like Howard Schultz embark on campaigns that remind us that companies share  our social pains and that, even better, they have the means to affect changes that make things better for us all. We all know that companies often engage their collective voices behind closed doors to secretly lobby for things they believe represent their corporate interests. We think it’s time more CEOs join the public dialogue about the things more enduring and sustaining that impact us all. Wanna’ talk about #RaceTogether? We’re game. And while we’re at it, let’s talk about For Love of Country, too!
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A New Era in Corporate Social Responsibility?

CSR

Okay, so we’ve been  MIA to attend to some new projects. But we thought we’d finish out 2014 and go into 2015 strong, with some words of wisdom on one of our favorite topics–CSR (corporate social responsibility).

As with everything else associated with business marketing and communications, there’s a way to do almost anything … then there’s a way to do things that are strategically aligned with our business purpose, goals, and values, etc. So it was interesting to us to run across this Harvard Business Review in-depth assessment of CSR programs, which can provide guidance to all us PR-types on why companies do what they do in CSR (the end goal), and how they might do it better. For your new year’s enjoyment, were passing along the article and advice here.

Most companies have long practiced some form of corporate social and environmental responsibility with the broad goal, simply, of contributing to the well-being of the communities and society they affect and on which they depend. But there is increasing pressure to dress up CSR as a business discipline and demand that every initiative deliver business results. That is asking too much of CSR and distracts from what must be its main goal …  Read more.

 

BTW, Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Greetings & Image

 

Reframing Issues for Public Policy in the Digital Age

We’re back! … from taking time away to do a deep dive into Tech PR. (We’ll be writing more about that in upcoming posts.) But in the meantime we stumbled upon this article on reframing issues in the digital age, which should be required reading for people who work in nonprofits. We work principally with nonprofits, and we love them and the causes they represent. The world’s a better place because they do what they do–but, for many, there’s so much room to do more, and do it better! The PR Doctor can’t reach everyone, so in the best spirit of aiding good causes and intentions everywhere, we’re sharing this post from Nonprofit Quarterly. And if you reside strictly in the commercial world and think nonprofit’s not your “thing,” be advised, there’s lots of good information here about shaping public opinion on just about anything. Enjoy!

  

“One of a social advocate’s most critical acts is to frame an issue. In framing, a communicator uses language, metaphor, and other means to bring the community into the issue in a particular way. So, for instance, tobacco control advocates reframed tobacco from a “personal vice” narrative, in which the public discourse centered around individual choice and behavior, to a “defective product” narrative, in which the role of corporate malfeasance and the need for protective regulations became clear. Reframing an issue is hard work, as frames are socially shared and persist over time; but it is worth it, because public opinion and policy preferences are frame dependent. The stories nonprofit communicators tell have the power to make the public more or less supportive of positive changes” … yet

“Too often, nonprofits have mistaken self-promotion and “click bait” as meaningful contributions to the public conversation on complex issues. “Clicks,” “views,” and “likes” only mean so much if the story they carry isn’t helping people to understand the causes of and solutions to complex social issues. More and more, organizations tackling tough social justice issues are recognizing that not just participating in but also changing the conversation is essential to achieving and sustaining meaningful impact.”  Read more.

Think you’re a thought leader? You’re probably wrong… but here are 3 ways to become one

As our readers know, we write regularly about public relations strategies and tactics, corporate social responsibility (CSR), marketing and customer service, storytelling, etc. Another topic that sparks our interest is thought leadership. Below we reblog an article on what makes a thought leader. As far as we’re concerned, we couldn’t have said it better. If you like the post, or have something else to say about thought leadership, let us know in the comments below.

Financial Post | Business

Thought leadership. A term bandied about daily by public relations people trying to build the reputation of their CEO. But most people talking about thought leadership have no clue what it means. And most content labelled as “thought leadership” is actually missing the elements of both “thought” and “leadership”.

That’s a shame, because what Canadian businesses desperately need right now are a few business leaders who are willing to seize the conch, demonstrate leadership, and challenge government and industry alike in a public and personal way.  Instead, Canadian leaders are notably absent from the international stage. January’s meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos is a perfect example. Of the more than 2,500 participants, only 36 are listed as coming from Canada. Just eight speakers for the summit are listed as Canadian, and not a single one was representing a Canadian-based business.

That means Canadian CEOs were almost…

View original post 888 more words

Smart Marketing & Corporate Social Responsibility: Beyond A Marriage of Convenience

Infographic of corporate reputation and social responsibility by Boston College professor

We’ve said before that we’re big proponents of “smart marketing”:  Companies that show they “get it” by marrying their business mission and vision to also serve some public good. By another name, it’s also called corporate social responsibility.

That approach to business, articulated with authority by Henry Ford in the early 20th Century—has been a proven model for “good,” as well as for effective business practices. Today it’s carried forward by many visionary companies.

We like to call it “makes-sense marketing” because, in effect, these companies are paying it forward and stockpiling public goodwill, as well as managing their “bottom line.” Periodically, we like writing about those companies and their campaigns on these pages.

So it brings us great pleasure to share this round-up of “smart marketing” companies, first published by Hubspot, who have made their “giving back” programs an integral part of the company culture. These companies include American Express, Lowe’s, General Electric, and others you may not be aware of.

And, more recently, another natural disaster, the incredible Typhoon Haiyan, motivated another corporate giant—Google–to get creative and show how it could help. Melissa Agnes writes about how Google is combining its business mission and tools with public service to provide critical help to those suffering during an enormous crisis.

Please take a few moments to check out these stories, take a few notes, and perhaps a few lessons from what they’ve done. And, by all means, tell us what you think. We’d like to see smart marketing—makes-sense marketing—become a real movement!

*A final note: As if made to order, shortly after publishing, we ran across this Forbes article on “Purpose” that we think summarizes the ethos quite nicely. The only thing we would add to the writer’s bullet list is be certain to “act” on your purpose!

Starbucks’ Cause Marketing & CSR: Two Views

Starbucks logoGenerally speaking, we like Starbucks corporate style, and we’ve given them a few shoutouts in previous posts for providing a good example in cause-related marketing and corporate social responsibility (CSR). But, like many companies, they haven’t always met our expectations in every area. So, to balance the perspective, we’re reblogging a post that offers potentially another view of Starbucks. This doesn’t mean we’ve changed our view of Starbucks; we still think the company’s miles ahead of most companies in social listening, social marketing, and CSR. But, fair is fair, and we  provide this post to keep you informed to make up your own mind. Let us know what you think.

“It is with interest that I saw with the US Government shut down continuing in Washington D.C. that Starbucks have started a campaign to facilitate change in our Nation’s capital. They are offering a free coffee to anyone who buys their fellowman their favourite drink in one of their stores.

My initial thought was this was good and I was pleased they cared enough about this issue to start this promotion. I considered that this shows their social responsibility by getting involved and trying to help… or are they?”

Read more Starbucks: Real Concern or Just Good Marketing? http://linkd.in/17DigzD

And, in case you haven’t encountered it yet, here’s an AdWeek write-up of Starbucks’ latest campaign.


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