Posts Tagged 'social responsibility'

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!

Social Responsibility and Small Business

woman business owner

Too often when we talk about social responsibility in business, the default image is of some large corporation or conglomerate, and what they are or aren’t doing in their business to make the world a better place. Rarely do we stop to think or talk about how small businesses—like ours, MediaWorks, Inc.—can be engaged as socially responsible businesses. We recently ran across a great article from Stanford Social Innovation Review that offers a powerful narrative and a template for how even the smallest businesses can engage in socially responsible business practices. It starts like this:

How To Be A Socially Responsible Small Business

1)      Your money is a powerful vehicle for change. Every dollar that you spend is an opportunity to make a conscious choice to support values-aligned businesses. Your dollar is your “vote.”

2)      Buy local. Coffee, lunch, office supplies, support services, including insurance, banking, repairs, office supplies, office security, etc. These are all services needed by most businesses that can have a measurable impact on a community when purchased, where possible, locally.                   small retail shop

3)      That measurable impact is known as the “multiplier effect.” Dollars spent locally tend to circulate longer within a local community and they’ve also been reported to increase levels of collaboration and mutual support among businesses, as well as total dollars spent.

4)      Giving back. The book on which the Stanford Review article is based, Small Business, Big Change: A Microentrepreneur’s Guide to Social Responsibility, offers a couple of creative ways that small business can give back to their community.

  • Contribute cash or in-kind donations to local causes and organizations that serve community needs.
  • Donate a percent of revenues or a percent of the cost of products or services to community organizations you support.

To find out more of the details, we highly recommend reading the article, or perhaps buying the book. But most importantly, realize there’s an important role for small businesses to play in social responsibility.

We’re already engaging in some of these practices (buying local), and look forward to more ways to do our part. Your small business can send out a powerful message about social responsibility in its local practices that can become a catalyst for communitywide, and perhaps global, change.

Businesswoman Assisting Customers

One last thing, here’s an update on the “big picture” in CSR, “How the Voice of the People is Driving Corporate Social Responsibility,” from Harvard Business Review: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/07/how_the_voice_of_the_people_is.html?utm_source=Socialflow&utm_medium=Tweet&utm_campaign=Socialflow

Richard Branson and Global B-Team Look to Make Bold Moves in Corporate Social Responsibility

Richard Branson

Do you know about The B-Team?

Virgin enterprises founder Richard Branson has assembled an international braintrust
to make corporate social responsibility  a frontburner issue among C-suite execs and in boardrooms.

We gather that this effort is designed to bring the same kind of muscle to perplexing and pervasive social issues as some companies already do individually and foundations frequently do collectively. Yet, Branson’s goal is to harness the somewhat unique collective power of global business to amplify the impact on some of the world’s most intractable social problems.

By its own telling, The B-Team’s “vision of the future is a world in which the purpose of business is to be a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit.”

Taking  up the mantle of a modern-day Henry Ford, The B-Team offers an equally bold mission:  “to deliver a ‘Plan B’ that puts people and planet alongside profit. Plan A — where companies have been driven by the profit motive alone — is no longer acceptable.”

B team screen shot

The B-Team Web Site

Branson, noted for his bold and audacious corporate moves, brings a very different force, and perhaps focus, to the rather low-key world of CSR. The powerhouse group’s manifesto is an unblinking call to action, which includes these statements :

  • “Non-Profits alone cannot solve the tasks at hand, while many governments are unwilling or unable to act.
  • “While there are myriad reasons we’ve arrived at this juncture, much of the blame rests with the principles and practices of ‘business as usual’.
  • “These are not the outcomes we envisioned as we grew our companies; this is not the dream that inspired us.
  • “And the overwhelming conclusion we’ve reached is that businesses have been a major contributor to the problems, and we as business leaders have the responsibility of creating sustainable solutions.”

(Check out their video declaration of these principles:  http://bteam.org/leadership/watch-the-b-team-declaration/ )

We hope it makes a difference. We couldn’t agree more that the public and nonprofit sectors alone can’t address the growing host of existing global and social problems—a number of which are caused by bad business practices. This movement bears watching; and we hope this consolidated global business force can bring to fruition some of its most lofty goals:

“Therefore, if we leverage the many positives of business – the spirit of enterprise,
innovation and entrepreneurship that has helped realize improvements in quality
of life and enabled technological and scientific progress – we can create an
unprecedented era of sustainable, inclusive prosperity for all.”

So what do you think? Are you enthusiastic? We’d love to  read your comments.

More On Companies Daring To Do Good

Panera Restaurants

Over the span of our posts, we’ve complimented a wide array of companies that seem to be particularly attuned to marrying their business operations with what we call “smart marketing” and corporate social responsibility. Panera has been cited as one such company, on more than one occasion. Today, in his own words, Panera’s founder, Ron Shaich, talks about the principles that guide the company’s business and good deeds … Daring to Do Good

And on more than one occasion, we’ve written about the benefits of C-suite blogging as a way of “keeping it real” and staying in touch with customers and other important audiences. We’re happy to give a platform to others who share that view. Here’s a testimony from Twitter social leader & blogger, Claire Diaz-Ortiz …

“Starting a blog was one of the smartest things I ever did …”

May 07, 2013

Inspired reading, on both counts, we hope! Let us know what you think.

Why Don’t They Call It “Makes-Sense” Marketing?

In past posts we’ve featured the Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns of Panera, Starbucks, Exxon and more, and there are many others out there makingPie  Chart Marketing Image similar “smart” marketing moves. One of the common equations of these and other successful cause-related marketing is that the causes they support are so intrinsically tied to their industries and their business models. So, it occurred to us, why don’t we just call these efforts “makes-sense” marketing”?

Here’s another noteworthy CSR campaign—this one by OfficeMax. The retail office supply company is providing—guess what—to schools? School supplies! It’s a win for the retailer and no doubt for the appreciative teachers, kids and administrators at receiving schools. Makes sense, right?

Clearly, more such smart marketing moves are needed, and we like to spotlight as many as we can. So if you’re aware of other smart marketing moves by companies, large and small, please let us know. Just makes sense, doesn’t it?

Exxon: Let’s Solve This

We never want to give praise to oil companies too quickly for fear we’ll be just as readily contradicted (like $5/gallon regular gasoline prices, offshore drilling, et al.). Yet, we have to say we’re impressed with Exxon’s advertising and “Let’s Solve This”  campaign to improve education, particularly US math and science education (STEM).

What grabbed our attention recently were the timely Exxon2and attractive national ads in support of teachers and educational improvement. Not only was the advertising dead-on timely, coming as it did about a week after the nationally-watched teachers’ strike that delayed the start of school in Chicago [and a few other places], but it also didn’t hurt that it coincided with a widely circulated New York Times’ story on teachers’ unions—once Democratic stalwarts—now cultivating strategic relationships with key Republicans across the country. While we’re not taking political sides on these issues, we acknowledge wholeheartedly our previous PR work on behalf of schools and school reform causes. In this instance, though, our aim is to acknowledge a company for its smart and committed corporate support on behalf issues critical to their corporate mission and for the betterment of society.

We’re always impressed when companies show they “get it” by not only taking up, but taking the lead on these kinds of issues. So, we took a look at the “Let’s Solve This” and found out some things you might want to know. Exxon/Mobil has been sponsoring this cause since 2009, with the National Math and Science Initiative, to promote teacher training and student preparation in so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). Without question, this is a critical issue for Exxon/Mobil and other corporations that depend on US ingenuity in these fields; but, of course, it’s also a critical issue for our society, in general, as Americans have been slipping further and further down in academic achievement in these areas. We like the fact the Exxon not only supports these issues behind the scene, but has shown a willingness to shine a light onto larger related issues (like the quality of education overall), even when such issues reach the point of contention.

So we’re hoping that “Let’s Solve This” does indeed make crucial headway on the series of vexing issues related to STEM. In doing so, perhaps they can provide a model for how corporate social responsibility, in general, can work on a variety of other issues.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Starbucks Redux and Other Updates

Did you notice? Have you tasted it yet?  While others are writing about Starbucks serving beer and wine, we note that CEO Howard Schultz has upped the ante on his Creating Jobs for America corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaign by increasing the campaign’s visibility in stores, and even temporarily branding the effort with its own custom brew, Indivisible.

We wrote about this CSR campaign after it was  launched in November, 2011.  We can only repeat our endorsement of a program, and a movement, whose time has come.

Since we first wrote about Create Jobs for America, Starbucks and its customers and partners have raised $11.5 million to help create jobs in the US.

What’s even better is that the $11.5 million investment has been leveraged to generate more than $80 million in loans to help create and maintain jobs in underserved American communities.

It should be duly noted that Starbucks and its foundation hasn’t accomplished this alone. Along with customers, other partners include Citi Community Development and Citi Foundation, which recently contributed $1 million to the effort, and the Opportunity Finance Network.

In our earlier post we acknowledged Schultz’s chutzpah in launching this CSR effort by titling our post,“Putting His Money Where His Mouth Is …” Since then, it’s clear this has become an even more collective effort, sparked with a new burst of  purpose and audacity.

We encourage all to continue press forward in this important social responsibility initiative. For more info, visit:
http://www.createjobsforusa.org/on/demandware.store/Sites-Createjobsusa-Site/default/Default-Start?gclid=COyA6ZGT8bACFYEKKgodsWwQWw

Speaking of Corporate Social Responsibility …

We’ve also blogged and tweeted  about Panera Bread and its growing social responsibility experiment, the Pay-What-You-Can-Cafes. We’re very pleased at the announcement that they’re converting one of their restaurants in our own backyard (Chicago) to the pay-what you can model.

We’ve said it warms our hearts when companies show that “they get it” by identifying signature corporate-giving-back efforts that not only advance their business model, but also address major social issues—in this case, poverty,  hunger, and even job training. For more details, check out Panera’s website, http://paneracares.org/what-we-do/.

A final note, while this campaign is new to us, Chevron recently garnered headlines for its “grow manufacturing jobs initiatives.” The “We Agree” campaign outlines the company’s social responsibility efforts on a variety of fronts, most particularly its $8 billion in energy production projects and jobs. Here, again, a highlight of the campaign is creating strategic partnerships to build collective action, and leverage resources for even greater impact.

Check it out for yourself. Here’s where you can find more information on “We Agree”: http://www.chevron.com/weagree/

What do you think of these CSR campaigns? Heard about others? We want to hear from you. Write us with your feedback here, or send us a Facebook update or tweet, via this post.

Putting His Money Where His Mouth Is–Starbucks’s Howard Schultz

Amid the swarm of scandalous news of late–much of it involving leaders in government, major companies and organizations worldwide–a comparatively quiet effort has been taking shape, and growing, designed to bring pride, leadership and employment back to Americans. (We say quiet, because after an initial flurry, we haven’t heard much more about it in the news.) In fact, the Create Jobs for USA campaign spearheaded by Starbucks’s CEO Howard Schultz is a major bright spot is what appears to be the dismal landscape of corporate America. In our last blog, we called it a game-changer, because at least temporarily, it’s somewhat cooled the divisive political rhetoric and given us a cause nearly all Americans can champion. What began with a PR flourish (full-court newspaper and TV interviews, full-page ads, etc.) is now a bona fide movement and organization. To date, Starbuck’s and its partners, the Opportunity Finance Network, has leveraged more than $6.5 million for the admirable cause of putting American back to work. (The program was kicked off with a reported $5 million investment from the Starbucks Foundation and the rest has been raised from customers through the sale of colorful wristbands at $5 each. This money has gone into a revolving loan fund for small businesses and others providing community-based jobs.

While Schultz and his efforts have come under some criticism from manufacturers (http://www.manufacturing.net/blogs/2011/12/does-starbucks-create-jobs-for-usa) and from unions re: barista wages, Schultz’s initiative and commitment to this larger cause should be commended. Yes, businesses and corporations do good things every day, and for that we can all be thankful: They provide jobs for people and philanthropy for the communities where they operate, and collectively they contribute to the health and well-being of our nation’s economy (for the most part). Yet, as we have seen, they can also do a lot  of harm–need we even recite a list: BP, Countrywide, “Wall Street” firms, Fannie Mae, etc. Typically today, when a major company talks about a bold move, it’s in the wrong direction–layoffs, ethical lapses, political quick-fixes, and scandal-ridden operations. This has been an ongoing since at least 2001, seemingly since the bankruptcy of Enron, and no less likely, even before.

While others may raise questions about the sincerity and commitment of Starbucks’s Create Jobs for USA–mind you, no corporate action impacting the public should go unscrutinized–we should also give kudos when a corporate leader stands up, takes on the prickly issues, and puts his money where his mouth is. Way to go, Howard!

One Practitioner’s Review of 2011 Public Relations

What can we learn about public relations from the fractious events of 2011? Here are our thoughts on lessons provided by the mistakes and success of others.

Our 2011 Public Relations “Roses” & “Brickbats”

Brickbats            

Jerry Sandusky & Penn State: The biggest PR mistake would be to take on Sandusky as a client. Even as this case wends its ugly course through the criminal justice system and the courts, we know that there are some practitioners just chomping at the bit at the opportunity to sign up this high-profile client. Yes, we know, we’ve heard it all before. “A PR agent is like a defense attorney–every miscreant deserves one.” If you believe that, then you should be barred from PR practice. PR will never maintain professional legitimacy if every alleged social predator and sociopath is able to find a “spin doctor” to plead his or her cause. In PR, as in society, some acts must be indefensible.

Anthony Weiner: Where do we even begin with a public figure who has admitted to the arrogant, half-witted behavior of former Congressman Anthony Weiner? We can all be glad that Weiner has graciously retreated from public life–at least for now–to mend his life, and especially his family life. Amen, and all good wishes to him. Perhaps after some amount of reflection and time away from public life, PR specialists will flock to represent what some–at least in New York, say is a really talented guy. Until then, goodbye and good riddance.

Let’s Wait & See

Netflix: What happens when you do the right thing the wrong way? Faced with an inevitably changing business model, Netflix  moved, apparently too aggressively, to spin-off its declining, old-school DVD mail-delivery service from its growing, and increasingly profitable, video downstreaming service. What CEO wouldn’t? Alas, the devil is in the details. Tone-deaf implementation–in the form on a sudden announcement about two different services provided by two different companies–led to a consumer revolt worthy of the reformulated Coke debacle. What should have  been good management judgement nearly ruined this once-popular company. Within months its stock value dropped by two-thirds. Ham-handed implementation and almost no regard to the convenience and versatility that loyal customers valued in this company nearly led to its downfall. Can good PR save Netflix? The company has clearly learned some valuable lessons about its customers and how to communicate with them. (For now, they’ve continued their existing business model, emphasizing the more profitable downstreaming in their marketing; income has rebounded.) Bet they’ve gotten a better sense for how to handle inevitable price increases!

A Rose

Starbucks: In a year, and possibly an era, when there aren’t a lot of large-scale good-news stories coming out of corporate America, we give Starbucks a rose for its Create Jobs for USA corporate social responsibility program. (We’ll be taking a closer look at this in our next blog.) For us, this program was a game-changer. It changed the quality of the discourse about corporate, political and civic leadership in America during a period that has been particularly bleak, divisive, and some might say de-moralizing. The program’s tackled some tough and touchy subjects today: unemployment, concentration of wealth, corporate mismanagement and executive accountability, civil discourse and public leadership, yet it’s championed a cause we can all believe in. Thanks, Howard!


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