Corporate Social Responsibility
One of the best ways to win hearts and minds is to do good. According to Cone’s Cause Evaluation Study, 88% of Americans say it is acceptable for companies to involve a cause or issue in their marketing.
This record number represents a 33% increase since Cone began measuring in 1993. A full 85% of consumers have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about, and 90% of consumers want companies to tell them the ways they are supporting causes. Put another way: More than 278 million people in the U.S. want to know what a company is doing to benefit a cause.
If anything, companies aren’t talking enough about the actual good things they do. In one poll of employees, 24% reported that sustainability factored as a top priority in business decisions, yet only 17% said that their companies talked often about their sustainability efforts to employees. Meanwhile, 75% of consumers in another poll reported that it was “important for companies to be ‘socially responsible.’”
Public relations firms create campaigns that go beyond mere product and brand promotion to emphasize transparency, authenticity, good works, and ethical behavior. They key is to avoid the “lipstick on a pig” mentality by doing good things and then telling people about it. In the age of social media, stakeholders demand transparency and are more aware than ever when companies violate this imperative. Activists have complained about “greenwashing” via Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns,
and they now target “pinkwashing,” or the use of breast cancer campaigns, to cover up actions that seem to contribute to cancer. As Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Cantor has argued, branding should “start with an authenticity test.” The same holds true for Corporate Social Responsibility programs. At all points, firms should question whether the program reflects the truth, serving clients as ethical counselors. Pushing back the tide of greenwashing takes effort, but over time it has helped produce better communications, less skeptical audiences, and healthier client organizations.