September 25, 2019

Society is calling
for stronger corporate social responsibility.

Public relations has always been about earning and keeping the public’s trust.

 

Trust is getting harder for brands to earn, while at the same time easier to lose. That’s why it’s imperative for brands to understand the shifts that occur in public trust from year-to-year, because boy do they shift. In a digital and social age, one tweet can drastically change your customers’ perception of your brand.

For over 19 years the Edelman Trust Barometer has given us great insight into big shifts regarding who and what the public trusts. A surprising result and reordering of trust to more local sources occurred in 2019, with “my employer” emerging as the most trusted entity. Consider the responsibility that brands must take on to keep that trust.

Right now, 80% of us trust our employer. But we have high expectations in order for them to maintain that trust. The latest research shows that your employees and your customers expect your company to stand for something through corporate social responsibility (CSR) action. CSR, also known as corporate citizenship, is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable to itself, its stakeholders, and the larger community. The more successful a company is, the more responsibility it has to lead in setting standards of good behavior for its peers, competition and industry.

The return on investment (ROI) for an ethical CSR program is high. Your employees will reward you with loyalty, increased trust, and advocacy on your behalf. You’ll build affinity for your brand while forging a strong bond with the community.

The new business mandate for CEOs.

Building trust with employees—even prioritizing them above customers and stakeholders—just became the new mandate for CEOs and leadership.

Why are so many of us willing to have this faith in our employer? Research tells us that the relationships that are closest to us feel more controllable. In the absence of leadership in society, it turns out that more people are looking to their company leaders to lead and guide through their actions so that trust as a whole can be restored.

As PR strategists we see this as both an opportunity and a call to action for CEOs and the brands they lead. Employees are challenging their employers to stand for something. 

And when employees feel their companies are not taking a strong-enough stance on social conditions, employees feel empowered to challenge their employers. An example of this is the recent walkout by Google employees because of how they felt about the company’s handling of sexual misconduct cases.

For far too long, brands were expected to seek the middle ground—not to rock the boat or offend anyone’s beliefs or values. But in today’s society, that’s no longer sound advice.

Investors are also looking to put money in companies that take a position on social and environmental issues. It turns out that more than 80% of mainstream investors now consider ESG information—environmental, social, and governance—when making investment decisions, according to a recent Oxford University study.

As your employees, customers, and investors scrutinize your company’s social aspirations to understand what your company believes in and stands for, now is the time to put extra effort and strategic thought towards a corporate social responsibility plan.

The best CSR plan involves and gives voice to your employees, impacts your local community, and aligns with your mission and purpose.

By being transparent and sharing your CSR activities with your customers and stakeholders, doing good will do good for your business.

Case in point—when our client, Flagstar Bank, created their #FlagstarCraftsCommunity initiative to donate funds to 36 local nonprofits and shared the news on social media, post engagement increased 258%. This was in addition to the multiple local media outlets that were happy to showcase the brand’s efforts, along with employees who were thrilled their company was investing locally.

“We were blown away by the success of the program,” said Marcus Lona, Flagstar Bank, first vice president and brand experience leader. “Our employees took pride in the program; the community was engaged in it; and the nonprofits loved it. It helped us build relationships with them and, most importantly, it helped us demonstrate that we were making good on our word when we said we would be involved and invested in our new communities.”

Are you considering a shift in your CSR priorities? We’d love to help.

To get in touch with the head of Bailey Lauerman Public Relations, Kathleen Al-Marhoon, APR, email kalmarhoon@blne.email.

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