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How to Create an Effective CSR Communication Model

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  • Thiagarajan
    Posted by: Zoher Doctor zoherdoctor The role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in management is becoming more central than ever before, as is evident
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 9, 2012
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      Posted by: "Zoher Doctor" zoherdoctor

      The role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in management is becoming
      more central than ever before, as is evident from the fact that so far more
      than 1500 companies worldwide have published their CSR reports. One of the
      key aspects of good CSR practices involves effective and transparent
      communication channels with internal and external stakeholders. This
      process is a key to identify issues of concerns that the company should
      address and after these have been addressed, to inform about the ensuing
      performance. Consequently, there is an increased demand for establishing an
      appropriate communication strategy that helps identify proper communication
      tools and confirms that the right information is collected and
      disseminated. Studies have shown that despite this growing importance of
      CSR communication, organizations still have to learn how to communicate
      their CSR. The purpose of this article is to present some key areas that
      help create a workable model for communicating CSR inside and outside an

      *The Challenges*

      Perhaps the biggest challenge that companies face in communicating CSR is
      to be able to structure the message about the significance of CSR for the
      company. Externally, the other challenge is justifying, explaining and
      convincing different stakeholders and interest groups why certain CSR
      issues are logical and necessary to be undertaken by the company.

      The source of information is another key challenge. What and how the
      stakeholders get their information remain fundamental issues that need to
      be addressed. TV, internet, CSR reports, magazines and newspapers are most
      often the source of information. Furthermore, do the reporters or
      columnists have the necessary CSR background to comment on ethical
      practices? The answer remains unknown!

      *The Timing:*

      It is important to classify the timing of the dialogue into three phases;
      beginning, midpoint and culmination. The communication techniques, channels
      and content at all three stages will vary significantly. At the beginning,
      two essential objectives should be achieved. Firstly, to educate the
      stakeholder about CSR and secondly, to identify the CSR issues that should
      be addressed. The midpoint communication revolves around updating the
      stakeholders on the progress of the CSR process, discussing the status of
      the performance indicators, and to address any challenges and formulating
      action plans if necessary. At the culmination, the communication is about
      celebrating the achievements and owning up to any shortcomings.

      *The Audience:*

      The company should realize that the type of audience dictates the direction
      the communication model takes. The audience/ stakeholder for every
      organization are unique and represent their own unique issues and concerns.
      A mining company for example will have to worry about the communities being
      uprooted as a result of the discovery whereas a hospital has to worry about
      the patients and the communities surrounding the hospital. The trick is to
      have a hand on pulse of the stakeholder through an effective engagement
      mechanism and to feed the findings of the engagement into the structure of
      the CSR communication model.

      *The Content:*

      In general, the stakeholders often determine the content of the CSR
      message. Investors and owners are more interested about the cost, revenues,
      and the financial implication of adopting CSR principle, thus their
      messages should contains more statistical information. Regulators and
      policy makers need to be convinced about the necessity of creating new
      policies and regulations, and regarding industry wide CSR practices.
      Consequently, their message should contain the benefits that community will
      gain by applying the ethical principles and how the CSR contributes to the
      welfare of the community at large.

      CSR community messaging serves two main purposes; the contribution the
      company is making to community wellbeing and the importance of such
      practices. The later ensures that the company celebrates its CSR victories
      and former is meant to tap onto community power to encourage companies to
      do better. Similarly, social organizations need to be aware about the
      difference between philanthropic activities and CSR and their messaging
      will reflect that.

      The CSR messaging to internal stakeholders also needs to be customized at
      each management level. While at the executive level, the message should be
      more strategic in nature; that for mid management level should be more
      about the implementation aspect of CSR. CSR message at the lower management
      level should be emphasize the benefits of adopting CSR practice in their
      daily works and how it can positively affect their work environment and
      their future.

      *The Channels:*

      A successful and holistic CSR communication plan should make use of as many
      channels as possible to enhance the reach of its message. Whether it is
      through representation on external committees or through a carefully
      planned social media presence, utilization of multiple channels to position
      your CSR message is paramount for the success of your CSR program. A page
      on your corporate website dedicated to your concept of CSR goes a long way
      in cultivating the knowledge and understanding of your CSR stance among
      stakeholders. The language should be culturally sensitive and the content a
      representation of the Company's unique brand of CSR. One on One meeting
      with key stakeholders is also a great way not only to cultivate trust but
      also to get your message across. This may seem tedious but planned in a
      careful and periodic manner takes much less effort and gives much better
      results than dinner parties with 200 people. Lastly, a CSR report that
      tracks the progress of the company on key CSR issues as well as on
      operational aspects that have a social dimension. A well-presented CSR
      report is considered the ultimate evidence of a company's commitment to CSR
      and of its pledge to transparent and inclusive communication.



      Warm regards

      Zoher Doctor

      +91 9824063400

      Financial Planner & Advisor - Smart Money Inc

      Founder & Managing Trustee - Vikas Trust
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