Communicating CSR: Taking an Outside-In Approach to an Inside Job

Communicating CSR: Taking an Outside-In Approach to an Inside Job

By Richelle Feigin

Successful corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, and the communications that help bring them to light, require alignment between an organization’s externally projected image and its internal perception—in other words, a mashup of broad perspectives or what’s known as an outside-in approach. One group of key stakeholders that needs to be involved in this process are employees. In fact, there’s a prediction that says employees “take the wheel” on CSR in 2019.

At least three areas of your company benefit when employees get involved in your CSR communications: company credibility, employee skills and recruitment efforts. Here’s a closer look at these three areas, along with examples to help you enhance your CSR communication by including employees.

  1. Credibility

Posting pictures of employees volunteering, while very common, just doesn’t get your CSR message across. In fact, Harvard Business Review’s Mark Kramer notes that companies trying to “show” the world that they are socially conscious keep failing in their pursuits. When it comes to CSR and brand reputation, make it your goal to articulate how your company’s social purpose enables employees to find meaning not merely at a company CSR event, but in their day-to-day lives.

For its 125-year anniversary, Merck introduced “125 Years of Helping the World Be Well—A New Way Every Day,” which demonstrated its commitment to CSR and inspired employees to volunteer at a local level. The company showcased stories from employees’ perspectives, providing insight into Merck’s social impact from a different lens. In addition to garnering the goodwill of employees, the campaign gained external recognition, earning first place as “Employee Volunteer Program” of PR Daily’s CSR Awards.

  1. Skills

Smart companies understand how including employees in their CSR strategy helps expand employee skills. Some companies provide skills-based volunteer assignments as part of an employee’s professional development plan. These assignments range from a one-hour virtual strategy session to tackling prevailing social issues in the developing world.

IBM provides opportunities for its top employees to serve abroad through IBM Corporate Service Corps initiative. But what’s most striking about this initiative is its multitude of options, giving employees the flexibility to choose or design projects they are passionate about. Additionally, the company equips employees through a community portal with resources such as videos and other tools to help them select or create these projects. The portal, which is also available to the public, communicates IBM’s ongoing support of volunteerism, putting into practice the adage “actions speak louder than words.”

  1. Recruitment

Employees want to be proud of their workplace and seek companies that satisfy their desire to be engaged. The newest addition to the workforce, Gen Zers are no exception. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to name a few, make it easy for prospective employees to explore what companies are doing in CSR. Your company’s use of such platforms engages audiences and provides examples of social good in real time. This has the added benefit of attracting talent.

Social media account takeovers are becoming an increasing trend for companies and universities. The organizations provide social media ambassador training to engaged employees, then, during a set time, allow these employees to take over posting from their sites to provide a “day in the life” perspective. When companies engage their employee volunteers in similar ways, it recognizes and recruits volunteers within the organization, and communicates the company’s CSR story to the outside world, attracting prospective employees and enhancing your CSR reputation.

For more information on how Vitiello Communications Group (VTLO) can help you incorporate an outside-in approach and amplify your CSR communication, email us at  or call 732-238-6622.

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