Integrating CSR into Brand Strategy

Stacy Cline, GoDaddy Inc.

It’s something I hear all of the time from CSR professionals, “We are doing such impactful and incredible work; why won’t our marketing team showcase this?”

In a world where purpose-driven brands are increasingly more important and companies are expected to speak out on issues, it’s crucial that corporate citizenship efforts are woven into the fabric of the business. Yet there’s often a missed opportunity to leverage CSR efforts as brand building initiatives.

Unfortunately, not all companies have the same ethos as TOMS, Nike, or Patagonia where purpose has been integrated into the brand message since day one. For many of us, achieving brand integration is a longer journey. It takes time to build relationships with partners in brand and marketing, showcase the value, build their buy-in, and create strategies for CSR and brand integration. However, it is well worth the effort.  Here are a few tips on getting started:

  1. CSR is an investment in the brand. While large donations are important, corporate social responsibility and signature program efforts should fulfill the brand purpose. CSR efforts should be an extension of the brand work. They are more than a chunk of change. Aligning your CSR and/or signature program efforts with your company’s mission and vision is more important than ever.
  2. Words matter. Language should be consistent throughout the brand and CSR initiatives. For example:
    1. GoDaddy’s vision: to radically shift the global economy towards independent entrepreneurial ventures. Our mission is to empower entrepreneurs everywhere, making opportunity more inclusive for all.
    2. CSR Signature program mission: Empower by GoDaddy equips entrepreneurs in underserved communities with the training, tools and resources they need to be successful.
  3. Align with their goals. Everyone is busy. Marketing and brand departments often have large goals to achieve and impression numbers to hit. Communicate in a way that allows your teams to see the value in your work, how the work will create an emotional connection with your customers, and how this work helps them achieve their goals.
  4. Get leadership buy-in. It’s no secret that CSR brings value to customers, employees, and communities. Corporate executives can’t miss seeing the recent Business Roundtable statement, Larry Fink’s 2018 letter to CEOs, or the parade of data showcasing the increasing importance of CSR to consumers and employees. But it still takes time to move from the theoretical to the tangible. Showcase the data and stories to communicate the true ROI to leadership teams. When leadership sees the value, they help drive the efforts forward.

Integrating social responsibility and brand efforts is a continuous process. Chip away, build relationships, and share examples of companies who are doing it right.

Do you have other tips or examples on integrating CSR and brand efforts? Please share with the ACCP community. ACCP has developed a report with comprehensive data in infographics on each of these five compelling reasons to invest in growing your company’s CSR. The first Infographic is available to all here, however the full report is available only to ACCP member companies.

Check out Made in America, a GoDaddy docu-series that addresses the entrepreneurship inequality in America, while showcasing the stories of two Memphis entrepreneurs who are overcoming barriers through the Empower by GoDaddy social impact program.

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