Communicating corporate social responsibility (CSR) effectively to inform and inspire your audience.
Lisa Fratzke, Partner & Executive Strategist
Now more than ever, consumers are looking to buy from companies that are making the world a better place, and employees are looking to join companies that align with their core values. The proof is in the data: 77% of consumers are motivated to purchase from companies that are making the world better, and 78% of millennials say that whether or not a company mirrors their ideals has influenced their decision to work there.
That’s why having a corporate social responsibility strategy is so important. Creating and implementing a strategy is often only half the battle. The other half is how you communicate your corporate citizenship efforts internally and externally to drive buy-in, engagement, and inspire your audience.
That’s where human-centered communications come in.
What is Human-Centered Communication?
A human-centered approach to communications puts people and their stories at the center of your storytelling. It’s designing communications with the end user in mind to evoke emotion and connect them with the shared human experience. The key to implementing a human-centered communications approach is cultivating empathy for your target audience and gathering data and insights about what is most important to them.
Often, this can be accomplished through implementing consumer and employee surveys. You can also glean critical insights by tracking metrics for the content you produce internally and externally to understand what formats, topics, and stories connect most with your audience.
How to Speak Human When Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility
Lead With Impact – Not Just Statistics
When communicating the impact your organization has made in the world through your corporate citizenship efforts, it can be tempting to rely on numbers alone. This corporate-centered approach to communication can often cause your audience to tune out. You are putting your company at the center of the story. It’s tempting to take this approach – in fact, many brands fall into this pattern.
Communicating hard statistics and numbers is essential – but it’s not the whole story. It’s important to relate those numbers to the impact you are making in the world, which gives them meaning. It’s the bold and daring brands that put the people they are impacting or the employees who are making the difference at the center of their storytelling efforts that deliver a more compelling message that resonates, inspires, and is fundamentally more shareable.
Brand Example: Airbnb
In the middle of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2017, Airbnb launched a CSR campaign called #weaccept. They released a 30-second ad in the middle of the Superbowl, with a compilation of faces and meaningful text sharing the importance of embracing diversity. This ad was designed to catch people’s attention, engage their emotions and inspire them to learn more on Airbnb’s website. The storytelling on their website did an amazing job of connecting the human need behind the initiative with the company’s goal of providing housing over the next five years for 100,000 displaced people.
Communicate the “Why’ Before the “What”
When communicating corporate citizenship initiatives, it is important to share the “why” behind them before you share “what” you are doing to make a difference. This “why” explains what’s at stake if you don’t take action and is the core message designed to resonate with your audience. The more powerful the “why,” the more it will connect and inspire.
Often, sharing the “why” behind your corporate social responsibility efforts will be more effective if it relates to your company’s purpose and core values, which explain why your company exists and the values that guide you. Loyal consumers and employees who follow your brand likely already resonate with your purpose and core values. So, if you can identify CSR initiatives that are in sync with who you are as a company and what you value, it becomes that much easier to generate buy-in with your communication efforts.
Brand Example: Patagonia
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard recently announced that instead of going public, the company is “going purpose.” To ensure that their purpose to “save our home planet” remains the guiding light for Patagonia, Chouinard transferred ownership of the company to the Patagonia Purpose Trust and Holdfast Collective, a non-profit dedicated to “fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature.”
This story was featured on Patagonia’s homepage and picked up throughout the media as a rare example of a founder and company putting purpose before profits. The “why” behind this initiative is fueled by Patagonia’s CSR efforts and clearly syncs up with Patagonia’s “why” as a brand, which will help deepen customer and employee loyalty.
Get Visual About Your Storytelling
When communicating corporate social responsibility initiatives, it is important to find visuals that tell your story – whether that is eye-catching graphics, engaging images, or emotive videos. Why is this important? According to 3M, visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text by the human brain and convey an idea, story or emotion more quickly. Content with visuals also generates 95% more views online.
When communicating corporate citizenship initiatives, it is essential to identify the right types of visuals for your storytelling. If you have hard data to convey in an annual CSR report, make sure to take the time to design innovative infographics that tell your story. To increase awareness around your CSR initiatives, it’s important to identify human-centered images that convey emotion or videos that encapsulate the human experience that can be shared externally across traditional and online media and via internal communications.
Brand Example: Oatly
Oatly is an oat drink company with a mission to “make it easy for people to eat better and live healthier lives without recklessly taxing the planet’s resources.” Oatly participates in a number of environmentally-focused CSR initiatives, including transforming leftover oat waste into renewable electricity. They turned what could have been communicated as a statistic in a CSR report into an engaging visual story by designing an interactive and engaging landing page chock full of visuals that features the full journey of oat waste into renewable energy, along with an employee named “Whistle” that facilitates the process.
This is a terrific example of identifying engaging, human-centered images and videos to tell a compelling story.
Creating human-centered communications that connect emotionally with your audience to drive engagement and action around CSR initiatives is a best practice you can leverage to tell your story. It requires you to cut through the corporate jargon to the heart of your message and why your brand thinks a particular corporate citizenship effort, initiative or event is important.
It all comes down to one simple idea: as humans, we want to make a difference and have a positive impact on those around us. People matter. When you put people at the center of your CSR communication, you will connect the dots between your company’s efforts and their impact – creating enduring, meaningful connections with your customers and employees in the process.
So, how will you implement a human-centered communication approach for your brand? If you need help getting started, contact Fratzke Consulting.
Lisa Fratzke is a partner and executive strategist at Fratzke Consulting, specializing in helping clients achieve transformative growth through integrated communications, employee engagement and culture change. With over 15 years of experience with top brands, Lisa spent nearly a decade at The Walt Disney Company in public affairs and communications partnering with global business segments to communicate key reputation drivers and increase employee engagement and retention. Learn more about Fratzke Consulting, and find Lisa on LinkedIn.