CSR & PR: Communicating Purpose

Corporate social responsibility, often referred to as CSR, is something we hear about all of the time. The concept stems from the responsibility of businesses to contribute to the betterment of society, whether socially or environmentally. It may sound simple- businesses need to be philanthropic and give back to the community. While that may be true, CSR goes much deeper than that. The core of CSR for all businesses comes down to one principle: purpose.

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2017 PRSSA National Conference. The conference provided students with excellent opportunities to hear from PR professionals with different backgrounds and skill sets. Of all the sessions I attended, the one that stood out from the rest was led by Carol Cone, Founder and CEO of Carol Cone On Purpose. Cone has built a very successful career for herself by educating and inspiring organizations to marry their brand to a social or environmental issue. Cone refers to this idea as “cause branding,” which encourages brands to organize around a purpose that will reflect deep business and societal impacts.

I found Cone’s presentation to be extremely insightful and innovative. This idea of cause branding is not only beneficial to society, but also is an effective business strategy. Consumers want to feel something through products and services, and by aligning a brand with a purpose businesses are building trust among those consumers.

So, what does this mean for public relations professionals? It’s one thing to create a mission for a business, but how do you communicate that mission to the masses? First and foremost, it is important to know your audience. According to Cone, 87% of millennials buy based on values. It is critical that your audience trusts you, and you must build that trust through communicating your values and purpose from the beginning. Stay consistent, stay reliable, stay authentic.

When communicating purpose, it is critical to remember that engagement is everything. Brands cannot simply communicate that they have a purpose, but instead must communicate how they are going to serve that purpose. From a public relations viewpoint, this means brands must turn their feelings into actions in order to build trust among their audience and stay true to their purpose. Don’t tell everyone what your values are, SHOW them.

Whether you’re practicing public relations or not, there is a lot to learn from Carol Cone. Through her dedication to making the world a better place, she has helped businesses become more driven by things that have value. No matter what, it is important to have a purpose and use that as a driving force in everything you do.  

This blog post was written by Director of Public Relations Alexa Vecchione.

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