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—Thoughts and scribbles.

A Corporate Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility is something that we hear a lot about these days. It’s a fairly new concept, at least in the way it is being practiced now. There are plenty of corporations that give out extreme amounts of money to good causes every year, and that’s not new, however, the reasoning behind doing so has been evolving over the past 30 years or so.

Starting around the 1980′s, this phenomenon known as “cause marketing” was taking place. This cause marketing consisted of investing in a cause for a short-term, one-time activity that was devoted to promoting sales of a certain brand or product and somehow got stuck under the umbrella of “corporate philanthropy.” The idea behind it was to get good publicity and show the public the “moral good” of the company, and to push product. Not exactly the ideal of the desire to help the welfare of others.

Matthew Levine, the Chief Operating Officer of a non-profit organization known as the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, used to work in the development (fundraising) department for Meals on Wheels. He states that “these PR firms working for corporations looking to do cause marketing would call us, and the first thing they would ask is ‘how little can we pay you to partner for this campaign?’” Being a current student of PR, this sounded astounding to me. That kind of ethics is exactly what we are taught not to do in classes here at Newhouse.

Once we hit the 2000′s, the vision of corporate philanthropy started to shift. Instead of cause marketing, companies were coming up with “signature cause programs.” These programs were much longer-term and sometimes year-round activities that integrated the values of the companies and engaged the employees. The intent, though, was still aimed at the brand. However, instead of pushing product, these programs were to support brand experience and gain consumer support, while at the same time significantly helping the cause. It was at least a step in the right direction.

As of 2010 to present, we are entering more into the “corporate social responsibility” era. This corporate responsibility is a never-ending strategy that is integrated into business operations. It is entirely based on company values, engaging employees and stakeholders with a shared value of sustainable business. It’s a cause commitment by the corporation, while at the same time getting the recognition and brand experience.

Risa Sherman works at a business strategy firm called CauseConsulting that helps corporations do just that. They meet with the heads of corporations to help them figure out “what they stand for.” She states that “it is important to start with the brand: the values, culture and leadership of the corporation.” She also spoke of the fact that “most corporations know their values, but they don’t know what they stand for.” The most important part of corporate social responsibility is to focus on the cause.

Corporate social responsibility is heavily rooted in community relations. It is often the job of public relations professionals within a corporation to bring forward the importance of social responsibility and public opinion. The fact of the matter is that no corporation can be truly successful without some kind of public support and recognition, and that’s where a PR professional is not only preferred, but required. This idea of corporate social responsibility is becoming a necessity. It helps to create the concept that corporations are people, too. It lays down the platform by which people view the company, and helps build the values that are perceived by consumers.

Giving a corporation a human face is ever more important in today’s society – with trust of big corporations rapidly waning with every second. Corporate social responsibility is something that all major, and minor, corporations and companies need to learn to practice.

So what does your company stand for?

Samantha LinnettComment