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Poll Findings: Corp. Communicators Would Increase CSR

Ragan Communications and Pollstream just released a poll that finds that corporate communicators want their companies to engage in more corporate social responsibility (CSR); they just can’t come up with a good business reason why or decide who should drive it.

This follows an earlier poll from IBM and covered in this space, that reported that corporate executives want to see more CSR, too, and were devoting resources to it.

The poll was part of a series spearheaded by Ragan that regularly queries some 439 corporate communicators in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

The communicators split almost evenly over the issue of who should run a company’s CSR efforts. Just about 50 percent it should be a standalone department that reports directly to the CEO. The other 50 percent said CSR should fall under either media relations, internal communications or marketing.

It would be a measure of the esteem that CSR holds in a company if it operated independently and reported directly to the CEO. But I wouldn’t hold my breath that that will happen soon or (if it does) last long.

[Remember: when the discipline of marketing first emerged in the 1950s and 1960s that function reported to the CEO. Nowadays marketing is more likely to fall under operations and therefore the president or COO.]

If I was running a CSR operation and my choice was to work under media relations, internal communications or marketing, I’d hold my nose and pick marketing. Corporate communications and PR staffs are like the athletes that finish sixth at the Olympic trials: nobody cares about them.

Not that marketing is a perfect fit. Hardly. But a company’s marketing operation has an actual budget in sharp contrast with the alternatives.

It’s interesting to compare the why of CSR between the corporate communicators and their bosses. The Ragan poll turned up four reasons why the communicators would increase CSR: 50 percent said it would enhance PR and corporate image; 40 percent said it would improve employee engagement; 7 percent expect it would grow sales and 4 percent say it would attract new employees.

By contrast, the CEOs see CSR has a business opportunity, not a chance to issue a press release. As an electronics CEO was quoted in the IBM study of CEOs, “Corporate identity and CSR will play an important role in differentiating a company in the future… This will make a big difference in new markets such as Russia and other Eastern European markets.”

Now we know why a CEO is more likely to start in the company’s mailroom than in its corporate communications office; too few communicators think like business people!

Comments

John Haydon said…
Great post - thank you!

You mentioned the results of the poll:

"The Ragan poll turned up four reasons why the communicators would increase CSR: 50 percent said it would enhance PR and corporate image; 40 percent said it would improve employee engagement; 7 percent expect it would grow sales and 4 percent say it would attract new employees."

These are clearly all business reasons that have nothing to do with the cause of the non-profit.

Corporations need to adopt a new paradigm regarding CSR: "Do the right thing and the business results will follow." Looking for an ROI and focusing on business value for the company is a short-sighted view. Consumers will ultimately see through this. Only sincere action for a social cause (and putting this first) will garner long-term business value.

The recent Cone Survey confirms this.

Thanks,

John Haydon
CorporateDollar.Org

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