Over the last few months, we’ve spoken a lot about CSR. 

During a time in which businesses have been bravely stepping out of their comfort zone in response to the pandemic, we’re constantly impressed and humbled with all the innovation and giving we’ve seen.

In case you missed it, here’s where we rounded up five inspiring brands innovating during the pandemic.

We also touched on whether small companies should care about CSR, or if it should be left to the Coca Colas and Microsofts of the world. 

All in all, it’s been a humbling experience watching fellow entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes use their resources to innovate and put some good into the world.

The difficulty of promoting CSR

But here comes the challenge. CSR can be tricky. 

If you’re a large corporation, promote it too heavily and you get accused of being driven by profit. 

If you’re a small business, your CSR activities may be difficult to promote, and they might not be big enough to gain any real recognition.

So how can you find a balance? Is there some sweet spot where you can get the word out about your CSR initiatives, without being annoying, sounding like your motives are purely profit-driven and get it in front of enough people? Is there a middle-ground?

To brag or not to brag?

The first rule of CSR? Never talk about CSR.

That line might have worked in Fight Club, but when it comes to CSR, it couldn’t be more off-base.

But the problem is, CSR has (until recently) been a campaign done by huge corporations wanting to show the world that they care about the underdog. 

Those CSR campaigns were then often promoted so heavily that the company would then get the reputation of being a philanthropic modern hero who cares more about humanity than their own bottom line.

Basically, a marketing tactic.

And nobody wants to be that guy.

At the same time, you’ve put a lot of effort into your corporate social responsibility and it’s a shame if it goes unnoticed. Social Media Today wrote a great article about the paradox of self-promotion, and also shares some solid social media etiquette tips when self-promoting.

Here’s how to strike that balance:

4 holistic tips for promoting your CSR initiative 

  1. Assemble a promotions team 

Among the million and one things business owners must do each day, CSR promotion can quickly become “that thing you need to quickly do” on your lunch break. 

A quick tweet or Facebook status update won’t do much to get the word out or make any kind of lasting impact.

But if you want to make a real impact, you need to assemble a promotions team. 

This could be a group of people or one person. The important thing is that you have someone dedicated exclusively to publicising and promoting your CSR project. This way, your business is consciously allocated time and resources for this specific goal. 

That conscious dedication makes a huge difference in how your audience interacts with your brand, messaging and project itself. 

  1. Involve employees

The most effective method of communicating your CSR efforts with the public is through your employees. 

And we don’t mean you should go and ask everyone in the company to post something on their social media about what’s happening. 

Instead, you should be involving employees right from the start and have an entire company of people invested in the initiative. 

Everyone involved should be enthusiastic about the project, and if you make it a priority to achieve that from the start, you’ll have a much more organic way of promoting it. 

Rather than paid campaigns, consider the organic social reach of employees—sharing content on their channels is much more likely to receive organic interaction from their followers. 

We all love praising our friends and people in our networks when we see them doing something good—it’s a natural way to congratulate people on their efforts, and it’s the best kind of promotion that exists!

3. Share embedded content, not screenshots

Unless you want the conversation to fizzle out after a week or so, avoid sharing content that’s been screengrabbed.

Assuming you’ve got all hands on deck for the initiative, and staff members have been sharing updates on their own channels, you’ll want to make that organic traffic as effective as possible.

Embedding content puts you one step ahead as you’re now creating evergreen content that people can interact with way after the initiative is over.

It means that whenever people come across your CSR content, (whether it’s your audience, customers, stakeholders or investors), they’ll be able to comment, share and generally interact with the piece of content.

4. Share images of the 

Visual content is king, especially if you want to go viral. 

And its something you can use regardless of what your CSR initiative is all about. Generally, images are X more likely to be opened compared to other types of content like written or data. 

Whatever your cause is, visual content is a great way to promote it. For larger CSR initiatives, such as The Water Project, images are an authentic and genuine way to bring life into your campaign and show the world the real impact you’re making.

If your initiative is peoples based, like Levi Strauss & Co’s Worker Well-being initiative, simple images of the real people impacted by the project speak a thousand words.

In other words—show, don’t tell.

Building a CSR programme is a challenge in itself, and so is promoting it.

Winning over stakeholders and a new audience can take repeated attempts and a lot of trial and error. Following these four holistic tips, you’ll be on your way to promoting your business’ CSR in a way that inspires trust and action.

Have you recently launched a CSR programme? Comment below or send us a message on LinkedIn and tell us how it went—we would love to know!

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