Forrester Research found companies that include corporate social responsibility (CSR) as part of their brand influence an astounding 82% of purchases. With such a staggering stat influencing potential sales, what’s holding companies back from communicating their social commitments to their audience? The answer is surprising: business leaders and marketing teams are uncertain about how to message their good work.
Marketing a company’s CSR values is all about the three T’s: Trust, Tone and Type of channel. This blog explores why you should have a CSR strategy and how to effectively communicate your values to earn customer trust.
Just What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?
Let’s start at the start. Corporate social responsibility is the business practice of pursuing social, humanitarian, and environmental causes. A CSR strategy helps a company be socially accountable — to itself, its stakeholders, and the public.
By practicing CSR, companies can be conscious of their impact on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental. Some of the most popular CSR trends include charitable giving, progressive environmental policies, and reducing carbon footprint. Essentially, social initiatives involve activities that benefit local or global communities.
Why Should Brands Adopt CSR Values?
Not that long ago, a good product and good customer service was all that was needed to bring customers back. That simply doesn’t cut it anymore. People want to see what a company is doing to incorporate important causes into their company values and everyday practices. A study of US internet users shows 53% of consumers think a brand should advocate for at least one social issue.
Additionally, a Nielsen study reports that 85% of Millennials say it is extremely or very important that companies implement environmentally-conscious programs. And then there’s the word-of mouth-factor. RetailMeNot’s research indicates that 66% of consumers 18+ believe that brands should take a public stand on important social values. Additionally, 61% would recommend a brand that aligned with their social values to their friends.
The Times, They Are A-Changin’
The tide has turned for what people want to see in a brand. Consumers are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on brands that champion a purpose they care about as well. Cone Communications found a staggering 87% of Americans will purchase a product from a company that supports a social issue. Job seekers also prefer to work for companies that have transparent values and ethics built right into their business models.
Clearly, it’s time to get on the CSR bandwagon if you want to keep those customers coming back. If you’re already on it but not sure how to communicate effectively, we can help with that, too. Either way, it’s time to learn how embracing CSR can help bring you closer to your existing — and potential customers.
The Three T’s: Trust, Tone and Type of Channel
Trust: How Customer Loyalty and CSR Initiatives Work Together
By now, you should have gleaned that corporate social responsibilities are top motivators for consumer purchasing. That also rings true for a trust rating, and subsequently, loyalty. A recent Dyspatch survey found brands that embrace CSR are almost twice as trustworthy than brands that share information relevant to consumers’ jobs.
With all the competition in the marketing space for price, product and service, companies are looking to stand out. And that’s not all — a more conscious consumer base means companies need to work extra hard to make a difference. How can they do that? By humanizing their brand and creating an emotional connection with customers.
Customers no longer respond positively to aggressive selling tactics — in fact, they avoid and shun them. Brands need to tell a story, make it relatable, and speak to the customer like a friend. Making a positive impact and giving back speaks to today’s consumer. A survey of 30,000 consumers in 60 countries discovered 66% were willing to pay more for goods from socially committed brands.
Wow, That All Sounds Great… But Where Do I Start?
Where you should concentrate your CSR efforts is up to you. You can start with your product, such as donating shoes or mattresses, or creating your product using sustainable sources. Or, you can go internal and encourage employees to volunteer or participate in charitable causes or clean-up commitments. Focusing on what the company stands for is a first step in brand development and forming your CSR values.
These can take many forms, such as:
- Protecting the environment: reducing carbon footprint, producing clean emissions
- Creating a more inclusive and diverse society
- Promoting research and development to pursue innovation
- Investing in green technologies, reducing reliance on non-renewable resources, getting certifications like LEED for buildings
- Sourcing alternative fabrics such as eucalyptus or recycled water bottles
- Donating to local nonprofits
- Funding the construction of schools in lower-income neighbourhoods
Sometimes, the Answer is Right in Front of You
You can also simply ask your customers for insight on what causes you should support. Posting customer questions, surveys or polls shows you care enough to ask what your audience thinks. This line of inquiry can also help forge relationships with consumers — after all, people liked to be asked their opinion. A genuine request for insight is an excellent way for companies to authentically build their social commitments. And, customers can feel like they are a big part of some of your most important decisions.
Tone: Getting it Right Without Making it All About You
Effectively communicating what you’re doing without appearing to brag about it is admittedly a delicate balance. To their credit, many business leaders are:
- Worried about not sounding genuine
- Unsure about their timing
- Concerned that they aren’t talking enough about it
As a result, their messaging may convey too much, not enough, or nothing at all about its social and environmental initiatives.
With an audience that’s focused on the environment, communicating brand ethics needs to be part of any marketing strategy. Anything less can be detrimental. If companies are doing the right thing but aren’t talking about it in the right way, they’re inhibiting their growth. And subsequently, their success.
Storytelling Done Right
So, how do you talk about your CSR efforts in the right way? Well, first, make it memorable. According to The Drum, 80% of consumers want brands to tell their story but can’t remember a good example. When done right, storytelling engages customers and allows them to relate to the brand’s personality and mission. They will then start to feel emotionally invested in the brand’s success and therefore retain loyalty.
Here are some tips for effectively communicating your CSR program in a fair and relatable way:
- Make it authentic. The most effective approach to CSR communications is a fact-based, accurate tone that isn’t too self-congratulatory or promotional. Leave out the PR fluff!
- Make it transparent. Be honest and balanced in your communications. Make sure you use accurate data to back up what you say you’ve achieved and acknowledge any stumbles along the way.
- Make it simple. While there may be a variety of details to share, don’t get too long-winded — otherwise you’ll lose the audience. Keep with the key points:
- The social causes your company supports and why
- How the programs and metrics intertwine with your mission and how they add value
- Back it up with specific examples and events
- Make it consistent. Inconsistent CSR communications can be detrimental to your reputation, so a balance between too much and not enough communication is essential. Not enough means people will have no idea what you’re supporting, which might suggest a half-baked strategy. Too much can lead to skepticism among your audience. Keep the majority of the information on your website, trickling it to email recipients via a monthly newsletter, for instance. And, make sure you demonstrate alignment with your strategy and vision.
- Make it readable. Make your stories readable and interesting, with simple language, a positive tone (again, banish the fluff), result-oriented visuals, and facts.
Type: What’s the Most Effective Channel to Share Your Story?
You’ve established your CSR values and made strides to support your efforts. You’ve adopted a strategy and tone that works. Now you need to get the word out there. Think about the best way to tell an engaging story. You need just the right amount of facts but told in a compelling way that’s delivered right to the recipient’s fingertips. What could be better than email?
Although social channels such as LinkedIn are a great way to post CSR accomplishments, email takes it a step further. Email is proactive, landing in someone’s Inbox without them having to log into a social platform to check their feed themselves. Also, if it’s personalized and targeted to the consumer, they will be more likely to engage and feel good about it. They’ll also be pleased that the company took the time to inform them.
Tell Them What They Want to Hear
Companies can also employ efforts such as sending out an email notification highlighting their communications. They can then give the recipient the option to opt-out if desired. Shoe retailer TOMS did a good job of this with a welcome email introducing its ‘movement’ as a company:
After signing up, the user can customize their relationship with the brand. They can do this by choosing which messages — including Giving Stories and Updates — they’d like to hear.
Examples From Top Brands Who Use Email to Deliver the Goods (and the Good News)
Whether your company supports sustainability, inclusivity, innovation, or data compliance, communicating via email is the cornerstone of brand ethics storytelling. Here are some top brands who use email to effectively tell their CSR story.
Natural cosmetics company Lush combines fast facts with engaging photos for a quick and snappy email that’s easily digestible and visually appealing. Outlining their core values via email lets them tell their story in a compact way without overdoing it. Click-throughs and a catchy headline engage the reader. All this is done while preserving its message of sustainability, stance against animal testing, and a product with a handmade touch.
Mattress retailer Leesa’s tagline is “A mattress made for good.” Indeed — they donate one out of every 10 mattresses they sell, referring to it as the One-Ten commitment. In this email, they highlight their charitable giving with notable numbers in an infographic style for instant impact. They give just enough information to back up the numbers and then provide a link to click through for more detail. The recipient can then read further for more stories on their internal volunteering for social causes.
TOMS (Yes, Again!)
You’ve gotta hand it to TOMS. They don’t bombard recipients with endless details about their charitable deeds. (The top one being donating shoes to children — an impressive 100 million so far!) Instead, they combine a snappy and interactive visual with a short good-cause blurb at the bottom. TOMS gets top marks for combining engagement with social awareness.
We’re All in This Together
Brand ethics are quickly becoming one of the most important layers to building a product’s value. Humanizing a brand starts with defining your core company values and what you can do to give back. This can be directly tied to the company’s ethos or making it a bigger part of the corporate story.
Establishing your CSR values is a necessary first step. Finding the right tone and sharing them on an engaging level is what encourages customer trust, and ultimately, loyalty. Out of all the marketing channels available, email offers the best opportunity to connect with contacts throughout the consumer lifecycle. Welcome opt-in or out messaging, a personalized approach, and proactive delivery are all key factors for building that customer relationship. With ongoing, engaging and well-timed CSR communication, you’ll be top-of-mind as a trusted brand. And, you’ll earn loyalty and referrals, increasing your customer lifetime value as a result.
How Dyspatch Can Help
With its easy-to-use interface and seamless workflow application, our email builder can help you template your CSR emails. Target emails to your audience through personalization, engage with your audience via interactivity, and forge those relationships to build trust. With Dyspatch, communicating company values to your audience via email has never been easier.