EDITORIAL: You should talk about CSR plans

Some communicators are finding non-reactive media relations

something of go-slow, tread carefully business right now. But other

aspects of PR such as community relations, corporate social

responsibility (CSR), and corporate philanthropy are absolutely center

stage.



Prior to the events of September 11, many top CEOs and their trusted

marketers had already divined a change in the public's attitude to CSR,

with consumers making an ever-increasing number of purchasing decisions

based on corporations' attitudes towards the environment and communities

they work with. The tragedy is only going to heighten this consumer

concern.



So it is no surprise that if the most-frequently asked question in

communications departments at the moment is, "When do we go back to

pitching those non-related releases?" - an issue PRWeek dealt with at

length last week - then the second most frequent question is, "Should we

be telling the American public about the work we're doing in response to

the recent attacks?"



The answer is yes. Surely no one has given money, products, services or

helped in any way because they thought it was going to make for some

good headlines. But the modern PR executive is trying to influence many

stakeholders, not just the media, and it is crucial for employees,

investors and local communities to know that they are part of an effort

to do something to help those directly affected - and to boost the

American economy.



There is a difference between boasting about such contributions and

simply giving a short, straight account of what has been done on a

website, an intranet or even a matter-of-fact press release. Most major

corporations seem to have found the right balance. Examples include the

informative rather than self-congratulatory notes from such corporate

behemoths as Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Home Depot, and American Home

Products.



Research has revealed another relevant point in showing that monetary

donations alone, though seen as a major element of a corporation's

responsibility to the community, are not the most important element. A

corporation must also be involved in a "personal" and relevant way with

the cause to which it is making donations. In other words, it must be

seen as actually doing something, not just signing a check.



Again, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson and most of the others who have made

donations to help in the aftermath of the tragedy have met this

criterion.



Microsoft didn't just give money, it also offered its technical services

to help with the relief effort. Johnson & Johnson didn't just make a

handsome donation, it also organized to get supplies of key healthcare

products to the centers that needed them.



Corporate America has shown its best side in the last three weeks, and

it is important for the economy that everyone can see just how caring

and determined it is. This isn't about boasting, this is about saying

what needs to be said.



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