Why good corporate deeds go unnoticed

Big companies spend a bundle of money on PR and advertising promoting their good deeds, such as philanthropic giving, but the media seldom feature corporate good-deed news.

If there can be a kernel of sympathy for multinational mega-corporations, consider this: Big companies spend a bundle of money on PR and advertising promoting their good deeds, such as philanthropic giving. But the media seldom feature corporate good-deed news.

What you do see, however, are stories like one that ran in November, a moving story about New England Patriots superstar quarterback Tom Brady taking time to offer encouraging words to a nine-year-old youngster who was seriously injured playing football. The child's injury was similar to a knee injury that Brady himself had suffered early in the 2008 NFL season. The star quarterback's surprise visit with the youngster was featured in broadcast and print media stories. A famous, imposing athlete kneeling down to commiserate with a youngster is a compelling visual image.

Despite the multimillions that big corporations donate annually in support of good causes, business firms seldom receive the level of recognition they feel they deserve. Here's why. No matter how hard they try, big companies have a difficult time shedding their institutional image. Corporations are not seen to be human, while pro athletes like Brady, obviously, are human beings. More than ever right now, considering there is so much negative news about business and the economy, mega-corporations are perceived to be even more soulless than usual.

Without question, corporate support for charitable and community causes is extremely important, and such support should be a top, ongoing priority in business. But big companies should do good out of the goodness of their corporate hearts, without expecting “LOL” in return.

Considering that corporate good deeds often fail to achieve brand-promotion goals, and considering sour public opinion of business overall because of fallout from the Great Recession, what can mega-companies do to get a little lovin'?

Very simple. They can win hearts and minds by getting back to business basics, by producing and marketing products and services that are fairly and competitively priced, and that deliver real value for consumers - and by doing their best to consistently provide quality service.

By getting back to positive, fundamental practices, Wall Street firms and big banks, airlines, energy companies, health-insurance firms, and many other companies might stand a better chance of reversing cynical public perception of business.

Harvey Radin is an independent PR consultant. He was formerly an SVP at Bank of America and head of western region corporate communications and media relations. He has also served as a PR consultant for Greater Bay Bancorp and Wachovia Corp.  

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