Platform: Let corporate good deeds shine bright - If firms stopped being so reticent about the causes they support both they and the charity sector would benefit, says Chris Genasi

In today’s evaluation-driven communications world, corporate citizenship remains one area where millions are spent, usually without registering the slightest flicker of the corporate reputation tracking needle.

In today’s evaluation-driven communications world, corporate

citizenship remains one area where millions are spent, usually without

registering the slightest flicker of the corporate reputation tracking

needle.



Although major corporations are pouring substantial funds into

worthwhile causes public warmth towards these companies - which is (or

should be) the ultimate desired by-product - remains elusive.



A recent MORI poll of the public showed an extremely low awareness of

companies’ corporate largesse, with only two being spontaneously

mentioned - and then only by ten per cent of the respondents.



Companies are typically very effective at communicating their good deeds

to opinion forming peers, those in the charity sector or public figures,

but seem unable - or unwilling - to tell their good news story to the

general public. This is despite the fact that public trust and

favourability towards a company is frequently a key differentiator in

the marketplace.



It is this invisibility of corporate citizenship to the public eye, that

may well have spurred BT to run its recent TV advertisements trumpeting

that company’s contribution to charities and communities. Whatever BT’s

reasons, the ads should be useful ammunition for corporate affairs

directors across the UK, looking to gain approval for similar

campaigns.



The precedent of seeing one of UK’s major corporations conspicuously

telling the world about its admirable track record in corporate

citizenship is a very welcome development in the debate over whether it

is appropriate to blow one’s own trumpet when it comes to doing good

deeds.



Because that question provokes deep divisions in most boardrooms. This

is hardly surprising given the British heritage of corporate giving.

Traditional philanthropy as conducted by the great Victorian

entrepreneurs, was enlightened self-interest, which reflected a set of

genuinely held values - often based in religious beliefs - that also

happened to make good business sense.



Corporate citizenship in the UK does not have a heritage as a marketing

tool. Publicity has not always been a desirable objective and many

companies still feel uncomfortable ’shaking the collection bag’, viewing

it as vulgar and exploitative of the needy.



But there is no reason why, if handled sensitively, such positive

communications need cause offence. Companies deserve more recognition

for the genuinely innovative and sophisticated projects that typify

today’s corporate citizenship scenario.



It is time that companies stopped hiding their light under a bushel.



The emergence of cause related marketing is another welcome trend,

encouraging more and more companies to use their involvement with good

works to help sales - and why not? Those needing help receive it, the

public feels good about buying the products and the donor company gains

in terms of reputation and sometimes sales - the classic win/win

scenario.



Far too many corporate philanthropy initiatives are win/lose situations

- and if public relations practitioners do nothing to change that, it

won’t just be companies that lose out.



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