The power of CSR in building consumer relationships

Understanding the need for human connection is critical for any company that wants to create deeper relationships with its consumers and to elevate them to brand supporters and advocates.

In my last post, I wrote about how much we all crave human connections in our technology-focused world. In other words, how consumers are looking for - in fact, demanding - a real human element from the brands and businesses with which they engage.

Understanding this need for human connection is critical for any company that wants to create deeper relationships with its consumers and to elevate them to brand supporters and advocates.

One of the best ways to do that is through corporate social responsibility programs. CSR is a great way for brands to build a personality of giving and purpose and bring that human element to the forefront of the relationship.

Of course, CSR has been around since the beginning of time. But as the way brands interact with consumers had changed, so has the importance of CSR to that relationship. It's not enough anymore just to write a check once a year for a worthwhile cause.

Consumers want to know what a brand stands for and what a company believes in - and they make choices based on that knowledge. And since the new transparency with which we communicate makes it easy for consumer to “look inside” a company, CSR programs must be authentic. Whether they are new or have a long heritage, CSR initiatives must derive from the organization's DNA and have the commitment of everyone from the CEO down.

Consider Avon, which created The Avon Foundation 20 years ago. Thanks to the foundation's fundraising and education initiatives, there has been tremendous improvement in the survival rate of breast cancer sufferers. The foundation uses events like the Avon Walks - which bring together Avon, cancer survivors, and consumers – to enhance Avon's relationship with women around the world who understand how Avon is helping change the face of breast cancer.

It takes some effort to identify the right CSR program for an organization, but it's worth the effort. As Paul Klein wrote in his CSR blog in Forbes, “every corporation has an overarching social purpose that…when well understood and effectively integrated, can have profound business and social results.”

Through the years, I've heard many CEOs talk with passion on issues about which they care deeply. When that passion is translated into action, the results can be extraordinary. Authentic CSR truly can change a company's relationship with its consumers because it brings humanity into the equation.

Liz Kaplow is the president and CEO of Kaplow.

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