With the trust and credibility of leaders across public and private sectors constantly under scrutiny, how do communications professionals counsel their clients to strengthen the ‘trust factor’ of their corporate reputations?
I’ve seen too many businesses shift their CSR priorities in response to the trending social issues of the day rather than aligning their social good initiatives with their core business in a way that drives positive impact while earning the trust and respect of all stakeholders.
Ultimately, it’s about strengthening your position in the market as a leader on issues that matter while simultaneously bolstering your bottom line,
How can you strike that balance? Here are a few recommendations:
Every Community Counts
It has never been more important for business leaders to stay connected with the local communities where they operate.
This requires a deep understanding of your community’s economic, cultural and societal concerns, gained by spending time listening to the very individuals you’re seeking to help.
In doing so, you’re advancing the goal of establishing your business as an authentic, reliable and trustworthy community steward.
It’s like running for or holding public office—engage in some retail politics.
An integrated approach consistently involves community members in developing the social impact strategies and initiatives that will most benefit them.
The goal of companies might be to establish a long-term collaborative partnership with a community and in doing so, expand opportunities to build trust that will take root over time. I
It’s similar to building equity over time as a homeowner—there are no short-cuts. It requires a long-term vision and authentic, actionable initiatives.
Double Down on Impact
While most companies like to promote their most current social good initiatives, where are the stories about long-term societal change?
Who is holding companies accountable to make good on their promises over the long term?
As communications pros, we are part of the team that must help businesses convey positive impact through reputable measurement tools, and with consistency and transparency.
Too often companies learn the hard way that the public and other stakeholders are monitoring the progress their social good progress they are making in regards to social good.
Failing to articulate, broadcast and reinforce the story of your positive impact not only erodes trust and credibility, but can cast a long shadow on a company’s reputation. It can’t be a one-off—you’ll find the benefits compound over time.
Choose Your Partners Carefully
No single organization can solve a social issue on its own. It requires a network of business, nonprofit and community partners to achieve lasting change.
Companies must choose their partners in change carefully, and ensure they are committed to the same goals and principles.
New partners can bring resources to expand and amplify impact and open doors to new stakeholders that might have previously been inaccessible.
Companies might consider investing in long-term partnerships that can serve as social innovation incubators and build capacity for organizations receiving corporate support.
Keep in mind that developing relationships with like-minded organizations multiplies the impact that you can make and by extension, the trust that you build with your constituencies.
No one can predict the future, and the challenges corporations will have to confront from a reputational standpoint in the coming years will be immense.
That’s a scary proposition, but you can act now to mitigate the risk that every business faces.
Scrutiny on issues of purpose, social impact, sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion will not decrease over time and if you’re sitting on your hands now, hoping to ride it out, I’ve got some bad news for you.
No business is immune, but by doing good and uplifting the communities in which you operate, you can begin to craft your own story of effecting positive change, one that will stand the test of time.
Amy Terpeluk is managing partner, Purpose and Social Impact, CSR at Finn Partners.