Stakeholder Engagement is Key to CSR’s Future

This week in the Huffington Post, Carol Cone rehashed what the future of cause marketing and CSR will look like, and engaging stakeholders emerged as a key theme throughout her commentary:

We’ll witness brands getting smarter on how to engage with consumers as citizens – it’s not just about consumption, but about being true citizens of the world and aligning themselves with relevant and local issues.

We’ve moved on from one-off initiatives to seeking deep engagement on an issue that is innately connected to a brand’s values and essence.

It’s about a strategic, long-term approach that is fully integrated into business practices and leverages core competencies to address relevant social issues.

As Carol highlighted, stakeholder engagement – whether with your customers, investors or employees – is more important than ever. Stakeholders of all shapes and sizes are paying attention to corporate CSR efforts, and want to play a part in making a difference. So what does all this mean for companies aligning with a cause or creating a CSR program?

Whether you’re taking on a sustainability program or employee volunteer initiative, here are some tips to ensure your stakeholders are aware of and engaged with your CSR efforts:

Make it actionable: Issue a call-to-action for stakeholders to rally behind, such a fundraising goal or special day of service. And allow a range of engagement opportunities to respond to this call so stakeholders can decide how and what they will invest. A low-engagement activity could include sending a Tweet to garner awareness for the issue. An activity with deeper engagement may include a day of service with a nonprofit partner.

Make it visible: Ensure you are communicating with all your audiences on an ongoing basis. Insert your messages in places where stakeholders are already looking, such as your corporate website, employee intranet, via your Facebook or LinkedIn page or any other forums where that already serve as touch-points for your audiences. Even better are forums that allow a dialogue to be created or feedback to be given about the effort.

Make it easy: Encouraging participation can be a tough task. Empower your stakeholders to spread awareness for the program or initiative by providing turn-key tools. Consider Johnson & Johnson’s “&you” widget, which allows nonprofits or individuals to customize which events, causes, volunteer opportunities and news items are filtered through a unique tool on their own site or blog.

Make it tangible: Share the results of your program on an ongoing basis – such as participation levels, funds raised or social impact made – and revise goals and objectives as necessary to push the effort forward. Try to be a resource for your audience members who are looking for a deeper understanding of the issue your organization focuses on in a convenient place, such as your corporate website or social networks.

In today’s connected society, companies don’t have to tackle issues alone. Consumers, employees, nonprofits and other stakeholders are willing partners for change. Companies should harness this enthusiasm by offering a variety of ways for audiences to engage in finding solutions. This type of collaboration will no doubt become a key component of successful cause and CSR initiatives in the future.

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