Corporate social responsibility is now common for enterprises. It’s become standard to advocate for something. Corporate social advocacy (CSA) is the next move up for giving your company a purpose and mission. It contains supporting issues that are more cutting-edge, and often without an obvious link to the company’s products or services.
Corporate social advocacy efforts give your business a personality—a brand(!)—that single you out from the competitors.
What Is Corporate Social Advocacy?
Corporate social advocacy means an attitude on controversial social or political issues. It’s often aligned or relevant to the company industry. Corporate social advocacy (CSA) goes beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR) in many ways.
CSR is a list of good work brand carries out and subsequently disclose. It is often non-controversial, provides employee engagement opportunities, and drives sales and stock rates. CSA is when a company chooses its side in a controversial question and puts its reputation — not just its time or treasure — on the line.
Risks of CSA
Look internally as well as externally before making and announcing any decisions. Check out the core values of the company. Deeply examine the aim and the defined reason of the business’s existence. Be brave enough to ask stakeholders ranging from employees to clients and beyond for their considerations and concerns. Use these responses to make a considered decision.
If your organization does not have a long-standing history of supporting the cause in question, don’t use the high-profile cases to begin. Any advocacy should be authentic. You should only use these opportunities to lend a voice if your past actions have supported the efforts of the moment. In another way, you risk looking like an opportunist. Many people criticize and don’t support those who are the last to jump on the proverbial bandwagon.
Be careful not to attach your company to an organization over which you have no control. Remember, personnel can change, and such changes may result in deep changes in an organization’s work, message, and mission. Bad behavior by any worker of an outside organization will still reflect badly on your brand. You should advocate for movements and ethical values. It’s much less risky.
Risk matters. Do your research. Understand the risks, and make plans in case you’d have to mitigate those risks before getting out in front of any issues. Check out other opinions, cross-functional stakeholders, or a working group. Buy a market data. Organize the focus groups. Ask the questions outlined below and look at all of the answers from every angle.
Three Elements to Set Your Corporate Social Advocacy Program in Motion
All people have something they care about. Whether it’s physical fitness in young adults or environmental pollution, there are causes that bother you and—by extension—your company.
But how do you figure out what issue, the topic for your company to support?
First and foremost, you need to check the identity, industry, and values of your entire business. Do your employees as a whole care about physical fitness in young adults or environmental pollution? For smaller companies, you can simply interview your team. For big companies, it might be more complicated, so you should create a team dedicating a diverse array of voices within your company to discuss what cause to support.
Chances are, there could be many opinions, and because businesses are large creatures with many opinions, what you should prioritize in terms of outreach and advocacy will be a result of many debates.
You can cut things back by asking these three easy questions:
1. What is the scale of the problem you want to support or take a position on?
Your business could be massive, spanning countries and nationalities, or it could be a single brick-and-mortar shop in a small neighborhood.
The size of your company and the availability of its resources are closely tied to what cause you’re capable of supporting in an impactful way.
It’s easy for bigger companies to scale their efforts down, but it’s much harder for smaller ones to expand. In the longer term, you need to look at your resources and ask: “What’s the most impactful thing I can do with my current capabilities?”
A small shop can easily support a local community garden to help resist neighboring food deserts. Large businesses can host events to raise money and awareness for some initiative or give their employees 40 hours of paid volunteer time with a particular charity.
There’s no competition in charity and good deeds. Small efforts are also important as larger initiatives. It’s a question of what you’re capable to do in near future, and what you can do now.
2. What type of cause do you want to support?
You care about a great number of things, and your clients do too. But that doesn’t mean your clients always want to hear your personal opinions.
To know what they’re interested in, you have to put aside your assumptions and attend to your customers’ values. You can learn this by conducting surveys with such questions as:
- “I want that brands will cut carbon emissions [1…2…3…4…5]”
- “I am concerned about supporting mental health resources to youngsters [1…2…3…4…5]”.
There are some topics which people want businesses to keep away from. 39% of consumers say businesses should not interfere on political issues, versus 20% when it comes to social issues and 10% on environmental issues (full research). You have to ensure that your advocacy efforts don’t just align with your values but with the values of your customers and lead as well.
3. What type of cause can you actually be involved in?
A starting point of corporate social advocacy: Don’t be Pepsi. Its advertisement about uniting the world over a can of soda resulted in that it united the world against Pepsi. Why was it a failure? Because until this campaign the brand didn’t support the Black Lives Matter movement that its ad took inspiration and visuals from.
And the opposite happened with Nike’s support of activist athletes like Colin Kaepernick. Nike is an athletic company, and using its corporate social consciousness to support people and initiatives within that topic worked very well.
These were examples of Corporate Social Advocacy for B2C companies and their advocacy, the same goes for B2B.
Make sure the cause you support is one that your company can speak to with authority, so it doesn’t feel as if you’re using the hot discussions for the company’s promotion. Only 23% of customers believe you’re in this for altruistic reasons. It’s easy to be suspected of self-interest. Put all your effort to prove them wrong (in a good way).
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How To Act Externally
With Pepsy, there is also another example of the harmful use of CSA- McDonald’s. McDonald’s, on World Women’s Day 2018, flipped the letter M on its ads and close, turning it into a letter W.
Cute? Maybe. Misplaced? Absolutely.
Because beyond just flipping the letter, the company didn’t take part in any women’s rights-focused initiatives or contribute to the cause. They continued having a massive gender disparity in their upper management and failed to address the pay gap among their workers.
There are several steps you should take to show that your company has actions to prove its good words.
#1: Collaborate with a good partner
For every situation, there are (typically) dozens of nonprofits that exist to address that cause. These organizations are experts in the topic and can help your quest to contribute. Collaborating with charity funds also lends credibility to your mission, and does so in a way that maximizes your effectiveness.
Don’t skip testing any potential partners, though, as not every nonprofit is without issues. Check to make sure any charity fund you’re considering collaborating with hasn’t experienced any recent scandals. And it is known for business practices that actively reflect the cause you both want to improve and have a strong enough following that you’ll be able to show your commitment to a wider audience.
#2: Figure out how to effectively collaborate with them
There are a number of ways you can support the charity funds. The best way to begin is by asking them what would be most beneficial for them.
This could mean you turn on doing one of a few things:
- Providing monetary support by donating a portion of your sales
- Packaging aid boxes
- Addressing clerical needs
- Using your own digital resources (social media pages, website) to assist in raising awareness
At the end of the day, it’s not about you and what makes you feel good, but about what accomplishes the best for the cause you’ve chosen.
#3: Be part of the conversation
Before announcing your partnership, though, you should simply engage in the conversation around your chosen cause.
Ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s is continuously involved in conversations online about a list of topics, including environmental protection, GMOs, and meat and dairy products from cloned animals.
Follow their lead with these four initiatives:
- Conduct a survey online, and read articles about topics related to your cause.
- Have a discussion with thought leaders in a related field, ask questions or exchange ideas.
- Enhance knowledge of others about your chosen cause(s), including your own employees.
- Promote your chosen companions, as well as your own missions and goals regarding your cause.
How To Act Internally
Follow these three main steps to make sure that your company’s interior personality matches its exterior actions:
- Educate your employees on your chosen topic and pull them together around it as a mission of the brand.
- Enact policies that reflect that mission and goal.
- Empower your employees to participate in other causes with your support.
Make sure your company’s policies are agreed with your mission. If you’re supporting nonprofits for environmental protection, start out with the paperless type of work in your company. If your advocacy policy fight for equality in the workplace, ensure equal pay and paid family leave.
It’ll provide straightforward, and authenticity, and fosters trust among employees who see you acting on your beliefs, which will promote your brand without further effort.
Encourage others to follow your initiative
You should encourage others to support your ideas, whether through supporting your chosen cause or one of their own.
Corporate social advocacy is a new name but not a new concept. People have always held the expectations and responsibility of those who have resources. However, in recent years, businesses and brands have been part of the third power regarding politics and society. The millennials and Gen Z generations came up having even bigger expectations of companies than the elder generations did. Change is close and companies and PR experts have to follow them.