Let’s talk about the definition of corporate social responsibility, and how it goes hand in hand with good, old fashioned public relations. It used to be that companies kept their business dealings private. Customers rarely got to peek behind the curtain. For the most part, all we knew about a company was what they told us through advertising and PR. Since these were the ways companies stayed in business and attracted customers, leadership had a vested interest in telling a favorable story.
This is not the case anymore. Companies, like private citizens, have less privacy than ever. The reason is simple: we live in the internet age. The web, and social media in particular, enables users to post selfies, share their locations and activities, and share whatever details of their lives they want to make public, all in a matter of seconds. No matter who you are, you cannot escape the clutch of social media. Neither can companies. Even the smallest businesses have to at least have a website for marketing purposes, and so potential customers can learn about them.
Transparency is the norm, whether companies want it or not. This is where we get into the definition of corporate social responsibility, and how it keeps evolving. CSR and PR can no longer be easily separated. If someone has a bad experience with a company, they can send a tweet or post a video for the world to see. Companies then have to do damage control and correct the mistake. Customers can hold businesses accountable in ways that were never possible before.
Walmart serves as a cautionary tale about what can happen if PR and CSR do not mesh. Walmart’s official Youtube page showcases dozens of ecstatic employees along with customers landing the deals of their lifetimes. But elsewhere on Youtube, employees complain about unfair treatment at the retail giant. Many of these complaints and protests end up on the news. The news videos go to Youtube, where they can live forever. Social media ensures transparency for everyone, for better or for worse.
Unlike Walmart, the Chipotle restaurant chain has been transparent from its inception. In its stores, an open kitchen allows diners to see their food being prepared. If employees take shortcuts, someone will see it and, more than likely, share it. But instead of fearing bad publicity, Chipotle accepts the new reality and uses it to their advantage.
No matter what sector they are in, companies cannot escape social media. Those that survive and thrive are the ones who accept the new definition of corporate social responsibility. Their PR campaigns match their day to day actions, and customers appreciate it. If you are a business owner, you can benefit from the new model of transparency as well. Graeme Newell specializes in helping companies of all sizes find and evolve their business purpose. If you’d like more information, or to contact Graeme, please use the links at the end of the video.