'But why haven’t we heard about this before?' Communicating your Community Involvement effectively

The best-practice advice and recommendations of this chapter will help you communicate the positive results of your Corporate Community Involvement to get the most out of it for the benefit of your company’s reputation.

Why do Communications about your Community Involvement?
The main reasons are:

  • To position your business as a leader in global and local Community Involvement.
  • To position your flagship CI programs as leading global/local Community Involvement programs, get engagement in the program and set a benchmark for other companies.
  • To establish good international/in-country relations with your external stakeholders (media; politicians; customers; NGOs) and inform them about your company’s activities in the community.
  • For your employees to feel proud of their company, inspired even, so they want to take part in your projects.
  • And, not forgetting, to make your team, your department, or even just yourself look good!

When you’re setting out to communicate, don’t forget: Your Corporate Community Involvement will often be undertaken jointly with NGO partners.  For credibility, external Communications about CI programs should ideally be made together with your partners.  For the media, it even works best if your NGO partners make the contact. If your NGO does not have sufficient Communications capability, you can offer the help of your Corporate Communications department. Always work with your NGO partners to communicate your good work together.

Who are your external audiences?
Businesses have a range of stakeholders.  Who are your most important ones? What do you want to tell each of them about what you’ve done? How can you tailor your communication so it ‘lands’ well with each segment of your audience?

Some of your audiences are:

  • Consumers
  • Communities
  • B-2-B Customers
  • Business partners
  • Suppliers
  • Investors
  • Government and Regulators
  • Opinion Leaders
  • NGOs

Undertaking External Communications
Here are a few recommendations to make your CI Communications approach successful

  • Create your CI Key Messages
  • Develop a Communications Plan
  • Avoid ‘going public’ too early; always communicate something tangible – preferably with initial program results
  • Communicate with and through your NGO partner
  • Reach your priority audiences, using a variety of communications channels
  • The average journalist receives over 300 emails a day! Make your communication stand out by offering:
  • Accessible case studies / best practice examples
  • Testimony from program beneficiaries
  • Famous/ interesting spokespeople
  • Remember that media relations is never the only route; think holistically about who else you want to engage and how
  • Set up stakeholder briefings
  • Communicate with politicians and other third parties

When planning any external communication, always think about how best to reach all your audiences.  Also brief your company’s communications spokespeople (media, political relations) so they can speak about your Community Involvement projects. 

Then collect and share stakeholder feedback and media coverage from your projects. This will be part of Measurement and Evaluation.

Lastly, consider whether your work has the potential to ‘hit the big time’.  Can you get your marketing or advertising people excited enough to throw some above-the-line advertising behind it, for example for corporate image ads? This takes the profile of your community work to the next level of public awareness.

Internal Communications

All of your employees should be aware of your business’ Community Involvement activities.  What’s more, they should be proud of it.  They should want to participate as volunteers in your programs and act as multipliers in sharing stories with colleagues, business partners, family, friends, and acquaintances.

As with External Communications, there are as broad a range of Internal Communications tools to use.  Some more traditional ones are:

·  Company Intranet – news, CR and Community Involvement pages

·  Employee magazines

·  Internal online newsletters, featuring also short Community Involvement films

·  Company-internal TV

·  Internal events (including CI road shows)

·  Regular program status updates to Senior Management

·  Tailored communication to employee networks in the company – graduates, high potentials, etc.

For both Internal and External Comms, the best tactic will only ever be limited by your creativity.  Innovative ways to communicate develop all the time (look at all the new social media - how often do you Twitter?). At the same time, remember, what might work well in one culture may be totally inappropriate for another. 

Finally, never forget the most powerful and credible Comms of all … positive word of mouth from one person to another!