Building a Sustainable Community Relations Program
Brooks Robinson, CMO of Cbeyond, recently discussed the importance of community relations and how his company launched its program, Cbeyond Community Connections™. Cbeyond is a provider of communications and IT solutions to more than 44,000 small businesses and recipient of a gold-level Presidential Volunteer Service Award.
Brooks explained what it takes to create a great community relations program, how to keep it running successfully and the benefits for both the community and the company. Below are a number of suggestions to consider when developing a community relations program:
It Starts at the Top…
Giving back to the community needs to be a part of the corporate culture and championed from the top and down. To make that happen, the core company leadership needs to dedicate itself to the program. It is their responsibility to create a culture of volunteerism and effectively communicate that philosophy to management, employees and stakeholders.
By showing employees and the community that corporate citizenship is a company priority, senior leadership can truly build momentum within the company as well as a genuine buy-in from their employees.
Company policies that make it easy for employees to give back to the community remove many restrictions stopping them from volunteering. For instance, consider providing employees with a specific amount of paid leave each year to volunteer, or partner with a volunteer organization to coordinate a company-wide day or half-day of volunteering.
…And Relies on Employees…
Make it a practice to hire employees who have a record of volunteering in their community. Their dedication to the community will likely carry over to the company. You may discover that their passion ignites the passion of others in the company, making them catalysts for successful company community initiatives.
Likewise, a company that believes strongly in giving back to the community will attract people with similar beliefs. Often employees who are passionate about volunteering are attracted to an employer for these very reasons.
In the end, the success of a program is based on employees who are passionate about giving back to the community. Without their time and willingness to help out the community, the program cannot work.
…to Keep the Program Growing.
It is important to maintain the community relations program through business growth. Often as the number of employees grows, the time and energy devoted to the community relations program operations remains the same or dries up. The first step is to maintain that culture of giving.
- Formalize the program so it is easier for larger numbers of employees to participate.
- Plan company-wide organized volunteer days or half-days in which the employees are paid for their time.
- Partner with a volunteering organization like the United Way or Hands On Network that can help organize events.
- Encourage employees to volunteer outside of work.
- Never lose the passion for giving back to the communities
By leveraging its most important asset, its employees, a company can construct and sustain an authentic culture of giving, responsibility and caring that benefits not only the community, but the company and employees themselves.
Mike Neumeier, APR is principal of Arketi Group (www.arketi.com), a high-tech business-to-business PR and marketing firm. He is the President of the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the second largest chapter in the society, and is a board member of the Technology Executives Roundtable. He can be reached at 404-929-0091 ext. 210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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