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Why Your Company Needs to Exude Social Responsibility

On May 22, 2013, Cone Communications and Echo research released a global study regarding Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR.

Surveying 10,000 people in some of the largest countries in the world, the study reveals a lot of information about how consumers react to companies that do or do not emphasize social responsibility. Although the study did not seem to make a lot of waves, it offers many important revelations to consider as you begin to plan your marketing campaign for next year.

Here are some of the key points the report highlights.

“No longer content with sweeping donations or vague promises of eco-friendliness, today’s global citizens demand more than good intentions. Proof of progress beyond purpose is essential.”

Although not an ideal way to treat consumers, in the past it was possible to indicate that your company was engaging in environmentally sustainable practices or community efforts without truly having to prove that these statements were true.

In today’s business world, customers have much more access to information regarding how your company really works, and moreover, with social media customers can ask you specifically what you are doing to be socially responsible. If you are not walking the walk, you should be.

If you are not walking the walk, make sure you do not talk the talk.

Segmenting the population

The main thrust of the study is analyzing different segments of the population to ascertain the following:

• What do they believe their impact is on improving the world
• How do they want companies to communicate with them about social responsibility
• How companies can best engage that segment

Here is a very brief summary of how the report divides consumers:

“The Bleeding Heart”

Usually a female between the ages of 18 and 34, this demographic wants to be part of the process in companies becoming more socially responsible. They also want companies to be extremely involved in social causes. The study suggests that with this demographic, “Engagement beyond purchase is a key differentiator.”

“The Ringleader”

Male or female and 35 or older, this segment is defined as one that “aggressively addresses social and environmental issues, not only through…consumption, but by rallying others to follow his lead.” The report notes that 71% of the people in this group say that companies confuse them with their CSR messaging, an important note for those of you who are in the marketing and communications departments of your companies.

“The Old Guard”

Usually male and 55 or older, this segment of the population does not really believe that they can impact social responsibility through their purchasing, so your company’s efforts in this area may not interest this demographic as much, although 77% said they are interested in what companies may be trying to do. This segment of the population also still relies on traditional modes of communication more than on social media.

“Happy-Go-Lucky”

This segment can be male or female and is aged 18-34. This type of consumer will buy socially responsible products but only if it is convenient. That being said, the report notes that trust with this group is hard to win and easy to lose. Of those surveyed, 90% said they would boycott a company that was not behaving responsibility.

Some take-aways for Marketers

Finally, some interesting observations about the best way to communicate your corporate social responsibility to consumers.

Despite all of the buzz about content marketing, social media, vlogs, and more, 24% of people surveyed said that the best way to reach them with messages about corporate responsibility is…

On the package!

Social Media only weighed in at 9% although that is a 2% increase over 2011. Mobile was preferred by a paltry 4% of those surveyed.

The next two highest categories were media (such as interviews in local papers) and advertising (print, broadcast and online) at 18% and 15% respectively.

What is going on here?

It is possible that people simply feel that while social media is a good way to get the word out about a company, traditional media is still more trustworthy.

The report also makes the important observation that while social media and other newer communication channels may not be the primary driver of sales spurred on by social responsibility, they can help direct people to other preferred means of communication.

For example, a Facebook page could highlight new packaging or an interview. All marketing channels working together is the best way to make sure your CSR message reaches the right demographic at the right time in the buying cycle.

If you are interested in reading this full report (which I highly recommend) you can access it here. I’m looking forward to hearing what you find most interesting!

Marjorie Clayman is VP of Client Services at her family’s full service marketing firm,Clayman Marketing Communications.   For more from Margie on the Vocus Blog, click here. 

Image: Umbrela Verde (Creative Commons)

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