What’s the difference between Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Public Relations (PR)?
By Guest Contributor Sangeeta Waldron
Author of Corporate Social Responsibility is Not Public Relations, Sangeeta Waldron, explains what Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is and why it is important.
THE ESSENCE OF PR
There’s a difference between Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Public Relations (PR), a distinct difference. I find that everyone seems to know the term PR, but not everyone understands what it means. Many organizations recognize that it’s a great way to build their marketing approach and their online reputation, but very few know what PR involves; it is a component that can raise your company’s authority, build relationships with key people and manage your reputation. It also helps to increase sales and attract customers. The aim of PR is to inform the public, including your potential customers, business partners, influencers, regulators and investors.
The essence of good PR is the ability to convey a compelling message that consumers, governments, media and the public can understand and follow; and during the pandemic we can see the importance of correct messaging!
PR needs creative ideas and thoughts, which are then communicated via traditional media and social media, including magazines, newspapers, television, radio and digital channels like Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. It’s also about sending the right messages to the right places and people, to build your brand’s reputation. It is a tool for all business types and sectors, whose main purpose is to raise the profile of an organization or promote a campaign/initiative.
These days’ digital communication is driving PR, where three important trends are affecting its future: social listening, digital storytelling and real-time marketing. In essence, this means there’s never been a better time to be in business, an entrepreneur, an author, a start-up, a charity or any other kind of small- to medium-sized organization.
PR is a function that can change the future of your business. When used appropriately, it can ‘make a company,’ giving it the power to overcome almost any obstacle. PR is vital for any brand, and for many reasons.
But as the title of my book screams loudly – CSR is not PR!
WHERE CSR IS KEY
In my earlier post I explained what CSR is (you can hyper link) and your CSR strategy is part of your business strategy and can do more good for your company than great publicity, because it is enduring and authentic. However, before you get started on your PR plan and campaign, it’s important to know who you are as a brand. This is where CSR is key.
Yet, many companies are confused about their own brand identity and values. If you don’t know your brand, how can you expect others to know what you do and what you stand for? Many companies recognize the link between successful businesses and strong branding. They know that branding is not just a logo, but too few realize that successful brands have their brand CSR values positioned at the core of their business. Ideally, branding is entwined with your CSR values, defining your business for yourself, your team, and your customers and other external audiences.
Customers of all sorts of businesses are so savvy today that they can see through most attempts by companies to gloss, spin or charm their way to sales. When customers connect — because they share the same values and beliefs as the brand — it leads to better marketplace differentiation and higher sales, and encourages loyalty.
HOW BRANDS BROUGHT THEIR CSR TO LIFE DURING THE PANDEMIC
During the pandemic crisis, we saw how brands that have CSR at their heart were able to still have a role, and engage with not only their customers but a much larger audience. These brands were visible — in a positive way — during these tough times, some of my favourites have been:
The luxury brand, Louis Vuitton who during the start of the pandemic, when there was a desperate need for PPE and hand-sanitizer, were the first to start producing disinfectant gel at its French facilities that usually produce perfume and cosmetics for brands such as Dior. They pivoted within 72 hours after the French government issued a call to industry on March 13 to help fill gaps for key medical supplies.
And a more recent example is BrewDog, a multinational brewery and pub chain who has been great during the start of the global pandemic and at the beginning of 2021 was offering free beer to everyone in the UK, through a new initiative to perk up everyone. BrewDog tweeted that it would be offering people the chance to get a free four-pack of its new product, Lost Lager. The beer, BrewDog claims, is the world’s only carbon negative lager; it has committed to planting a tree for every four-pack that is claimed.
While, other examples of companies with strong CSR commitments are:
Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream brand has a broad range of advocacy/CSR initiatives that includes racial justice, democracy, refugees, peace building, GMO labelling, fair trade, climate action, LGBTQ equality.
We all know and love the shoe brand TOMS, where their shoes are made from sustainable materials, and emphasizes transparency in its supply chain, so you know they are staying true to their word.
Another favourite is Riverford Farms, which is owned by its staff and as they say treat everyone fairly from the bees in the field to the local delivery driver.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IS NOT PUBLIC RELATIONS
There are many more stories in my new book, Corporate Social Responsibility is Not Public Relations, about successful brands – companies that you might not have heard about, but all doing positive things for the plant. I have also been able to interview 15 global thought leaders and entrepreneurs, such as David Katz, CEO of Plastic Bank; Loïs Acton, mentored by Anita Roddick, founder of the Bodyshop, Fred Huguez, who escaped the LA gang culture about the essence of sustainability.
This is the time for all types of business to have CSR as the lifeblood for all their customers and employees. And an open and honest approach to corporate social responsibility, which is at the heart of your heart of your brand, is good public relations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SANGEETA WALDRON Sangeeta Waldron is a multi-award-winning PR professional. She has been a contributing editor for different news platforms specializing in sustainability and corporate social responsibility, where some of her stories have been published by the United Nations. In 2009, Sangeeta founded her own London based communications agency, Serendipity PR & Media, and guest lectures at Coventry University on journalism, ethics, global society, social media and PR. Sangeeta started out her career writing speeches for a previous UK Prime Minister and Ministers. She has worked at the top level with global brands, which includes – The Economist Group; The Times Education Supplement; Mayor of London; Cass Business School; and charities such as the Gaia Foundation, National Federation of Women’s Institutes and Breast Cancer Campaign. In August 2019, Sangeeta published her first business book, The PR Knowledge Book with Business Expert Press. A regular international speaker, she often moderates a panel discussion for Asian Voice newspaper that supports British Asian women in business.
The world is at a tipping point – climate change, plastic pollution, bush fires, disappearing forests, a global pandemic and explosive conversations about diversity and inclusion. Now, more than ever, it is important for all types of businesses to have authentic Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives that are not a publicity spin. This book demonstrates that CSR is the future of business.
The book, Corporate Social Responsibility is Not Public Relations, contains 15 global inspirational interviews with thought leaders and entrepreneurs, including David Katz, CEO of Plastic Bank; Lois Acton, mentored by Anita Roddick, founder of the Bodyshop, Fred Huguez, who escaped the LA gang culture about the essence of sustainability, and more. These interviews within every chapter, along with the research, show there is international public support for business to do better and that CSR is driving investment. This is the time for all types of business to have CSR as the lifeblood for all their customers and employees.