Our brand of marketing

Capturing the key points from a recent interview our MD, Alison Taylor, did with Star Radio’s Business Hub, here are Conscious Communications answers to some of the questions we are frequently asked by SMEs in the region.

How do I approach my marketing strategy when I have a tight budget:

We will always recommend taking an holistic approach to your marketing and communications strategy, that looks to deliver your messages efficiently via whichever channel is most effective in engaging with your specific audiences.  There will never be just one solution, you should look at all potential elements of the marketing mix and make informed decisions about where your money is best spent.

Set out with a clear set of objectives for what you want your marketing to achieve – these will always boil down to two broad objectives:

  1. Profile raising and influence
  2. Sales/support – this may relate to sales of a product or, in the case of charities or social enterprises, refers to the support they gain for their activities

Taking these two objectives in turn our advice is:

 1.     Profile and influence

  •  Don’t scattergun your marketing – aim for quality not quantity.  This is especially important for SMEs where marketing budgets are tight
  • Analyse your market – the types of companies/organisations you want to work with, where they’re based, who they’re currently buying products/services from
  • Look at what the competition is doing – aim to identify your niche and understand why potential customers will want to buy from you and not from your competitors.  You need to really understand what you’re offering – think in features and benefits
  • Don’t focus on talking about what your company does: talk about what it can do for your potential customers – how will what you offer benefit them
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel – that’s not to mean don’t be creative; but don’t waste resources and time – monitor and evaluate and learn from what you achieve
  • Don’t pin your whole marketing effort on social media.  It can play a role in what you do and can be a useful tool, but it is not a solution in itself and much time and resource can be wasted on social media channels/platforms that aren’t relevant for your customers

Once you understand your audiences and what they’re looking for, examine all the marketing channel options available to you; weigh up what they offer and the potential return: advertising, sponsorship, media relations, events and exhibitions, networking.

Much of your marketing may be ‘under the radar’ rather than overt – it may be that your business is best built on reputation and word of mouth, like ours is.  In which case much of your investment may be in the time it takes to be out and about meeting the right people at events, conferences, seminars.  Factor this into your budget and monitor and evaluate the results

A few tips for what not to do:

  • Don’t invest without measurement in place
  • Don’t ignore existing customers – they can be your best source of new business
  • Don’t ignore your mistakes – learn from them

 2.     Sales and support

Relationships are absolutely key to closing any sort of deal, even in this digital age –  people buy from people.  From a marketing perspective, there are three keys to successfully securing a sale:

  • relationships built on trust – this can be evidenced by word of mouth; endorsement from existing clients/customers.  This is true for business to business, and business to consumer markets
  • evidence that the product or service can and has previously been delivered, and/or that the product has previously been successfully purchased/used – examples, case studies, reviews
  • proof that there will be the required return on investment.  Your customers will want to assess a cost vs reward ratio – if I spend x on this product, I will receive x-worth of benefit, whether this is tangible, intangible or even subliminal!

All of the above can be evidenced in your marketing.  It’s not just about getting noticed, it’s about proving you’re the best one for the job, or that your products will meet and exceed your customers’ needs.

It’s worth bearing in mind also that you don’t have to go it alone; so much today is about partnerships and collaboration.  Look for likeminded organisations to work with and form mutually beneficial partnerships to market; you may be able to pool resources and budgets to make advertising more affordable for example; or you may be able to develop a joint event which people are more likely to attend because it’s hosted by more than one company.

Picture this

The rise of image-led communication across the business spectrum, from basic infographics to the full-blown illustrative interpretation of strategies, continues to gain momentum.   In our own business the change is evidenced by many ways; our business plan, which in days gone by would have populated many pages of a decent sized paperback, has now been translated into a one page visual which is simple to grasp, memorable and, therefore, easy to translate into action for every single member of our team.

There is a fascinating article in BA’s Business Life this month which illustrates just how far we have come in understanding the power and many uses of imagery in the business world.  The saying ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ has been used for generations in the marketing industry but traditionally (for those of us old enough to remember) the saying’s meaning referred to the use of photography to illustrate text – it was assumed that without the words the audience couldn’t possibly be expected to understand what the communication was about. 

Now it seems we have finally turned this thinking on its head and today the picture is increasingly used to communicate the message, replacing most, if not all of the words.  So, if the old saying is still true, and if each 1,000 word article can be replaced by just one picture, communication will continue to become infinitely faster and more streamlined.  Unfortunately for those people whose brains aren’t so able to process images, this may prove challenging but, if we’re to believe the words of experts cited in the BA article, these people are few and far between.

The concept of graphic visualisation is nothing new of course.  Anyone who has seen Ken Robinson’s animated thinking on education will know how powerful live, illustrative interpretation can be when executed well.  The ability to communicate a thousand words through just one image takes the type of skills that not many people possess.  But, from experience, we know that utilising the simplest of pictures to capture and bring elements of a concept together, can certainly help with interpretation of the message.  And, with so many digital tools available, many of which are free, there is really no excuse for any organisation not attempting to use the power of images. 

The simple graphic used in this blog about ‘Conscious Business’ captures beautifully what the author sees as the four essential elements of the concept.  Even if the reader hasn’t the time or the interest to read all of the blog’s text, they will be able to grasp the basics of what the author wants to convey from this simple graphic – job done.

Graphic visualisation has also become an increasingly popular tool for internal communications specialists, especially those responsible for driving internal change.  An image that can map an organisation’s structure, work flow, products, services, customers (internal and external), can be very effective for enhancing engagement and stimulating involvement and ownership.  Channel 4’s corporate workflow graphic is a colourful example.    

The utilisation of graphic facilitation in the work place is a relatively new concept and simply brilliant.  For everything from strategic development to team building, the technique takes meeting facilitation to a completely new level and allows teams to develop something completely unique and memorable that has the ability to help break down barriers. Forget the pack of post-its, coloured pens and flip chart, spending a little extra money on an illustrator to capture the nuances and emotions of a workshop can be worth every penny.

But, with all the excitement about graphics, there is still a significant place for words – the beauty and value of well-chosen words shouldn’t be dismissed.  Like artistic masterpieces themselves, they wear the test of time.  Here are some of the great opening lines from literature as chosen by the Daily Telegraph: “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all doing direct the other way”.  We challenge you to try putting all of the depth of emotion and meaning in these words into a picture! 

Clifford’s downfall signals bright future for PR

Max Clifford may be an expert at ‘spin’ but he has never been a ‘king of PR’.  In fact, he knows nothing of PR and has never practised anything that Conscious Communications would even loosely term public relations. 

Max Clifford is a publicist who has made fortunes from other people’s misfortunes and we couldn’t be happier that his conviction will remove him from the fringes of our industry and mean that he can no longer taint our profession with his tatty, manipulative money-making practices.

All major industries have their high profile ‘personalities’ and ‘egos’ but few have suffered and survived the degradation of anyone like Clifford.  A thorn in our side for decades, we have soldiered on, building the strength and reputation of strategic public relations practices that have delivered real and lasting impact for organisations of all shapes and sizes across the world.

The research, insight, understanding, knowledge, skill and creativity that we employ to develop and implement PR strategies, to deliver genuine and honest objectives, are qualities that Clifford knows nothing of. 

Now that Clifford’s downfall is complete, neither the public relations profession, the popular media, or the unfortunate people who sold their stories through Clifford, need a replacement, and we look forward to a future for our industry where communication experts can feel proud to call themselves PR professionals again.

Content marketing – today’s once upon a time

Content marketing is set to be the single biggest area of increased marketing spend this year.   But content marketing is not new, it’s simply the evolution of something communications professionals like us have been doing since time began – writing and telling compelling stories. 

Effective story-telling is the basis for all good public relations, marketing and brand development activity.  Content marketing combines this skill with the concept of traditional media relations, where the value of editorial is far greater than that of paid-for advertising.

The fact that we now work in a world where there’s a frenzy of content generation, everyone can be their own publisher, and there are more free channels for dissemination than ever before, doesn’t diminish the value of traditional media and journalism.  There is still huge inherent value for the marketer in achieving editorial coverage, with its perceived editorial endorsement, through well-conceived, written and pitched news and feature materials. 

More than ever, consumers are looking for reliable sources to inform and validate their decisions and purchases – editorial endorsement is still powerful and can be a valuable education tool. 

In fact, good old-fashioned media relations is still the service that the Conscious Communications team gets requests for most frequently, except that these days we also include social media engagement in the mix of course.

So we find ourselves with three main options for dissemination of our content, each of which has its   own merits and offers varying levels of control:

1) Owned media where we have total control in the form of newsletters, whitepapers, websites, blogs – brands that create 15 blog posts per month average 1,200 new leads per month;

2) social media where we can control our own messages but also invite conversation and engagement with audiences – according to the Content Marketing Institute, the average B2B marketer engages in content promotion on 6 social media platforms;

3) traditional media – print, broadcast and on-line, where editorial control is in someone else’s hands and, therefore, still has greater perceived value for the reader. 

Conscious Communications believes that the best content marketing strategies utilise both traditional and new media channels to disseminate original, repurposed and curated content to achieve optimum engagement.  In this way, a good content marketing strategy can engage with audiences at every stage of the buying cycle through initial awareness generation through engagement and lead generation, to loyalty, effectively supporting other marketing and sales activities.

There is one other option too, which spans all of the above, and that is the ‘peer review’ which, again, is now more easily achieved than ever.  Much like the traditional case study published in a business or trade journal, customer and supplier reviews, guest blogs and endorsements can be effectively utilised within a content marketing programme to promote products and services and reinforce prospective customers’ reasons to engage. 

The really exciting thing about content today is that it doesn’t need to be static and can be delivered easily through moving image, audio, animation, graphics, text and a combination of all of these.    Just imagine, a massive two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2017.

Content marketing is also a hugely valuable component of any effective internal communications programme and should be viewed and managed with the same care and attention it commands for external marketing. 

Again, this is nothing new, but internal audiences have become more sophisticated and demanding, and content needs to reflect this by inviting and encouraging contributions, promoting successes and best practice. 

Employees can be a company’s most effective ambassadors and the company that successfully involves its staff in generating and disseminating content on the company’s behalf, has a lot to gain.   However, involving individuals in content generation is a great motivator as long as it doesn’t become a burden.  So make sure to set out clear guidelines and ensure individuals keep to agreed timelines so that content is topical and maintains momentum.

And, if you’re still not sure of the value of content marketing, it is a fact that well-constructed content, that resonates with audiences and achieves recommendations, will gain attention from search engines, pushing you up the search rankings.  Google values in-depth and lengthy (1,500+ words) technical articles, white papers, study reports and so on, so a good smattering of longer pieces to complement your curated news and repurposed views content will help ensure you’re appealing to all potential audiences.

If you’re thinking about developing a content marketing programme and need some creative inspiration, www.businesss2community.com published 57 ideas – some insightful, some obvious, all worth bearing in mind: http://goo.gl/H5Y4VX.

If you need help with constructing your content marketing programme, please give us a call on 01223 393 812 or email alison.taylor@consciouscomms.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @Conscious_comms or visit our website: www.consciouscomms.com

The value of media relations

Great media relations skills are honed through years of hands-on experience.  They cannot be learned from a text book.  Top media relations practitioners have a raw talent, an instinct for a ‘story’ and eye for an ‘angle’.  Importantly, they know their audience and understand the media which, in the digital age, is no mean feat.

So what makes a good story?  There is no doubt that bad news shouts louder than good news and that bad news spreads faster and stays longer than ever.  But how do we make a compelling story out of good news? There are six main components that make up news:

  • Immediacy – it is about something that’s happening now
  • Impact – it has the ability to affect lives
  • Change – it is about imminent or actual change
  • Interest – it excites; worries; intrigues; motivates
  • Importance – it is of consequence to individuals and/or communities
  • Relevance – it is topical and of significance

The media landscape has changed dramatically in just the past few years and now employs over ½ million people in the UK.  It is now vastly more complex and dynamic than it was with every member of the public now a potential reporter and self-appointed journalist.  With more channels for news than ever before, competition for editorial space is fierce, so why communicate through the media at all?  Why not choose another way to communicate with target audiences and raise the profile of your company, products or services? 

The one overriding compelling reason is that the media offers the potential for mass dissemination of your messages.  With the right angle, making your story newsworthy, you have the potential to reach many millions of people across the world.  Even more appealing is that, with careful planning and media knowledge, you have the ability to engage with niche markets of interested customers and potential customers.  And, now that the media is so joined-up, you have the ability to push audiences to your own media outlets – your website; blog; pages on social platforms.

Of course one of the reasons why great media relations still carries such value is because a story reported by an independent media channel carries the implied endorsement of that channel, the journalist/editor.  Even better, if the story is delivered in the form of a third party review or endorsement, giving personal endorsement of the products/services, it has yet more value.

And while, prior to the new media age, stories in traditional media became chip paper and were lost overnight, with today’s digital channels, your story has an infinite life, potentially resurfacing time and again dished up by search engines, for many years to come.  So, a little media relations expertise can go a long, long way.

Eureka, a diet that works!

January is dieting season and if you’ve made a resolution to lose weight this spring you’ll no doubt have been trawling the internet, magazines, papers for advice on how to do it. 

One of the most convincing sources of information about what does and doesn’t work, is our friends and family.  People who have actually done it; are doing it; have succeeded; and can tell you how much pain might be involved and how determined you need to be, are the ones we listen to most. 

It seems to the Conscious Communications team that almost everyone we speak to has tried, or is doing, the 5:2.  The regimen has captured everyone’s imaginations with its sheer simplicity and one-day-at-a-time pain philosophy.   The thought that we can fast for two days each week, then eat whatever we like on the other five, and still lose lbs and lbs, sounds just too good to be true.  So, is it?

Conscious Communications was privileged to be at a British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) conference last week, frantically scribing press releases in the back row.  It was here that we learned that the original version of the 5:2 was titled ‘The 2-Day Diet’, developed by Dr Michelle Harvie, Research Dietitian at the Genesis Prevention Centre, University Hospital of South Manchester, and based on extensive scientific research. 

The 2-Day Diet comprises two days of 500-600 calories, plus five days of healthy eating and, yes, it really does work.  But here’s the rub, you can’t eat whatever you like on the five days -that just won’t work. 

However, the good news is, unlike other diets where keeping the weight loss off seems impossible, if you succeed in losing weight with this one, you can then cut back to just one day per week of ‘fasting’ to successfully maintain the weight loss.

Palaeolithic diets were also on the agenda at the conference and, as well as discovering that the Stone Age menu contained many more phytochemicals and fibre than the modern day diet, it seems that they also had a big impact on satiety hormones and feelings of fullness after eating. 

The Conscious Communications team thinks, therefore, that in theory if we combine a healthy eating plan, based on the Palaeolithic diet, with an intermittent fasting plan (2-Day Diet), the weight loss process would be even easier.  Not so much ‘no pain, no gain’; rather ‘just a little, intermittent pain, and big gain’! 

Against the backdrop of all of this scientific evidence, the NHS in association with the British Dietetic Association (BDA) has launched its own 12 week weight-loss plan – yet another healthy eating plan with exercise included.  It sounds like so many other diets and surely adds to general dieting confusion.  No wonder the 5:2 seems so appealing in comparison.

Follow us on Twitter: @Conscious_comms. 

Recordings of four of the BNF conference presentations are available on: www.nutrition.org.uk

Keeping our resolve

41 percent of us will have made a New Year’s resolution at midnight on 31st December but 46 percent of these resolutions will last just 6 months and only 19 percent a full year. 

Every January the media rejoices in reporting on popular resolutions, personal and professional, many of which are predictable but enjoyable to make fun of nonetheless, even if some of them are a little too familiar, personally.  This year, the Guardian published its list with a twist: the top twelve resolutions NOT to make.   The Conscious Communications team’s favourite in this list is the new hairdo.  The sense of growing dismay and regret as your new image takes shape in the hairdresser’s mirror beautifully captured in this piece – resolution or not, who hasn’t experienced this one!

The media’s other favourite list for January is that of personal finance resolutions.  This list is similar across all media every year and a sad indictment to creative thinking.  For 2014 the recurring theme is to make better use of free on-line tools and advice to help manage and monitor your finances.  The internet has, of course, transformed the world of personal finance and allows us to research and compare information across multiple providers, products and services as never before.  ‘Switching’ is now part of our everyday vocabulary but the figures are still very low – in September 2013 the Payments Council launched a new Current Account Switch Service designed to motivate more consumers to change their bank.  One month later they announced that 89,000 switches had been completed since launch, but this was just 9,000 more than the same period the previous year when no such service was available.  The assumption could be that the public is apathetic.  But, maybe it’s simply that we’ve taken our New Year’s resolution, dug around and used free on-line information to search out better deals, then spoken to our bank and, hey-presto, customer service has kicked in and they’ve risen to the challenge and structured a package to suit us better.  That’s the experience of one member of our team anyway.

Members of the Conscious Communications team have all, individually, made New Year’s resolutions for 2014.  Interestingly in all cases these resolutions relate to learning something and ‘bettering ourselves’ in some way. 

CPD in social media is a recurring theme for us – the world in which we work moves so fast that it is essential to our work that we stay on the learning curve and, therefore, as well as being on our resolutions lists social media is naturally integrated as part of our on-going external training programme.

Without going into too many dull specifics, other resolutions from our team include further learning in sustainable business practices and collaborations; and greater involvement with local charitable causes.  If this all sounds very ‘worthy’, we definitely have some hairdos in the frame too! 

Importantly, how will we go about keeping these resolutions? According to International Business Times there are five things we all should do to ensure we keep our promises to ourselves.  The Conscious Communications team’s favourite of these is to ‘make a vision board’ – what, really?!  That sounds like a whole resolution in itself and far too much like hard work to be practical.  We actually think it’s more a case of just getting on with it although, undoubtedly, making a resolution with a friend can help, so the ‘buddy’ system described in the IBT piece has some merit.  However, buddies also have the potential to lead you astray and weaken your resolve so, one final resolution for our list is, beware the ‘weak buddy’.

Credit and recognition where it’s due

It was the British Nutrition Foundation’s Annual Day yesterday.  Academics, health professionals, industry, and students gathered at the Royal College of Physicians in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal, to hear this year’s British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) Annual Lecture, delivered by Professor Sean Strain, Professor of Human Nutrition at University of Ulster.  Professor Strain was winner of the BNF Prize 2012, awarded in recognition of his outstanding leadership and research related to human nutrition, food and health. 

Professor Strain’s lecture, titled ‘Eating Fish for Two’, examined the prevalence of mercury in fish, the result of both natural and human activities, and looked at the scientific evidence behind the effects of methylmercury exposure and advice given to women about eating fish during pregnancy.  This fascinating presentation concluded that there is a need for a change in policy advice to motivate increased fish consumption in pregnant women.  The benefits outweigh the risks according to Professor Strain. 

This extraordinary presentation of scientific significance was followed by a raft of award presentations by HRH The Princess Royal on behalf of BNF, to students, nutritionists and dietitians.  Some were given in the memory and under the name of Sir Jack Drummond, who played an important role in the history of nutrition, in particular during and after the Second World War.

So why is this interesting?  The Chairman of BNF said a few words at the reception that followed the awards giving and his words will resonate with many people.  Nutrition and food security are of huge significance across the globe and climate change is posing many challenges for governments, academics, agriculture and food industries.  These challenges will continue to escalate unless the work of organisations like BNF continues. 

BNF’s modest team of scientists and education professionals work tirelessly to analyse, interpret and communicate nutrition science to multiple audiences.  They are sometimes criticised by the naïve and uneducated for their collaborations with industry but they remain true to their aims and scientific principles, and under strict governance to remain unbiased, balanced and focussed on scientific evidence.

BNF’s work this past year in promoting food provenance, healthy eating and cooking to primary and secondary schools across the country during Healthy Eating Week was an unparalleled success.  With over 3,000 schools taking part and activities involving 1.2 million children it demonstrates the huge appetite and need for knowledge, skills and resources in the community.  .

The small not-for-profit team also works hard to secure funding for its work and they deserve greater support and recognition to build on their vital work helping to address the burgeoning obesity  and associated disease crisis. 

Is red tape restricting the green house building agenda?

Domestic and non-domestic buildings are responsible for around 37 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.   Taking domestic building in isolation, there are 26 million homes in UK and over 40 per cent of our CO2 emissions come from these buildings – the comparative figure for emissions globally is around a third.  These figures don’t even take into account current energy and water usage and means that there’s a massive amount of retrofitting to be done if we’re to meet our climate change goals.

The government’s flagship Green Deal was officially launched just nine months ago and last week the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment published its report ‘Re-energising the green agenda’, in which it concludes that the Green Deal already needs reviewing.  Apparently not many people know what it does or why it exists – this comes as no surprise to the Conscious Communications’ team which has heard the same from clients and at the green and cleantech events we attend.

A view reaffirmed by Dr Aled Jones, director of Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, today at the Retrofit East conference where he hold delegates that an “urgent reform” of the Green Deal policy is needed.  He believes that the only way to cut domestic carbon emissions by the required 29 per cent is by legislation and compulsory energy and efficiency standards.

Apparently only 700 people have so far taken out Green Deal loans, and just 12 installations have been completed to date.  99 per cent of people who have had a Green Deal assessment done on their home have not gone on to progress their project. 

The All Party Parliamentary Group’s report says: “…we feel it is time to take another look at the detail, make it work for social housing, galvanise the schemes locally across the country and make financial incentives permanent. The concern is that in the current form the Green Deal and Energy Companies Obligation will deliver fewer carbon emissions reductions than the policies they replaced.”

So, in conclusion, the Green Deal has taken us backwards. 

The report goes on to make several recommendations including making retrofit more financially attractive; making the Green Construction Board an industry focal point for delivery and action; and establishing an Existing Homes Hub to engage with industry on sustainability issues.

From a new build perspective, the UK has targeted itself with achieving a carbon neutral status for all new homes by 2016.  This appears to be an easier target for us to achieve, and the Code for Sustainable Homes is now being widely implemented.

Yet the Conscious Communications team understands that one of the key players in the green new build sector, Skanska – three times award winner at this year’s BCI Awards, whose president and CEO is co-chair of the Green Construction Board, has just pulled out of the UK residential market, largely due to the complexities of the planning process.  As an innovator in the market that has been setting the bar for other construction companies, we see this as a shocking indictment of our system, bogged down with red tape, and a calamity for the UK.  Surely there should be measures in place to help companies like Skanska to speed through planning, build progressive housing and help us reach our environmental targets.  Who will lead the way for new green homes in the UK now?

According to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s annual FTSE 350 Climate Change Report 2013, construction companies scoring highest in a ranking of corporate carbon footprints include Morgan Sindall, Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Interserve, Costain, Kier. 

In our region, where the property ‘bubble’ continues to bulge, it is good to see so many of these companies have a presence.  Indeed, the Conscious Communications team was proud to have been part of Kier Eastern’s new office opening in Cambridge recently – we hope that they have more success with the planning process than Skanska did, and that they continue to strive in helping the UK reach its carbon neutral targets.

When is CSR not CSR?

Does corporate social responsibility (CSR) mean different things to different organisations, or do organisations choose to interpret the meaning of CSR in different ways?  This was the question that came to the minds of the Conscious Communications team following a recent ‘CSR’ presentation that we attended in Cambridge.

A number of not-for-profit organisations and SMEs delivered talks at the event and there seemed to be an interesting mismatch in application of the name ‘CSR’ to different activities.

There are various definitions of CSR to draw on but one that the Conscious Communications team favours is ‘corporate self-regulation’ integrated into the business model.  This ‘self-regulation’ refers to ethical standards, and the furthering of social good, beyond the interest of the company itself and its required legal compliance.  CSR is not just about philanthropy, it’s about having a positive impact in and around all areas of business which includes, most topically, taking responsibility for your supply chain.  Marketing Week presented an overview of opinions from CSR leaders – which makes for an interesting read.

It is, of course, inevitable that organisations will engage in CSR activities at different levels, and some more actively than others.  But, what is less obvious maybe, is that organisations will still, in 2013, go about ‘dressing up’ their own promotional activities as CSR, by simply bolting on a charity element.  Giving to charity is always to be applauded and we are sure that the charities concerned are happy to benefit from these activities – we all know how difficult fundraising is today.  But to start with a business or marketing objective and work backwards to develop an event or stunt that fulfils an audience reach imperative, and then add a fundraising attraction to draw in maximum involvement, doesn’t speak to the true essence of social good.  Nor will this approach deliver the long-term business benefits associated with genuine CSR activity, embedded in the culture and strategy across a business.

These benefits are now tangible to the large companies, such as Unilever, which have really embraced their CSR journey.  They know that real CSR can have a positive impact on reputation, employee satisfaction and recruitment, operational efficiency, investor relations, customer loyalty, market positioning and profitability.  Forbes gives six reasons a company should embrace CSR which are echoed across many other sources.

There is no doubt that embedding a robust CSR strategy and culture within an organisation so that it underpins corporate decision making is not easy.  But, if large corporations such as Unilever can do it effectively then it must be possible, if not easier, for SMEs to also do it.  The change needs to come from the very top of the organisation and, therefore, it could be argued that the smaller the company, the easier the implementation of a CSR strategy should be.  So, we believe there’s no excuse for dressing up a customer event as CSR activity – the first step to achieving a genuine CSR strategy is openness and honesty at board level about the organisation’s motivations and objectives.  This is how the Conscious Communications business was conceived, with our ethics and CSR strategy firmly rooted at the very beginning, and now evolving and strengthening as our company grows. 

Click here to start building your PR and marketing strategies