Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Recap: Building a Corporate Social Responsibility Program

This is cross-posted from the Ft. Worth PRSA blog since I thought it was relevant for my readers as well.
The following is a summary of lessons learned and take-aways from the Ft. Worth PRSA June 2010 program, Building a Corporate Social Responsibility Program, with Laura K. Moore, Vice President - Global Communications, Kimberly-Clark Corporation:

What is strategic Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
  • Aligning your corporate strategy with your business strategy
  • Defining the positive impact you aim to make based on what your company is good at
  • An understanding that doing good can be good for business
Why is CSR important?
  • Growing environmental concerns
  • Companies moving from seeing CSR as less of an obligation to more of a business opportunity
  • Internet enables people to scrutinize corporate behavior
  • Increased expectations of companies to contribute
  • Corporate reputations bruised post-recession
  • Millennial expectations (the connected generation)
CSR goes beyond philanthropy, this is about corporate citizenship.

How the company treats:
  • Community
  • Suppliers
  • Government
  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Environment
Your CSR strategy has to be lived from the inside out.
  • Be it. Do it. Say it.
A cohesive CSR strategy ensures all key elements of the organization work together.
  • Employee contributions + Brand Cause Marketing + Corporate Giving = Greater Impact, More Recognition
Corporate trust is a key driver of choice and is currently seriously challenged.

* When people trust a company they:
  • Will pay more
  • Will recommend it to others
Engagement increases when an employee is satisfied with the company's CSR initiatives. Employees need to be asking themselves, "What do we stand for?"

Laura Moore pulled the curtain back a little bit on Kimberly-Clark's CSR strategy and plans to move forward. She stated that Kimberly-Clark's Corporate Goal is to Be responsible stewards of the environment and positive contributors to our community.

Kimberly-Clark has the global assets and framework, however Moore explained that she doesn't have the Ta-Da example from the corporation yet since it is still a work in progress.
(Photo: Kimberly-Clark Sustainability Report)

A CSR Enterprise Signature Project needs to:
  • be based in research;
  • have a defined focus to be successful;
  • leverage brands for focus in relevant areas and expertise from with organization; and
  • be supported and endorsed by whole organization.
What would you add? What do you see as necessary components, objectives, or concepts for a successful CSR program? The comments are yours.

Special thanks to Corey Lark, AE at Open Channels Group for providing feedback and notes on the June program for the chapter.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

7 PR lessons from watching 'Chopped'

I'm a fan of the Food Network show, Chopped. My wife and I have come to enjoy the high-energy and passion for the culinary arts that contestants display.

The show's premise is pretty simple: "four up-and-coming chefs take a selection of everyday ingredients into an extraordinary three-course meal. After each course, a contestant gets 'chopped' until the last man or woman left standing claims victory. Each week, a rotating panel of culinary elite judges...decide whose dishes shine the brightest and award the winner $10,000."
(Photo source:

After watching the show for a while, I realized that hidden among the mystery ingredients are important lessons for public relations professionals:
  1. You never know what's in the basket. One of the cool things about the show is the mystery baskets. On a recent episode the ingredients that contests had to create with included papadum, bitter melon, turbot, satsuma mikan, purple cauliflower, and wasabi peas among the other things that I could actually identify. In PR, daily surprises come in many forms such as changes in leadership, customer service issues, crisis, internal strife, leadership indecisiveness, etc. you should be ready to adapt and change.
  2. You need prior knowledge and preparation to win. The contestants give bio information and talk about their culinary expertise. The PR pros that win are the ones that are experts in the field. We should be the go to professionals for organizational strategic communication counsel. We should continue to hone our skills with professional development. If we're not, we're doing it wrong.
  3. Don't underestimate your competition. I'm amused by Chopped contestants that (for show purposes I'm sure) appear to discount the other competitors because they believe their dishes are superior or because they believe the others are inferior chefs. Think about your competition in terms of what you can learn from them. You may be able to borrow ideas that can be tweaked just enough to help your communication needs. Granted, this may not always work, but it's just silly to discount the work of others as not being useful to you.
  4. There's a difference between confidence and arrogance. I can't stand the contestants that walk in with an arrogant flair. I root against them. It's subtle, but you can have confidence with your work, campaign, release, counsel, etc. and not cross the line into the area of arrogance. I think this is more of an internal relations and office well-being lesson, but still noteworthy. Of course, how you carry yourself among your PR peers is also at play here.
  5. Know the rules and judges. This one cracks me up. Sometimes I'm not sure the Chopped contestants every watch the show they are on. If they did, they'd now which judge doesn't like raw onions (it's Scott Conant) or the fact that you can't really talk your way out of missing an ingredient from the basket in your dish. PR people need to understand the rules of road for communication success. What are the issues that matter to the people in charge of your organization? Do you know the people in your community that have the influence? What are the parameters and expectations for your work?
  6. It's the simple things that make the difference. Contestants are judged on their dishes presentation, taste, and creativity. Often times it's the subtle nuances in how you attack a PR problem that make the outcomes more favorable. Don't overlook the little things that make a huge difference.
  7. Smile and appreciate the win. In the end when a contestant is the last one standing and their dish hasn't been among those that were ousted, they'll smile and thank the judges and talk about how they'll spend the $10k. It's ok for PR people to take those moments to stop and appreciate the wins (keeping in mind lesson number four above).
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Friday, June 11, 2010

Social Media + Community Planning Presentation

Social Media + Community Planning is a presentation originally given to the Midwest Section of the American Planning Association meeting on June 11, 2010.

As social media tools reach greater levels of ubiquity, technology and conversations are meshing in new and interesting ways.

Planning professionals can leverage the tools of the social web to better engage communities in meaningful conversations, strategically listen, and help make informed decisions for programs and procedures.

From social networking, photo and video sharing, blogging, and more, planners have new tools to understand.

Here's the presentation:

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hey Anonymous, let's talk -- school district blog comments

When writing blogs, one of the many considerations to make is on commenting. Whether or not you are going allow anonymous commenting, moderate comments or have open commenting, you should carefully think about the ramifications. (Photo credit: Matt Westervelt)

I came across a great post from Drew McLellan on endorsing a call to action for eliminating anonymous commenting - "Anonymous comments aren't about the conversation at all"

He brings up some good points:
"I don't care if you're talking about a traditional newspaper's website or a blog -- when you allow anonymous commenting, you disrespect the topic, the conversation and the readers.

These are not conversations -- they are verbal vomit.

It's perfectly logical that the anonymity invites people to behave in ways they wouldn't if they had to identify themselves.  And it swings to both ends of the spectrum.  On the one hand -- they're vicious in their personal attacks, cruel comments and judgments.  On the flip side, they can completely bypass the topic all together in an attempt to get some link love/attention for their product or service."
I agree, sort of

I have seen this verbal spewing by anonymous idiots and trolls on blogs, newspapers and broadcast news station pages. I hate that media sites allow for anonymous commenting as if to wash their hands of any responsibility for what the public has to say. That said,  I think there is actually a worthwhile place for allowing anonymous commenting -- on a school district's blog.

I've found in three years of blogging for the school district that some comments do in fact fall into the what-were-they-thinking!? category. Thankfully, most of the comments that have come in anonymously are relevant, conversational in nature and would have been great to have with a name attached so that we could have responded via further comments or even a separate post. It is difficult to address concerns or topics when you don't know who is asking the questions or leaving their nuggets of wisdom.

Like Drew, McLellan, I highly recommend having a blogging policy. (Here's my district's blog commenting policy if you'd like a sample.)

I can understand that there are times when a school district's blog readers may feel like they'd rather not want their name tied to a comment. Particularly if they feel like not having their name tied to some controversial topics and/or opinions. Why is this ok? Because, I also recommend moderating school district blog comments.

(Pause as gasps of horror are heard across the social media landscape from purists.)

Yes, moderating comments on school district blogs is a good idea. From our policy:
"All posting of comments on this blog are at the discretion of the editors. The intent of this policy is not to keep any negative or critical information from being posted, but to protect the privacy and rights of Mansfield ISD staff and students. To clarify, we will not post comments that reference specific employees or students. It is our policy to review all comments before publishing, partly to reduce the possibility of spam comments and partly to ensure comments are in line with our blog commenting guidelines..."

If readers want to bash a school district for decisions, policies, etc. it can be done so constructively. Readers comments are important and you should value the constructive criticism along with the conversation and praise. A district blog is a great community communication tool, it just takes some work.

What do you think? Should anonymous commenting be allowed? The comments are yours.