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Newbie’s guide to communicating CSR: Treat your CSR program like a job search

October 1, 2009

The economy is down the tubes. That’s no surprise to anyone. With so many losses in jobs, career advice is everywhere. I’ve pulled together some of the best advice I’ve heard from a variety of sources and applied it to how companies can better communicate their CSR message.

START YOUR JOB SEARCH WITH YOUR IDEAL COMPANY IN MIND

  • Job Advice: Don’t just apply to any old job. Identify 3-5 companies you want to work for and work you network into those organizations.
  • Advice for CSR programs: Start with the goal in mind. Do you want to build your reputation as a CSR leader –or- would you rather get attention about the amazing project your doing in sub-Saharan Africa? Don’t just communicate for communications sake – be deliberate about your actions to get the result you need.

ESTABLISH YOUR NETWORK

  • Job Advice: Ignore the job boards. Well maybe don’t totally ignore them, just don’t rely on them too much. A significant majority of jobs aren’t found through job boards and online searches. It’s all about your network: who do you know? How well do they know you? Your reputation is only as good as the relevant number of people who know enough about it. People who rather hire people they know. If you get laid-off, who would you tell? If it’s just your parents, spouse, and a few friends, you need to expand your network.
  • Advice for CSR programs: Who knows you? How deep are you contacts? Do you have a stakeholder list?  Your reputation of as a significant player in the CSR field is as only as solid as the number of people who know you’re genuine. If you publish a CSR report, who do you tell? Is it just your boss, an article in the internal newsletter, and a press release? Get involved. Get out there. Meet people. Get a budget for membership in organizations such as Business for Social Responsibility, Boston College Center on Corporate Citizenship, the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association, et al.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA

  • Job Advice: Use social networking sites such as LinkedIn to expand your reach. It’s important to reach out to contacts before you lose your job.  You should also explore other social networking sites (Twitter and Facebook) and identify whether and how you can use them to promote yourself and hone your expertise.  Finally, if your mother Googled you, would she find something that needed explaining? Make sure you know whether the internet has archived something with your name on it – even random comments from message boards can pop up.
  • Advice for CSR programs: Press releases are a very important tool, but you should look at Twitter, Facebook, Whrrl, Just Means, and many other sites to identify new ways to gather and communicate with constituents. But don’t just use the Twitter account only to promote your wares when you have something new, use it as a way to build a community.  Finally, do you know what people say about your company? Check out sites like Project Label and Glass Door and Job Vent and Google your company’s name along with keywords like “sucks” and “is evil.” – know what your former employees are saying about you and whether or not there are perceptions of your company you need to be prepared to address.

DON’T BE AN EMPTY SUIT

  • Job Advice: Don’t apply for jobs you’re neither qualified for nor have interest in getting. You’re wasting your time and the company’s time.  If your resume is thin with accomplishments, you should re-think whether you should apply for the job.
  • Advice for CSR programs: Don’t build yourself up as a leader in CSR if you are not. Be honest with yourself. If your CSR Report is just a list of accomplishments, you should look at whether you need a better reporting strategy or whether you have a CSR strategy properly integrated throughout your company.

BE AUTHENTIC

  • Job Advice: Be honest, always. Be yourself, always. Never compromise your own values.
  • Advice for CSR programs: Be honest, always. Be yourself, always. Never compromise your own values.

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The writer is the editor of CitizenPolity.com —  You can contact him at JamesERatcitizenpolitydotcom or follow him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/jepsteinreeves

Copyright 2009 – CitizenPolity & James Epstein-Reeves – Not to be used without the written permission of CitizenPolity or the author.

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