BY HANNAH MCLAIN
An important component of public relations is effective civic engagement and social responsibility. Civic engagement allows an organization to interact with its publics in new and meaningful ways beyond traditional media messages and events. Through corporate social responsibility, organizations choose a significant issue affecting their publics and find ways to serve and support the community as they address the issue together. The actions a company takes to support the community in a responsible manner are sometimes more important than the good or services it offers. According to Forbes, “42% of how people feel about a company is based on their perceptions of the firm’s corporate social responsibility practices.”
The Institute for Public Relations outlines three components of corporate social responsibility: reputation, relationship (especially those that are mutually beneficial) and responsive rectitude. Entire organizations are centered around measuring and reporting on the reputations and public perceptions of major companies. For example, the Reputation Institute is an independent consulting agency that releases a ranking of organizations according to their corporate reputations. In 2015, the Reputation Institute named Google the number 1 most reputable company according to its CSR dimensions, which include governance, workplace, and citizenship. See the chart for a breakdown of the Reputation Institute’s components of CSR:
Though nonprofits often lack the resources—whether in finances or personnel—of larger for-profit companies, they can still thrive at civic engagement and social responsibility. The Building Movement Project offered reasons why nonprofits can play a significant role in civic engagement. The Project notes that 10 percent of the nation’s workforce is in the nonprofit sector, and the infrastructure of the organizations allows them to mobilize their employees “in their communities and beyond.” Additionally, “nonprofit groups are mission-driven,” meaning their connections to the community are already specific and established. The central causes of the nonprofit organizations already meet a direct need in the community, and the opportunities to serve and engage the public are naturally laid out as a result of the structure and purpose of the organization.
Successfully engaging the public through civic and social responsibility is critical for the “management and mitigation of social and environmental risk factors,” according to Global Affairs Canada. Aligning your organization with an important cause that is relevant to both the company and its publics will lead to stronger relationships and a better organizational reputation. Civic engagement and social responsibility should be employed as regular strategies in an organization’s public relations efforts.
Connect with Empower Public Relation’s Design Director, Hannah McLain.