Communication & Corporate Advocacy
October 18, 2017
Hello, and welcome to this edition of On the Record. This month we discuss corporate advocacy and communication, a topic that is at the forefront given the sheer number of natural disasters, as well as a recent and horrific act of violence. Against this backdrop, companies are changing the way they think about corporate advocacy and asking important questions. Should companies do anything? What should they do? And, how should they talk about it? This article, written by my colleague, Amy Smith, will provide context and a framework for how to think about corporate advocacy, and - just as importantly - address how to communicate about it.
I hope you have a wonderful autumn.
How to Develop a Communication Plan to Share Your Story
Hurricane Harvey hit land as a Category 4 Hurricane near Rockport, Texas, on August 25, causing catastrophic flooding in southeast Texas. Sixteen days later, Hurricane Irma made landfall twice in Florida, once in the Keys and again near Marco Island. After hammering Florida, it surged through parts of Georgia and the Carolinas as a tropical storm. At the same time, smoke rising in the west cast a haze in many other parts of the nation, reminding us of the massive wildfires raging through numerous states, including California, Oregon, Washington and Montana. By mid-September, nearly 8.3 million acres had been lost. And, as the nation struggled to recover from these natural disasters, on October 1st, America experienced another kind of disaster - one of the largest mass shootings on record in the U.S. - the horrific attack on concert-goers in Las Vegas.
During this unprecedented time in our history, millions of Americans were displaced from their homes and in-need of immediate food, shelter and water, as well as additional significant support. Thankfully, there was a noticeable spike in social consciousness, as these collective events pulled people together, helping them to demonstrate the best of the American spirit. Thousands upon thousands of individuals volunteered their time and donated their hard-earned money to help people impacted by these devastating events.
Many companies got involved in relief and recovery assistance as well - many for the first time. Businesses large and small sent employees across the nation to volunteer and pledged thousands to millions of dollars in assistance.
If your business is giving time or donations, it is extremely important you have a communication plan in-place to share your corporate advocacy. The plan can help you to communicate your actions to your internal and external audiences, reinforce your values to employees, and inform clients and prospective clients about the kind of company you are - one that cares about others and is doing something to help. It can also be used to determine whether it is appropriate to get involved in or communicate about a situation - depending upon your organization's goals and objectives.
There is a fine line between informing and bragging, but if you don't let people know what you are doing for corporate advocacy, who will? A few employees may share bits and pieces of your actions with individuals in their spheres of influence. However, in this scenario, their message may just be part of the story, and likely most of the accounts will not match up. The only way to control the message and ensure it is timely, accurate and meets your communication goals is to develop a plan and use it. Creating and distributing your corporate advocacy story will allow you to inform, persuade and/or motivate your key stakeholders.
In times like this, the goal of sending money or employees to help is clear, but what is the goal for communicating these actions? Is it to motivate other businesses to get involved? Or is it to communicate your corporate advocacy activities to your employees - who are one of your most important audiences - to reinforce your company's core values? Perhaps your brand needs a boost, so the goal is to tie your company name to good deeds. Whatever the case, be deliberate about defining your communication goals, which need to match your organization's overall goals and objectives.
Take the time now to develop a robust corporate advocacy communication plan, so the next time an event warrants your assistance and involvement, you are not scrambling to pull something together. Instead, you will be ready to spring into action to help, and tell those you care about that you did.
If you need assistance in developing a plan, or talking through best practices, feel free to contact our team - we are happy to be a resource for this or any other communication opportunity.
Sources: weather.com, businessinsider.com, nytimes.com, cnn.com
Amy Smith, Communications Advisor