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CSR, SMEs and Social Media: A Report from the Front Lines

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CSR, SMEs and Social Media
             A Report from the Front Lines
                              	
  




Tracey Wright...
COMMUNICATING CSR IN SMEs
While much has been debated and written about corporate social responsibility (CSR) among
large ...
TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................
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CSR, SMEs and Social Media: A Report from the Front Lines

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CSIC research fellow Tracey Wright interviews 12 DC-area small businesses to explore how they use social media to communicate their socially responsible business practices to their stakeholders.

CSIC research fellow Tracey Wright interviews 12 DC-area small businesses to explore how they use social media to communicate their socially responsible business practices to their stakeholders.

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CSR, SMEs and Social Media: A Report from the Front Lines

  1. 1. CSR, SMEs and Social Media A Report from the Front Lines   Tracey Wright, Research Fellow Center for Social Impact Communication Georgetown University April 2012
  2. 2. COMMUNICATING CSR IN SMEs While much has been debated and written about corporate social responsibility (CSR) among large companies, the question of how and why small and medium enterprises (SMEs) engage in socially responsible practices is not well documented. Looking for trends in motivation and implementation, CSIC fellow Tracey Wright spoke directly with local business leaders in the Greater DC region (including suburbs in Maryland and Northern Virginia). Her primary research also delves into how SMEs communicate their CSR efforts. Are they telling their own stories? What channels are they using and how well are the messages reaching targeted audiences? Can social media provide a low-cost breakthrough communications tool to help SMEs tell their story? The interview responses show that while small business leaders can be clear on their company values and ability to make local change, they are often less sure of how to communicate about CSR in an authentic way, and how best to use new media tools for the greatest reach. Interviews with thought leaders in CSR and social media offer tips that can assist smaller organizations in giving a voice to their values. Further, these experts challenge SMEs to take CSR from something that’s “the right thing to do” to the next level – a strategic approach that aligns business goals with social initiatives in a way that strengthens the community, enhances their brand and positively impacts the bottom line. METHODOLOGY The following report is based on first-person accounts from business leaders as well as descriptions of best practices from experts in the fields of CSR and social media. This is a small sampling of Washington, DC region SMEs active in their communities. An emphasis was placed on speaking with businesses that are known for having a well-defined set of company values and award-winning approaches to workplace excellence, sustainability and CSR. The businesses have between 10 and 300 employees, falling within the definition of SME set by the U.S. federal government’s Small Business Administration. A standard set of questions was used to elicit comparable responses from each. (See Appendix) Additional questions naturally came up in the course of interviews.   1
  3. 3. TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION ..........................................................................................................................................3 Key Interview Findings ..............................................................................................................................3 SECTION I CSR & SMEs ...........................................................................................................................5 Local Focus, Authenticity Required ..........................................................................................................5 Company Snapshot - Soupergirl ...........................................................................................................9 Millennials Matter…………………………………………………………………………………….................10 Company Snapshot – Reznick Group……………………………………………………………………...10 SECTION II CSR COMMUNICATIONS………………………………………………………………………..12 Reluctant Communicators………………………………………………………………………………………12 Be Aligned & Authentic - What Big Business Can Teach Small…………...…....…………………………13 Company Snapshot – Potomac Pizza……………………………………………………………………..15 Company Snapshot – Chaney Enterprises………………………………………………………………..16 SECTION III CSR & SOCIAL MEDIA…………………………………………………………………………..17 Social Media Reach & Rules Unclear…………………………………………………………………………17 Time is Biggest Downside………………………………………………………………………………….…..20 5 Social Media Lessons Learned………………………………………………………………………………21 Company Snapshot – Aronson LLC………………………………………………………………………..22 How to Do Social Media Right – Advice from an Expert…………………………………………………….23 Company Snapshot – Honest Tea………………………………………………………………………….25 Company Snapshot – Virginia Spine Institute……………………………………………………………..27 CONCLUSION.……………………………………………………………………………………………………..28 APPENDIX………………………………………………..…………………………………………………………30   2
  4. 4. INTRODUCTION Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has transitioned from a feel-good to a must-do part of business. Study after study shows that not only are consumers more likely to support businesses that practice CSR, they expect it. For example, 86 percent of global consumers believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on the interests of society as on those of business, according to the 2010 Edelman goodpurpose Study which surveyed 7,000 consumers in 13 countries.i Long gone are the days when a company’s sole responsibility was to earn profit for shareholders. Now companies large and small recognize they must also earn the respect and support of the public through responsible business practices and an investment in the community. Major corporations such as General Mills, Gap, Nike, Wal-Mart and Cisco Systems devote sizeable budget and employee hours to creating and reporting on CSR initiatives. Is CSR then, only the domain of large companies with big advertising budgets or those that can meet the United Nations Global Compact’s 10 Principles? Is it too complicated or expensive for small and medium enterprises? KEY INTERVIEW FINDINGS This research asked small business leaders how they define CSR, whether they communicate about CSR initiatives, and whether they use social media to do so. Their responses highlight a number of key issues: • Local Focus These business leaders say no matter a company’s size, they can make a difference. Being “hyper-local” creates immediate and lasting impact. • Authenticity Required The companies interviewed here make a distinction between CSR as a box that gets ticked off and CSR that is ingrained in the value system of the business. Some have crystallized those values and added activities after many years. Other business owners have made a conscious decision to run their companies in a sustainable or socially responsible way from the beginning. • Millennials Matter A generational shift is changing both consumer and employee expectations. This drives community engagement and the role of CSR in recruitment. • CSR Strategy/Communications Lacking Experts interviewed say CSR should be strategic to create the most benefit for all, and that it’s not only okay, but necessary for businesses to spread the word about what they’re doing. Many of these business leaders however, are still hesitant to "toot their own horns" and express difficulties deciding when and how much to communicate. • Social Media Emerging All companies agree that social media is a necessary communications tool in their arsenals, however they are at different stages of adoption. Some companies routinely use social media in CSR communications, while others are not pushing it out there, relying instead on stakeholders reading the information on their web sites.   3
  5. 5. • Social Reach and Rules Unclear The companies share a lack of strategic planning in their social media communications. Even those that use it more frequently do so in an almost experimental fashion, and see how it goes. Those companies that are new to social media express confusion about what combination of tools to use and how to measure success. • Time Is Biggest Downside Participants have been surprised by the investment of time needed to post, monitor and reply in social media spaces, as well as the length of time that it takes to create relationships that result in meaningful audience engagement.   4
  6. 6. Section 1: CSR & SMEs | What does CSR look like in a small business? >> GO LOCAL FOR MAXIMUM IMPACT CSR for SMEs is not about meeting international standards or writing glossy sustainability reports. It IS about creating what I’ll call “hyper-local” benefit - improving the communities where employees and customers live and work. It’s about getting those same people involved to make small changes that add up to something bigger. It’s about creating relationships and building teams - with the community and within the business. It’s about meeting a generational shift, satisfying a need in the younger generation of workers to not just go to work, but to make a difference. Anecdotal evidence from this project and large surveys show that for many small- and medium- sized businesses in the United States, CSR remains centered on philanthropy: donations of money directly to an organization, employee volunteerism or lending of services.ii There’s a focus on the social and economic pillars of the triple bottom line. For many SMEs, “sustainability” is about helping individuals and organizations thrive in the long term. >> SIZE DOESN’T MATTER Whether a company’s “community” reaches around the world or around the block, it is sure to have social problems that need to be addressed. A crime-ridden downtown in need of revitalization? A health problem affecting a segment of the population? “The impetus for being involved might be the same. It’s to make things better,” says Catherine Taylor Keller, Director of Communications & Outreach at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC). In her six years at the BCLC Taylor Keller has seen companies large and small increasingly recognize CSR as a legitimate way of doing business. Where companies once questioned, “Why are we being asked to get involved with something like the quality of public education or why are we being asked to address the HIV situation in the communities where we work,” business leaders now tell her they “The smartest, most recognize an opportunity to shape communities and gain a innovative companies competitive edge. “The smartest, most innovative companies have have stepped up stepped up grandly and said, “We can tackle this and it makes grandly and said, “We sense to tackle it.” can tackle this and it The businesses profiled in this research have been publicly makes sense to tackle recognized for their involvement in the local community and for their it.” values-driven approach. These company leaders uniformly feel that - Catherine Taylor Keller they’re part of a larger picture and when they see a problem they BCLC   CAN do something about it. “My eyes started opening and I realized I was no longer an individual,” says Matt Hodgson, president and CEO of web development and technology firm Hodgson Consulting. “We are a collective group of people. We’re a company with a little more power. If we want to do   5
  7. 7. something we have money – more than I do in my personal bank account. We have people – more than I do in my family.” Hodgson says he was astounded to learn about the poverty rate in the Washington, DC suburb of Montgomery County, one of the nation’s most affluent regions. The company has since taught adult computer literacy classes, lends web expertise to local non-profits, makes bag lunches for the homeless and helps out with manual labor at a local charity when needed. “I’m in a fortunate position where my business does well and I can fulfill a need,” he says. For the team at the Virginia Spine Institute, CSR links the corporate for-profit and the non-profit worlds. “They are two very distinct groups and I think in order for societies to thrive and for people in communities to thrive, you need to bridge that gap,” says Marketing Director Erin Orr. While the Institute has a planned calendar of CSR activities, Orr says employees feel empowered to create new initiatives. “It’s that “lethal generosity” that they talk about – unleashing our corporate super-powers for good.” Both companies started small without a defined set of values, but as they grew they began to crave a higher purpose and could envision the impact they could make locally. They developed mission and values statements that now guide both business and CSR. >> KEY FINDING – AUTHENTICITY REQUIRED The push to embrace CSR has never been greater, but the SMEs interviewed for this project agree that authenticity is paramount. CSR without a heart is an empty gesture, so profit cannot be the sole motivator. “There is nothing that is more quickly discovered as disingenuous than false philanthropy,” says Barbara Mullenex of Washington, DC design firm OPX. “There are things we do for profit and there are things we do not for profit, but you can’t have one set of values for your business and one set of values for your CSR.” In 2005 OPX overhauled its traditional design firm approach to explicitly focus on sustainability – in the materials and design choices it makes for clients, in the way it treats employees and the community projects it takes on. The firm created an employee- led initiative for its 25th anniversary in 2008 called OPX Magic. Their goal was to organize and complete 25 community service projects that year, but they actually completed 37. OPX Magic now uses an online portal through the Catalogue for Philanthropy DC, which allows employees to choose from hundreds of local charities they want to help, then plan, track and communicate about projects. OPX features the portal in a special Community section of its website. At accounting and consulting firm Aronson LLC, a desire to invest in the community led to the creation of the Aronson Foundation. It grants contributions from company employees and officers to charities working on children’s and other community causes. Since 2004 the foundation has awarded $775,000.   6
  8. 8. “I want this firm to be seen as more than just accountants who sift through, collect data, analyze numbers and try to realize as much profit as possible. These are humans, people with families and lives, who are also directly integrated into the community,” says Stephen White, Vice President, Operations. Repeatedly named a top local and national accounting firm, Aronson LLC has also been recognized among Washington’s best places to work for creating a positive environment. “We have the foundation but we also have a structure internally where employees can give back time, between one and five per cent of an individual’s time can be given back to the community.” >> SMEs FOUNDED ON A MISSION While some companies have embraced CSR along the way, for others the mission started on day one. BetterWorld Telecom is one of those businesses. The national telecom carrier headquartered in Reston, VA focuses on serving companies and non-profits that support social justice and sustainability. BetterWorld was founded in 2003 with a triple bottom line mission. It provides phone and internet services at a lower price than leading carriers, while donating three per cent of revenues to causes that benefit children, education, environment and fair trade. Its virtual office keeps employees connected across the country with minimal environmental impact, and BetterWorld gives them at least two days a month to volunteer with local organizations. Certified as a For Benefit company by B Corporation, BetterWorld also provides clients solutions to lower their footprints by using less “We strive very much energy. “Both through the work that we’re doing and the way that to have honest we’re running our company, it’s to be an alternative to a giant, faceless telecom company,” says Social Media Manager Salem communications and Kimble. “This is very much a conscious step away from that world be very authentic. to something that has more meaning and operates with higher Instead of shying principles.” away and just talking about it on the peripheral we’ve really Going against the norm was certainly a driving force behind little guy-turned big said, we know this is company Honest Tea. With the our problem and beverage market then dominated by we’re not happy soda and other sweetened drinks, founders Seth Goldman and about it. This is how Barry Nalebuff set out to create an entirely different sector: we’re trying to work unsweetened, whole leaf and organic. Since its start in 1998, the company has become one of the most profitable and recognized to get to a better sustainable businesses in America, with sales over $70 million in result.” 2010. It was purchased by Coca Cola in March 2011 and now - Kelly Cardamone, operates as an independent subsidiary that still only employs Honest Tea around 120 people.   7
  9. 9. How did Honest Tea grow from Goldman’s Bethesda, MD kitchen to national symbol of sustainability? By focusing on CSR from the beginning and weaving it through every aspect of the business, including: sourcing organic and fair trade ingredients, reducing the use of plastic and paper in its containers, creating ground-breaking national recycling programs, and partnering with numerous national and local nonprofits to work on issues such as the environment, education, breast cancer and small business development. “There’s this little company that was paving the way for beverages and food. That’s really how we see ourselves,” says Kelly Cardamone, Special-tea Projects Manager. “When you can prove that this model works, the bigger companies take notice and if they can start also shifting toward healthier options then you’ve created this change.”   8
  10. 10. COMPANY SNAPSHOT: SOUPERGIRL Serving Up CSR, One Bowl at a Time Entrepreneur Sarah Polon has a mission to change the world one local business at a time. An “aha moment” propelled her into a new career focused on local sustainability. After reading Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” she donned her new identity of “Soupergirl,” creating a home delivery soup business. “I didn’t want to start necessarily a company. What I wanted to do is be part of the local food movement,” says Polon. Three years and hundreds of recipes after cooking up the first pot of soup with her mother, the duo have expanded beyond the delivery service with a large retail space staffed by 12 employees who serve hundreds of customers a day. The way her business has taken off has convinced Polon, “You can start a profitable, yet responsible company.” Polon uses only ingredients grown on local farms. Her soups are all vegan, and without dairy and meat have a light environmental footprint. She composts, has outfitted her new retail location with furniture made from recycled materials, and uses recyclable containers. “Those containers cost double what regular ones do and I could get my produce for a quarter the price (elsewhere), but in the long run if people are focused on health and responsibility, I think it will come back in terms of financial standing, respect of the community and karma.” With sustainability a core value, CSR is woven into Polon’s mission and every bowl of soup she serves. She tries to keep the tone light though, with humorous messaging on the web site where customers make orders. “The green movement can sometimes feel really “We can change our serious, which it should be because we’ve got this serious community one subject. But, “sometimes people don’t want to be eating a business at a time, mission. So we have fun with our message.” not only one person or Polon also looks for other ways to engage locally, giving to causes one nonprofit. and local charity auctions, donating excess soup to local non-profit Businesses can really Martha’s Table and hiring employees from DC Central Kitchen, change the way the which helps people get back on their feet. world works.” - Sarah Polon, Owner “I’m worried about the state of the world and it’s very hard to fathom Soupergirl changing the world, but you can fathom changing your neighborhood, your community,” says Polon. “That’s how you make a change on a local level. And if enough people focus on the local level it will turn global.”   9
  11. 11. >> KEY FINDING – MILLENNIALS MATTER | Tracking the generational shift The passion for being part of change that drives young entrepreneurs like Sarah Polon is a signal to SMEs: the new generation of workers wants more than just a job. In a Pew Research survey of 1,800 people age 13-25, 80 per cent said they want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts society.iii Company leaders interviewed here say their young employees see work as just one part of the 24-hour continuum of their day, and any hour is an opportunity to make a difference. Businesses that don’t incorporate sustainability into their culture will lose out on top talent. COMPANY SNAPSHOT: REZNICK GROUP CSR drives Millennial recruiting Accounting firm Reznick Group is using CSR in its strategy to recruit the best young students to its firm. It has a special “In the Community” tab in its online Careers section and company brochure. The firm markets its long history of working in the area of low income housing tax credits and the certification of its Bethesda, MD office as a Green Business, for reducing waste, recycling and lowering its energy footprint. In an appeal to the YouTube generation, Reznick makes significant use of video. The Careers section features two videos, one explaining the company’s green certification and another describing its Pay It Forward program, which gives each employee a small “something extra” every December to donate to a charity of their choice. The video features young employees describing the numerous types of causes that have benefitted. Video is also used heavily on Reznick’s Facebook page. Nine videos showcase the real-people impact of the firm’s work in facilitating funds through its New Markets Tax Credit Program. The stories range from rebuilding New Orlean’s Lower 9th Ward, to creating a California facility for the disabled, and revitalizing a Baltimore neighborhood. “It’s something from a recruiting point of view that’s taken on more importance,” says Rachel Platt, Human Resources Director. “That engagement that people have where they feel like they’re part of something bigger is a big part of people overall feeling proud of the company they work for and we hear that from people.” Alongside the paid time off and 401k plan, Reznick lists “extensive charitable and community involvement” among the Perks and Benefits. It describes office-wide community events where employees spend the day on service initiatives. We have a very young work force so people get excited from doing these things,” says Karrie Goldstein, Reznick’s College Recruiting Manager. “People do want to be involved. They want to do more than just their job every day, because if all they’re doing is coming and doing their job for eight or ten hours a day, they’re not going to be here for long.”   10
  12. 12. Reznick’s Facebook page features videos on the company’s community involvement.   11
  13. 13. Section II: CSR Communications | Bragging, or building relationships? >> RELUCTANT COMMUNICATORS This anecdotal survey revealed a uniform commitment among companies to making community change. There was less agreement, however, on whether and how to communicate about CSR. When does it go beyond building relationships and amount to nothing more than bragging? “You’ve put your finger on the thing we’re probably missing the most and it’s the hardest thing to market,” says Adam Greenberg, president and founder of Restaurant Zone which manages Potomac Pizza locations in four DC-area suburbs. “You know, someone wins first place at the race – are they going to run around and tell everyone they got first place?” A reluctance to tell their CSR story is common among SMEs says Catherine Taylor Keller of the BCLC. “We’ve found that companies of all sizes will not want to toot their own horns.” Interestingly the businesses interviewed here all report feedback from vendors, clients and customers who say they value their community involvement. Yet several communicate mostly internally about CSR or make it public only by putting information on a company website, which requires action by stakeholders to find it. The Case AGAINST Communicating Design firm OPX is very explicit about its values statement but does not “go out there and bang the drum” about CSR on a regular basis. “I’m not really sure I want to,” comments owner Barbara Mullenex, saying her personal desire to make a difference is not something that should be exploited. Mullenex relates a recent example of “quiet” caring. After the September 2011 earthquake in Japan the firm gave a Japanese employee time off to go home and help. They sent with him a traditional Japanese symbol of hope – origami cranes. “During the day and in the evenings at home, this group of people folded a thousand cranes. It was kind of a quiet way for us to individually tell him that...how he was feeling about this was important to us.” Mullenex is a founding member of Companies for Causes, which brings together values-driven companies to partner on philanthropic efforts. In discussions about communication the Cause members have asked, “Shouldn’t we tell people we’re going to do X, Y and Z? And I think the group is like, ‘No, let’s just go do X, Y and Z and then we can tell people about it.” Mullenex says she wants people to know about the values at OPX but she worries that pushing information out will lead stakeholders to question the company’s motives. “We want people to know that we’re not doing it because it’s like paying your taxes, something you have to do. It’s more important than that.” The Case FOR Communicating As president of Montgomery County’s Corporate Volunteer Council, Matt Hodgson of Hodgson Consulting sees many companies who are doing good works but don’t want to talk about it. He respects their decision, but doesn’t agree with it.   12
  14. 14. “I think a lot of companies start by thinking, ‘I’m going to go out and do some work. They don’t tell anyone about it. They don’t get any recognition for it. They get cranky and they stop doing it. I’ve seen that happen.” Hodgson says being exposed to community need has convinced him one of the best ways to help is to spread the word among vendors and clients with greater resources. “I want them to know about it because I want them to know they’re engaged with a company that believes in this stuff. I also want them to know because they’re in a position to do a lot more than me.” Extending the reach of small business CSR is not only a good idea but a responsibility, according to Nancy Goldbranson, Practice Administrator at the Virginia Spine Institute. The Reston, VA private healthcare center collaborates with two CSR partners - the national Spinal Research Foundation which it raises money for in an annual 5K race, and local nonprofit Reston Interfaith, which it supports through ongoing drives for food, backpacks and other donations. “You have a responsibility to communicate what you’re doing so that other people know it’s out there and want to emulate your organization in a good way,” says Goldbranson. “It’s like the rock you drop in a pond. If someone else hears about what you’re doing and it taps into them and it just starts to spread, you have more people doing more good for the less fortunate or for people in need.” >> WHAT BIG BUSINESS CAN TEACH SMALL Aligned and Authentic Clearly, talking about CSR can potentially extend the impact of good work, inspire employees, attract recruits and generate new business. But some SMEs remain stumped about how to communicate in an authentic way that doesn’t offend a cynical public. CSR expert Jonathan Yohannan says while it may seem counter-intuitive for SMEs nervous about seeming inauthentic to focus on their brands, in fact it’s the very thing they need to do. The biggest CSR mistake by business? “Focusing on the social side, the philanthropy and cause, and not talking about the business,” says Yohannan, Senior Vice President and acting head of CSR at Cone Communications. Yohannan has worked with large companies such as General Mills, Starbucks, Nestle, CVS/Caremark and Timberland. He says some of the most successful CSR programs are by companies that integrate the corporate responsibility message into the brand, “giving people a reason to believe.” Yohannan points to the strong following among college students enjoyed by Toms Shoes, which donates one pair of new shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. Since it was launched in 2006, the company has given away more than a million pairs of shoes to children around the world.   13
  15. 15. He also advises Sambazon, which markets acai berry products in ALIGNED AND grocery stores and juice bars across the United States. Sambazon AUTHENTIC works with non-governmental organizations in Brazil to promote 3 Things SMEs sustainable forest practices. Guaranteeing a long-term supply of Should Know acai fruit is good for the business, but it also gives low-income communities an economic alternative to clear-cutting that helps 1. CSR is not just preserve the Amazon Rainforest. cause. It’s about how you operate your Yes, those are two examples of social justice companies, but business. Yohannan says the model can be adapted to other businesses. He 2. Address your material cites the work of EMC, an international information technology issues when devising company that helps other businesses store data. “There’s a way to CSR strategy. Align take services and talk about how they help...what their products are what’s important to delivering to society,” he says. EMC’s social responsibility “is about business growth with impact on the environment and security of the data.” what’s important to your primary stakeholders. Yohannan says general statements about doing the right thing don’t wash with a skeptical public so it’s imperative to back up CSR with Examples: Timberland = clear goals and reliable company data. EMC has an extensive outdoor enthusiasts = breakdown of its sustainability goals and performance on its environment; local pizza business = families = website. community/schools. Research shows an increasing number of large companies report a 3. Make it relevant to strategic effort to link business goals to CSR. In a 2011 survey of your audiences. 490 companies by the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College, 80 per cent said community involvement initiatives directly Example: Deer Park support defined company goals. A significant majority also said Water focuses less on they communicate their efforts externally, most often on the its emergency response company website.iv work than on how it is reducing plastic in its single serving bottles, “I think that not communicating is a mistake,” says Catherine Taylor an issue important to its Keller of the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC). To be consumers. taken seriously though, she says SMEs must avoid an “Oh, by the way,” silo approach. “Don’t add it as a separate item to do. Build your business messaging, build your brand around this type of involvement and it will sing a lot more true for your audience. It gives it authenticity.” Jonathan Yohannan, SVP, Cone, Inc.   14
  16. 16. COMPANY SNAPSHOT: POTOMAC PIZZA Support customers and they’ll support you “Let us help you.” That’s the message Potomac Pizza delivers to the students, clubs and community organizations whose members are also the paying families that make its restaurants successful. A visitor to the Potomac Pizza website is only one click away from a direct offer of assistance. “Need a donation for your fundraiser or silent auction? Click here,” says the online tab. “I believe that the corporate community should step up and do more,” says Adam Greenberg, president and founder of Restaurant Zone, which manages four Potomac Pizza restaurants in DC’s Maryland suburbs. With a dedicated community outreach employee, “We’ve made things easy - streamlining community relations and giving and outreach, and making sure we’re doing the right thing.” Potomac Pizza has become the go-to supplier of pizza and subs for non-profit fundraisers and local school events, offering discounts and giving away thousands of slices each year. It’s a strategic approach to corporate giving: align the business goal of eventually selling more pizza to targeted audiences such as schools and families, with the CSR goal of supporting local events and initiatives. Greenberg calls the collaborations “win-win situations.” Community groups have a no-stress supplier of food and Potomac Pizza benefits from the good will it creates. In the restaurant business since his late teens, Greenberg believes in the power of networking, marketing and staying true to his values. When opening his fourth Potomac Pizza location in 2006, he gave five charities a day each to promote themselves in-store and earn 100 per cent of the proceeds. He gave away about $18,000 that week. “Treat others the way you want to be treated yourself. It’s the way I want my kids to be brought up,” says Greenberg. “We’re in the business to make money and we’re in the business to lead by example and to do the right thing.”   15
  17. 17. COMPANY SNAPSHOT: CHANEY ENTERPRISES Managing a reputation for the long-term The “doing well by doing good” mantra of CSR isn’t about increasing immediate sales for Chaney Enterprises. It’s about long-term reputation management. As the largest producer of sand and gravel in Maryland, with a need for land from which to mine those elements, Chaney relies on its reputation as a good neighbor and environmental steward. “We have the Chaney cycle which really starts with community relations, getting good land and permitting that, mining it in a responsible way, processing the highest quality products we can, and then as we come back around the circle, we have to reclaim that land,” says Chaney marketing manager Steve Tripp. “If we mess up, if we don’t follow through on our commitments, if we don’t take care of the communities we’re in, we won’t have the privilege of repeating that cycle.” So the company has developed a multi-track CSR strategy that includes transparency, sustainability and local giving. Transparency Chaney begins each new project by consulting with and educating local neighbors and politicians through meetings and newsletters. Mine site tours provide ongoing transparency. Sustainability Chaney has committed to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards of sustainability: it recycles concrete, oil and office products; is converting from fuel oil to biofuel; and promotes the use of EPA-recommended pervious concrete, which is more environmentally friendly because it reduces erosion from water runoff. Local Giving The company makes material and financial donations, and sponsors events benefitting more than 20 national and local nonprofits. Chaney also established a foundation with a focus on environment and education. As one of the largest employers in southern Maryland, Chaney makes strategic investments in educating potential workers, providing scholarships, facility tours and career days. Taken as a whole, the CSR program is aligned to the company’s strengths, and Tripp says, its long- term business goal of keeping the Chaney cycle going. “If somebody understands us better, when the opportunity comes for us to be in that community, they will be open to us.” Chaney donates pervious concrete mix to create Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, Md.   16
  18. 18. Section III: CSR & Social Media | Can you cut through the clutter? Studies show that people want to know about and will support company efforts to be socially responsible. Large companies at least, are responding by telling their stories on multiple platforms. But is the message getting through? It’s possible that CSR communications go mostly unrecognized. According to a 2010 branding survey, while “communications about social responsibility have significant impact on favorability and purchase intent...only 11% (of those surveyed) say they’ve heard communications about CSR from any company in the past year.”v If even the big guns aren’t getting through the communications clutter, what does this mean for small and medium-sized businesses with tiny staffs and lower budgets? Can social media, with its relatively low entry cost, provide a breakthrough communications tool to help SMEs tell their story? The answer is a qualified yes. Key findings from the companies interviewed in this project: • All see the potential for social media but are at different stages of adoption • Many lack a strategic plan for social media communications • Investment of time is the biggest expense • Social media can be an effective tool for CSR communications if used correctly >> SME SOCIAL MEDIA USE ON THE RISE Social media use is increasing among the general public and small business. Recent surveys show SMEs are universally aware of social media and a third to half are using it to communicate. At least one study suggests social media benefits to small business include new partnerships, improved sales, reduced marketing costs, and increased exposure.vi As of publication, only one of the 12 businesses interviewed for this project had no presence on social media platforms. Two others were using it on a limited basis while formulating social media policies. The other nine have waded in to the social media waters but only a few have a specific strategy in place, further evidence that social media is still very much in the adoption/early learning phase. >> KEY FINDING – SOCIAL REACH & RULES UNCLEAR | Still more questions than answers Social media is moving at breakneck speed and most businesses are learning behind the wheel. Many are frustrated over how to figure out which platforms to use, what and how often to post, and whether it will be worth the effort. Potomac Pizza owner Adam Greenberg started with Facebook because it seemed the easiest and he now also links his posts to Twitter. His efforts to create engagement include offering gift cards to customers who post pictures in a restaurant. He also uses Facebook to let people know about community events he’s supporting, but he’s concerned the company news gets buried in readers’ newsfeeds. “You almost have to post something four times a day, and then are you ticking off as many people? Would I be better off knocking on two doors a day and saying hi than spending half an hour on Facebook?”   17
  19. 19. Greenberg is considering starting a monthly email newsletter to keep customers informed of what the business is doing in the “Would I be better off community but he also has questions about email marketing. “Is it knocking on two doors as effective as it was three years ago? Are people feeling like a day and saying hi they’re getting spammed too much? There’s so many different than spending a half options, so many ways to go. It’s really just mind-boggling.” an hour on Sand and gravel company Chaney Enterprises got into social Facebook?” media with some trepidation. It uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn - Adam Greenberg, and YouTube to market its products and approach to local concrete Owner, Potomac Pizza sub-contractors. “Initially it was more to check the box. I struggled, asking ‘What are we going to get out of this?’” admits Marketing Manager Steve Tripp. “Let’s face it, the construction industry probably isn’t where you see the most iPhones and iPads and things like that.” Still, Tripp has found Facebook gives him a platform to share Chaney’s views on sustainable concrete products, information on the company’s client and community appreciation events, and donations by the Chaney Foundation to help end local problems such as high unemployment and hunger. Tripp says the next phase is to generate more engagement with the community by asking people to post their own comments and photos. “If there’s a Boy Scout project or something like that and they’re looking for a small donation of concrete or materials, we’ll ask them...to post some pictures to our wall. That’s the kind of thing where we can get a little bit of an interaction with the community and people can see things that are not engineered by us.” Optimal Networks COO David Campbell was an early skeptic of social media. “I didn’t really see the value in having the organization’s face on Facebook. I realize now I’m in the minority there.” The company has ramped up profiles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a recently created YouTube channel. To date, it primarily uses the platforms to post thought leadership content on IT issues. It hasn’t yet optimized social media for CSR communications. The company has won several workplace excellence awards for its employee policies and commitment to volunteerism but is still trying to shake off a years-held reluctance to talk about CSR publicly. “We do know that we owe that because people want to know what we’re doing and if we don’t tell, they assume we’re not doing anything.” Soupergirl owner Sarah Polon says she hasn’t yet mastered how to use Facebook and Twitter as more than broadcast channels. For now she’s most concerned about marketing her soups and alerting customers to menu changes. She also occasionally posts links to media reviews and articles on the local food movement which generate some “likes,” but she isn’t seeking or seeing a great deal of audience engagement on the social media channels. “I’m sure I could use it more effectively,” says Polon, who has instead focused on online relationship building within the Soupergirl website. She creates humorous stories about each soup and asks customers to rate them in the online “Soup Pantry.” Each new soup offering generates a handful of comments. “People have a lot going on and I’m just one of the many things they’re fans of,” says Polon. “I just think posting on the Soupergirl page is not on the top of everyone’s priority list.”   18
  20. 20. >> A DEBATE OVER REACH One of the big promises of social media is its ability to spread key messages beyond current audiences as people share content. With followers in the low to high hundreds though, some SMEs remain unconvinced about social media’s reach. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to reach a bunch of people who otherwise we were not going to be able to get to,” says David Campbell of Optimal Networks. “We’re not going to get the same sort of brand recognition as Coke by using Twitter.” Matt Hodgson of Hodgson Consulting agrees that small business owners should be realistic in their expectations. “I’ve been to many seminars on social media and I give seminars. I find it incredibly frustrating and annoying when you get someone from Google or Yahoo or Coca Cola or any of the big brands who get up and say, ‘You need to be part of social media because if the conversation is happening, you need to be a part of it.’ And I’m thinking, I’ve got a 30-person technology company. I can guarantee you that in Idaho there is no conversation going on about me. Probably in Montgomery County right now there is no conversation.” It’s not the size of the audience that’s important, counters social media expert Colin Moffett, but the level of engagement you create. “It’s not the size of “You may have an audience base of a thousand people. In that the audience that’s case getting a couple hundred people to pay attention to what important. It’s the you’re doing on social media is great,” says Moffett, SVP Digital level of engagement Communications for global PR firm Weber Shandwick. you create.” - Colin Moffett, Campbell of Optimal Networks says social media’s greatest value SVP, Weber Shandwick so far has been to give the company a faster, more intimate way of reaching people it’s already connected to. He calls it a digital “footprint in a place where people are looking for you.” But other SMEs report that social media is giving them an access point to entirely new audiences. “One of the biggest rewards that we’ve seen is the connectivity we’ve been able to make with people we would not normally have been able to reach,” says Erin Orr of the Virginia Spine Institute. “You make one relationship with someone and the next thing you know, they’re referring you to someone else.” Orr says in addition to increasing brand recognition among potential clients, she’s seen an increase in media coverage since she began creating content for social media channels such as YouTube. Stephen White of accounting firm Aronson LLC also says that shifting resources from traditional PR to social media has garnered his company more press. “There was a time when I would hire a PR person whose sole responsibility was to write, generate and issue press releases,” says White. “I don’t think I’ve had a call from a reporter in the last 12 months, but I’ll tell you, we’ve been in everything from CNN to The Huffington Post to Washington Business Journal. They’re getting all that information because they went to our blogs and social media pages.” >> SOCIAL PRESENCE NOW EXPECTED Despite ongoing confusion about how to effectively use social media and whether it will lead to new clients, most business leaders agree it’s a must. For BetterWorld Telecom’s Salem Kimble, it’s a question of professionalism and accessibility. It’s “the standard of having some other   19
  21. 21. method other than a rote contact form on a website. If you don’t have some other way for people to get in touch with you in one of these various mediums, I think it undermines your credibility as a company that’s customer facing,” says Kimble, BetterWorld’s Social Media Development Manager. She also believes there’s a generational shift driving how individuals and businesses consume and share information. “I’m the youngest person by far on the BetterWorld team. I’m just about half the age of most of them,” says Kimble, who works with a number of telecom industry veterans. “I’m speaking as a Generation Y/Millenial, so to me and to pretty much everyone after my age, (not using social media) sort of marks a company as out of touch. If a company doesn’t have some engagement in social media they’re not paying attention to where everything is going.” With the 50-plus age group rapidly adopting social media, Weber Shandwick digital expert Colin Moffett feels it’s more than a youth-driven trend. He does agree though, that a social media shift has happened, especially in the past year. “I think a couple years ago it was this brave new world where you could reach and connect with people,” says Moffett. Now with the increasing use of mobile devices and the blurring of offline and online activities, social media is “actually in many ways how a lot of information is shared, how people learn about things. It’s no longer social media. It’s just media.” >> KEY FINDING – TIME IS BIGGEST DOWNSIDE | Social media is not “free” In straight “dollars spent” terms, social media is indeed low-cost. There’s no charge to set up basic accounts on the most popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As many of us know from personal experience, however, time is the biggest investment, and in any business, time is money. One of the questions that this project set out to answer is whether social media, with its low entry cost, is uniquely suited to SMEs with small staffs and budgets. The answer would be a straight-forward yes were it not for the clock. Interviewees uniformly report a range of concerns around the amount of time social media takes: to master the different tools; learn best practices for strategic communications; create content that can be updated frequently; build an audience; and establish meaningful dialogue. “If I had to tell other businesses one thing about it, it’s that you had better be committed to it because it’s almost like turning on water. Once you turn it on, it’s on,” says David Campbell of Optimal Networks, whose company president is “now spending a considerable amount of time” on social media. “It’s very difficult to start down the road of social media and then decide you don’t like it anymore. Once you go into those arenas, you have to be committed both on a financial level and strategically to make it go.” SMEs should proceed carefully, cautions IT company CEO Matt Hodgson. “I think social media is a great tool. Could it kill a business? I think it can. If you take a 10-person company and say go get involved with social media, they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re messing around with social media. They’re trying to figure it out. They’re having a conversation with themselves,” says Hodgson. “It’s a waste of time, money, resources and productivity.”   20
  22. 22. Better, says Hodgson, to think of social media as just one small part of communications and marketing. Weber Shandwick’s Colin Moffett agrees. “A lot of the tried and true ways we communicated with people are not going away. It doesn’t mean you have to abandon the old and only do the new.” So SMEs are to keep communicating the way they always have but now add more channels? Who has the time? “That’s the big hurdle for people,” says Moffett. “There’s a lot of opportunity to share timely information with efficiency and speed like never before. That’s the good news. The bad news is, it takes more sustained effort, time and energy to communicate with people on an ongoing basis.” IN THEIR OWN WORDS: 5 SOCIAL MEDIA LESSONS LEARNED 1. Success takes time: “There’s a lot of noise out there. So as a small company with not a lot of budget to push systematic campaigns or spend a lot of advertising dollars on adwords and that kind of stuff, it can be challenging,” says BetterWorld Telecom’s Salem Kimble. “There’s a long return arc on social media. It can be a long tail to actually see results.” 2. Getting it right is important: Growing from small to mid-size, 10-year-old management and technology consulting firm Acuity Inc. is creating its first-ever strategic communications plan. When Sharon Grevious was hired last Spring she quickly set up social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. “When I came onboard I said, ‘Okay these are going to be quick wins so I’ll just go ahead and do that first.’ I’ve learned that it really does take some dedication and some time to do.” Grevious readjusted her approach, choosing to do a “soft launch” of social media – sending out links to employees and internal stakeholders first to generate traffic. “You always are grappling with what’s going to add the most value, what’s going to resonate and what’s relevant.” 3. Brief is best: “In the blogs people think they have to write an essay,” says Matt Hodgson of Hodgson Consulting. “Type up what you want to write in three sentences and put it out there. You don’t have to write a book.” 4. Be prepared for negative feedback: Interviewees report being taken aback by negative online comments such as an employee complaining about work on Facebook, a disgruntled applicant on Yelp! or a dissatisfied customer on Twitter. The other side of instant communication is instant and very public feedback. “The first thing you need to decide is if there is anything you can do about it and if so, act quickly,” says David Campbell of Optimal Networks. 5. Use the open dialogue to your advantage: The immediate feedback of social media can be faster than information trickling back from field representatives. Honest Tea says it can respond to problems faster and it finds online fans help each other out. “It brings in other people as opposed to an email which is a very personal communication,” says Samme Menke, former PR Manager. “Maybe someone in new York is looking for a particular product and can’t find it and someone else will let them know.”   21
  23. 23. COMPANY SNAPSHOT: ARONSON LLC Inside one company’s social media thought process Accounting and consulting firm Aronson LLC has attacked social media aggressively, shifting traditional communication resources into an ongoing series of six blogs that are featured prominently on the company website. Stephen White, Vice President, Operations, describes his approach, results and how Aronson LLC uses social media to market company services and CSR through its grant-making foundation. • Strategy: Use blogs and social media channels to deliver thought leadership that educates clients about issues and offers company solutions. Two years ago there wasn’t a strategy. If I had a dollar for every time a partner came to me and asked, ‘What’s our Facebook strategy,’ I couldn’t answer that question. I think it was too new. In a very short amount of time, ironically less time than it took us to understand how to harness the internet, we figured out how to use it to communicate differently and better and quicker. • Channels: You can’t possibly be a dominant player in every channel. You have to pick your channels and stay true to those channels. v Facebook. I think a lot of businesses make the mistake of making it primary and I think a lot of companies are trying to mold it into a corporate solution and I’m not sure I buy that. For a corporate solution I don’t think it works but we have to at least have a presence. v YouTube. It’s good for external knowledge transfer. It’s good for just simple brand. But you have to be committed to a video strategy which is something that not many firms of our size or smaller are equipped to deal with in the frequency that I think is necessary to be successful. v LinkedIn. It has a platform that is both scalable and it’s really designed for the corporate world and how corporations interact with one another. • Engagement: Every day we get email responses, people coming to our website, people who comment, “I read that article you posted on the blog. I saw your twitter feed. I would like to sit down and talk to you about my problem and how you might be able to help us.” I’ve never seen that in traditional marketing. • CSR Awareness: We get anecdotal feedback that they saw us online. I get grant requests where they’ll say, “As stated in your blog entry.” • Measurement: I won’t do something if I can’t get a financial ROI or an ROI of mindshare or capture. I have both anecdotal and empirical evidence to suggest that our revenue has been positively impacted by our marketing and social media strategies. Our most popular blog gets 2,800 to 3,200 unique sessions a month. Roughly 10,000 unique and repeat visitors. That’s a lot of eyeballs.   22
  24. 24. • Investment: It’s taken us three years to get there. The person in charge of that is dedicated, committed to it. If you are the type of person who prefers to fly in, fly out, do a couple of blog entries per year, you’re not going to be successful. • Social Media Management: There are technologies today that make it possible to get the message out across the channels in seconds. We use a cloud-based solution called DeliverIt. • Risk: Bad information from internal sources. It’s one thing to put out communication saying we donated to nonprofit Locks of Love. Very little risk there. Let’s say we put out something in relation to a tax law or a change in policy or procedure and we’re wrong. Worse, is outside risks I can’t control – people who comment on our posts, people who comment out of context. How do you control that and how it can impact your brand? It requires you to use outside counsel, which I will admit we don’t use today. • Future Value: How do we differentiate ourselves from the accountant across the street? How do we do it better, faster, cheaper? Those are the questions that we’ll be asking but it will all be driven by the fact that social media and the internet and efficiencies in operations will be so finely tuned that we’ll have to look at different ways of diversification that don’t exist today. >> HOW TO DO SOCIAL MEDIA RIGHT | Advice from an expert There’s been a fundamental shift in the way people consume and create information. People want it fast, bite-size but authentic. Following a few rules will help SMEs tell their stories with impact, says Colin Moffett, SVP Digital Communications, Weber Shandwick. Know your audience: Who are you trying to reach - a very insular group like a group of vendors or your broader market of consumers? What online tools are they using? What do you want from them and what do they want from you? Listen before you leap: Spend a month listening. Have people comb these tools every day for the conversations you care about. Who’s out there? Who’s influential in the space? What are they saying about you? If you listen and react to what people are saying you’ll get further than just barging into the party and blurting things out. People don’t react well to that in person or online. Get in it for the long haul: Engagement is an ongoing thing. Marketing has been an episodic thing where you do a big campaign, you regroup, you do a big event, you regroup. Now you have to find ways of engaging people on a daily basis and I think that’s a big shift for people. You are a content producer: We used to, from a PR perspective, tee up the stories so that other people could tell it. Whether you’re small or big. You have to tell your own story. Think like a storyteller: Report facts and figures in interesting and compelling ways. Try not to be robotic. People want to hear from people. Get out of the way and let others tell the story   23
  25. 25. about the impact of your product or community investment. It’s ten times more authentic and compelling when it comes from that perspective and not from your perspective. Engage, don’t broadcast: Understand that these tools are more like talking on the phone and less like emailing. We still use these channels as mini press release machines. You may say, “Remember tax season is coming,” or you may say “new product in the store.” Those are broadcast messages. If you want people to have a conversation with you, you have to ask questions. You have to respond to people. You have to share what they’re saying. Measure engagement: Keep the number of page views, the number of friends or followers in mind but look for engagement. Are you getting people to spread what you’re saying, are you getting people to comment? Are you hearing anecdotal stories, people who walk into your business and say they read about you? Respect the medium: A mistake I think people make when they start to invest in social media is to put it in the hands of an intern or someone right out of college. There’s an assumption a younger person will understand this stuff. They’re digital natives. They use it in their private lives. That doesn’t make them a sophisticated professional communicator. If you’re handing these tools to the person at the lowest end of the pay grade, you’re not respecting the potential enough. You have to think of this as a way to tell your story and you put something with that weight in the hands of someone who’s a lot closer to the story. >> WHY CSR & SOCIAL MEDIA WORK TOGETHER If you had to choose a single word that defines best practices in both corporate social responsibility and social media, it would be “authentic.” Ask an expert in either field, or even laymen who know their gut instincts, and they will tell you that being real, genuine - authentic - is what matters. Without that, social media is just another broadcast channel and CSR is an attempt for easy publicity. But done right, the two can work together to tell very personal stories about real people, problems and solutions. “Doing the glossy report every year to talk about your CSR activities isn’t compelling and pushing out occasional dry messages in a very robotic way on social media is not compelling either,” says digital executive Colin Moffett. “From a CSR perspective, think about how you tell the core stories of who you are and what impact that has in your community, on the environment, in your neighborhood...on an ongoing basis. Same for social media. How do you talk about things that are impactful that customers want to hear about, want to engage with in a real time way?” With most SMEs moving to at least some level of social media outreach, it’s natural to build CSR communications into the mix, says Catherine Taylor Keller of the Business Civic Leadership Center. The result can be good both for the business and the cause. “How easy is it to click Share This or Tweet This. Whether it’s the sale item or if it’s “We are partnering with Habitat for Humanity...” people will take it personally and they’ll share it with their 500 Facebook friends and 100 Twitter followers and who knows how many times it will be shared.”   24
  26. 26. COMPANY SNAPSHOT: HONEST TEA Giving the audience what it wants Ask small-turned-big beverage company Honest Tea what has been one of the most challenging aspects of talking about its sustainable mission on social media? Engaging, not alienating customers. “We don’t just want to be a bug in their ear and posting about ourselves all the time, ‘try our product, try our product.’ We want to add value,” says Samme Menke, former PR Manager at Honest Tea. News an Audience Can Use Adding value means aligning with customer values, posting articles and events about organic food, fair trade, the environment and health. “We post stuff like, ‘Your kids are going back to school. Here are some eco-friendly school supplies.’” Honest Tea also mentions the ongoing donations it makes to local organizations, but not in a direct way. “The issues highlighted are “so much larger than us just serving our drink there,” says Menke. “We wouldn’t normally post, ‘We just donated X number of bottles.’” Instead, the company promotes the partner. “Our friends at Bethesda green are hosting this event. You should check it out.” Frank Discussion Pays Off Honest Tea says consumers are its most important social media audience. And those consumers can be both committed allies and scathing critics. That’s why Honest Tea has chosen to tackle tough issues head-on. In its 2011 Mission Report the company outlines its successes in creating new organic products sourced from fair trade suppliers. But it doesn’t shy away from a frank discussion of the fact that it’s trying to be a sustainable company while selling individual drinks in plastic and glass bottles. “With Honest Tea’s 2010 sales of more than 100 million units, we have likely contributed tens of millions of bottles to the waste stream,” states the report. “If you never talked about it, only said, we’re organic we’re fair trade, low in sugar, our employees volunteer at A Wider Circle, you would be missing a really huge part of our impact on the environment,” says Special Projects Manager Kelly Cardamone. “I think people appreciate the fact that we’re willing to put ourselves out there and say that we don’t have a solution either.” That level of transparency gives Honest Tea a jumping off point to talk about what it IS doing to reduce packaging and energy consumption. In a nod to sustainability, new media and dialogue, the mission report was published online at Tumblr.com. It features video, like buttons and the ability for readers to post comments. The company has promised to respond to comments and update the report throughout the year. Such open dialogue can win over skeptics and create fierce advocates, as was the case when Honest Tea was sold to mega-company Coca Cola in March 2011. Founder Seth Goldman blogged repeatedly about the sale and even spoke in the media about pressure from Coca Cola to remove its “no high fructose corn syrup” label on Honest Kids drinks. “It elicited this huge   25
  27. 27. dialogue on the New York Times web site from readers who are really passionate about Honest Tea...and larger companies and smaller companies joining together and whether they have the same mission,” says Kelly Cardamone, Special-Tea Projects Manager. Crafting unique engagement points Honest Tea is always looking for ways to promote both its products and its CSR messages. Its newest campaign is the “Great Recycle,” which the company calls “a national call-to-action to boost recycling.” A 30-foot recycle bin starts in Times Square and moves to other cities with a goal to recycle 45,000 beverage containers in each 10-hour event. Social media elements include a chance to earn redeemable points on Facebook, a heavily promoted Twitter hashtag and a humorous video of an Honest Tea bottle trying to make it into a recycle bin. In July 2011 the company carried out a public social experiment called Honest Cities, where unmanned displays featured Honest Tea drinks available for a dollar on the honor system. Chicago was named the “most honest city,” with 99 per cent of people paying for their drinks. Honest Tea then extended the campaign by asking Facebook fans to vote for three charities that should receive the proceeds plus a matching grant from the company, about $10,000 in total. Cross-promoting the campaign through the web site, social media and video raised brand awareness, doubled Facebook fans and increased sales. It resulted in 330 media placements and $3.4 million in ad value. A simple concept with a big impact for the company and its nonprofit partners. “At the core it came down to, ‘Are you honest or not?’ It wasn’t polarizing or too specific,” says Cardamone. “It was really human.”   26
  28. 28. COMPANY SNAPSHOT: VIRGINIA SPINE INSTITUTE Video storytelling to highlight impact There’s a reason why YouTube is among the top online search engines. People love video. According to YouTube’s early 2012 statistics, over four billion videos are viewed each day and the platform has more than 800 million unique visitors each month.vii While coming up with a video that will go viral is rare, SMEs are smart to harness the visual and emotional appeal of video to tell their stories. The Virginia Spine Institute is making video a key part of its business and CSR communication strategies. “We’re not selling widgets,” says Marketing Director Erin Orr, of the private health care center in Reston, VA which focuses on spinal care. “There’s an emotional side to what we’re doing and a lot of times we feel that comes across best in the video. The connections, allowing people to see who our doctors are, who our team is, what they’re doing.” Virginia Spine Institute has created more than two dozen videos which are featured on its web site and a YouTube channel. In some, doctors explain the work and approach of the Institute. Others star patients, called “Spinal Champions,” who have successfully been treated. The testimonials put a human face on serious spinal injuries or the seemingly mundane – back pain that leaves healthy people suddenly immobile. One patient describes not wanting to go on with life after suffering the pain caused by wrenching her back while reaching for her cat. “I think that other patients have connected through those. It’s one thing to put it in writing where you read, ‘Johnny had this problem and had the surgery and had this outcome,’ but to see them in their environment and to hear them talking about it is pretty powerful.” On the CSR side, the Institute has used video to promote a 5K race it sponsors to raise money for national spinal research. Like a news crew, it “covered” the event, collecting interviews with NFL stars and other one-time patients who were now able to run pain-free. It posted the resulting video quickly after the race, generating measurable hits. “It’s one thing to hear that it happened or to see pictures, but to see people talking about how this great community event raised the awareness and the funds...it makes it more real,” says Orr. Real people telling their own stories. It’s a model that can be translated to other businesses, even those not treating debilitating injury. The trick to creating emotion is to focus on the issue you’re solving and the impact you’re having. The result will be video content that can be shared, picked up by media, and create higher visibility in search engines.   27
  29. 29. CONCLUSION This collection of opinions from a dozen small business leaders in one major market is an opportunity to hear directly from the kinds of people who every day are making decisions on how to communicate about their businesses. As told in the preceding pages, they are certain of their ability to make a difference in their community. Whether and how to talk about that impact is less clear. Even more confusing is the fast-changing world of social media as a business and CSR communications tool. It’s hoped that the challenges, successes and best-practices described here-in will offer insight and inspiration to the small business community. >>> <<< ABOUT THE AUTHOR Tracey Wright is a Fellow with Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication. She has a Masters in Professional Studies, PR/Corporate Communications from Georgetown University and a BA in Journalism and Communications from the University of Regina, Canada. Tracey received Georgetown’s 2010 Social Impact Award for "demonstrating the highest commitment to creating positive social change as a communicator." As a volunteer Tracey has donated her storytelling skills to produce strategic content for nonprofits. On the job she has been a senior network television producer and reporter, covering national and international stories from Washington, DC and Ottawa, Canada. ABOUT THE CENTER Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC) is the nation’s leading educational resource on social impact communication. Launched in 2008 and housed in the Master of Professional Studies program in Public Relations and Corporate Communications, CSIC aims to elevate the discipline by pioneering industry standards in responsible communication practices and by educating and inspiring the professionals who lead the way in creating positive social impact through their work. For more information, visit http://csic.georgetown.edu.   28
  30. 30. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank the following companies and organizations for their frank and thoughtful participation: Acuity Inc. Alliance for Workplace Excellence Aronson LLC BetterWorld Telecom Business Civic Leadership Center, US Chamber of Commerce Chaney Enterprises Cone Communications Hodgson Consulting Honest Tea Leadership Greater Washington Optimal Networks OPX Global Potomac Pizza Reznick Group Soupergirl Virginia Spine Institute Weber Shandwick   29
  31. 31. APPENDIX | Interview Questions for SMEs 1. What values drive your company? 2. Think about your most important relationships – customers, your employees, the community. How do you put your values into practice? 3. Why motivates CSR at your business? 4. What impact have you seen, both on your stakeholders and your business? Has there been an “aha” moment where you’ve seen your values in action? 5. Who drives socially responsible activities in your organization? 6. In general, how do you communicate with your stakeholders? 7. How big a role does the internet play in your communications? 8. What CSR practices do you communicate about? 9. What is the reason you do or do not communicate about your socially responsible activities? 10. Who is your most important audience for CSR communication? 11. How do you frame your CSR practices? 12. What communication tools do you use? 13. How often do you communicate about socially responsible and sustainable activities? 14. How do you use social media tools? 15. Why or why not use them? 16. What challenges have you faced using social media? 17. What benefits have you seen or could you expect from using social media to communicate with your stakeholders about your company values?   30
  32. 32.                                                                                                                 i http://www.edelman.com/insights/special/GoodPurpose2010globalPPT_WEBversion.pdf ii http://www.coneinc.com/stuff/contentmgr/files/0/2fcb9351e2bea95addb6c4413bcf39a4/files/2011_cone_echo_cr_op portunity_study.pdf iii http://2020workplace.com/blog/?p=447 iv http://www.centercorporatecitizenship.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewPage&pageID=2166&nodeID=1 v http://www.burson- marsteller.com/Innovation_and_insights/blogs_and_podcasts/BM_Blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=170 vi Nearly half of SMEs use social media to market to customers, according to a September 2011 survey of 1,180 businesses by Zoomerang. http://www.zoomerang.com/blog/2011/09/08/new-survey-results-nearly-half-smbs-utilize- social-media-marketing Social media use has risen the past three years, with nearly all small businesses now aware of social media tools and a third using them, concludes a January 2012 survey by Network Solutions and the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. However, it also reports that the number of businesses who say that social media is not meeting their expectations has increased to 36% from 26% last year. http://www.networksolutions.com/smallbusiness/wp- content/files/State_of_Small_Business_Report_Wave_5.pdf?channelid=P99C425S627N0B142A1D38E0000V100 The payback from time spent on social media is higher for small business: new partnerships, improved sales, reduced marketing costs, and increased exposure, states a 2011 Social Media Marketing Report by online magazine “Social Media Examiner.” http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/tag/2011-social-media-industry-report/ vii http://www.youtube.com/t/press_statistics           31

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