Reporting trends, some predictions, part two of four

1) Basic impact assessments

2) ‘Real-time’ web based reporting and engagement

2) ‘Real-time’ web based reporting and engagement

Given that the 80 page printed CR report is now dead, what’s next? Companies are moving towards putting most information online for the interested stakeholders, NGO’s, SRI’s and others. Article will cover:

1) Does it make sense to just dump all information online once a year any more?
2) If not, how to drip feed it in an accountable and clearly strategic/tactical way
3) How is quarterly, or even monthly reporting, evolving? ie produceworld, guardian, timberland
4) If most data is going online, and push communications are going to be targeted (see below), then is there even a need for an annual print report at all? How is this evolving?
5) How do you start to have a conversation online, an ongoing discussion with stakeholders to deliver useful commentary and demonstrate accountability? Work with third parties: www.ethicalcorp.com/livedebate or go it alone? What are the drawbacks of each approach? (if its not on your site, do you get sufficient credit? But equally, what if a debate goes out of control? ie tellshell.com or Neal’s yard episode?)

Interviewees: GSK, Julia King, ProduceWorld, Guardian’s Jo Confino, Centrica’s Charlotte Grezo, Simon Propper, Context.

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3) Targeted, segmented stakeholder communications designed to encourage that conversation

Once you’ve been doing proper web reporting, and the big all in one print report is looking redundant, how do you target your communications to engage stakeholders in the way they take an interest in? Communications in 2010 is all about “pull” not “push”. This means you have to work out exactly how relevant stakeholder groups might respond to tailored communications and then develop comms pieces for them. For example, with employees it might be ‘water cooler’ gossipers (CSR champions), internal newspapers, noticeboards, informal events etc. With journalists it might be content-rich and honest ‘issue briefs’ which provide a hook and attract attention, or a round table with a senior executive (see: http://www.pepsico.co.uk/news-and-comment/roundtable-event-on-water-stewardship) which also seems to work for Academics. With MP’s it might be boiling down your impact report to point out the good you do for society and your targets, with NGOs it might be issue specific communications asking for feedback on stakeholder engagement or community concerns. With senior executives it might be “seeing is believing” tours of the developing world (see: http://www.ethicalcorp.com/content.asp?ContentID=7062) or a retreat with inspiring speakers, etc etc

1) How do you decide who to target with your online and tailored sustainability communications, which are backed up by your website reporting?
2) What do the various groups respond best to, in terms of communications formats? ie employees, SRI investors, NGOs, opinion formers?
3) Can you use printed or electronic materials to drive people to your website, or an area of your website, for that online conversation and comments?
4) Which formats work best, for specific companies?

Interviewees: As above. Ask Simon Propper for contacts (can’t quote him too much!) Also other CR comms agencies like Salter Baxter. Nicki Lyons at PepsiCo, head of media. Hugh WIlliamson at the FT knows us and might say how he likes comms to be delivered: Hugh.Williamson@ft.com (use my name). Also Peter Stiff at the Times knows me and might talk: Peter.stiff@thetimes.co.uk David Grayson and his CSR Champions work at Cranfield might be good also. However we do quote him a lot.

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4) Integration into more mainstream marketing and communications. Holding public debates etc.

So if you’ve got a good online report, engaged some stakeholders, got a conversation going, and pushed out some tailored communications, how can you take the conversation beyond employees and opinion formers and key stakeholders? Or is doing that enough? How can companies have a more engaged debate about the issues without being seen to overly promote their agenda? For example, Timberland’s EarthKeepers blog, Patagonia’s footprint chronicles, Sky’s debate series at the RSA.

1) Clearly companies have been caught out greenwashing, ie GM, Finnair, many other examples, by simplifying sustainability too much
2) These are complex issues that don’t fit easily into mainstream marketing, so how do you begin to talk about sustainability in a credible way in marketing?
3) What about supporting public debate to raise awareness but not overly impose your views? Ie Sky’s debate series, Timberland’s blog.
4) What else works as a bridge between CSR industry reporting and ‘mainstream marketing’ ? ie is there a middle ground where you can broaden your reach without simplifying messages into slogans and losing credibility with accusations of greenwash..

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