Co-Creating a Winning CSR Communications Strategy
Perspectives > Blog Post

Co-Creating a Winning CSR Communications Strategy

September 22, 2016

Alison Servi

Tap into these tried-and-true research techniques to target in on and enhance your brand's CSR communications plan.

It’s no secret that corporations are now expected to do more than just offer safe, effective products at affordable prices. Today’s consumers scrutinize both how a company makes its money and how it spends it. Expectations expand far beyond the token do-gooding characteristic of traditional Corporate Social Responsibility programs; people want to know the impact that brands are having on social issues, and whether a company’s workplace conditions, environmental policies, and materials sourcing align with its publicly stated values.

Today’s consumers scrutinize both how a company makes its money and how it spends it.

But it’s not enough to just launch and manage effective social impact initiatives. Virtually ever major company has a CSR program, and all are vocal about their efforts. In a world where altruistic efforts are over exaggerated and over-reported, even the companies that do social impact right can easily get lost in the noise. It’s never been more important for brands to set clear goals that can be attained, measured, sustained, and communicated in a compelling way.

We recently explored the implications of the consumer-driven shift away from Corporate Social Responsibility and towards Social Impact in CSR Communication: Getting Credit for Doing Good. In it, we recommend building a foundational knowledge to help determine the right communications plan for your brand’s social impact work. So how can you create a thoughtful and authentic communications strategy that captures the results of your efforts and resonates with consumers in a crowded space? We recommend that you tap into specific research techniques to help you get there. Follow these steps to ensure that you hit the mark:

STEP 1: Go back to your roots. Gather your key stakeholders and reexamine your company’s core principles. Identify which social missions best align with your brand. Consumers familiar with your brand should immediately understand why your company is pursuing any given initiative.

STEP 2: Survey the landscape. Leverage Cultural Insights to unlock the underlying dialogue and emerging trends that impact your brand. Examine the conversations, messages, symbols, language, and imagery that influence consumers in order to provide your team with a more complete understanding of the broader context in which your brand operates.

STEP 3: Listen up. Once you have a complete picture of the cultural nuances impacting your brand, tap Social Listening to identify the issues that are top of mind for consumers, and explore the nature of the conversations around your brand and its competitors. Observe online sentiments to better understand what you are doing well, perceptions about your current CSR mission, and whether consumers are engaging with your brand in the manner in which you intend.

Consumers familiar with your brand should immediately understand why your company is pursuing any given initiative.

STEP 4: Exercise empathy. Combine Qualitative and Quantitative research approaches for an upfront lens on your consumers’ perspectives and their reactions to key themes arising from the Cultural Insights and Social Listening research. Every objective is different and requires a unique approach. Here are just some of the research techniques that your brand can leverage:

Co-Creation Sessions: to put consumers at the heart of your strategy-making process

Social Impact Territory Testing: to extract the most resonant trends for your brand

Social Impact Pulse Report: to measure consumer awareness and expectations of your current programs and strategies

Influencer Deep Dive: to identify trends among key influencers to better position your social impact programs for success

Tactic Audit: to ensure you are executing your strategy in the most impactful way possible

The above steps will leave you with a clear understanding of how to talk about your social impact strategy in a framework that aligns with cultural norms and emerging trends. The right research partner will help you to interpret these findings, identifying improvements to your existing communications strategy that more effectively reflect your brand’s values, and develop an informed plan to foster meaningful connections with socially responsible consumers.

Download our whitepaper CSR Communication: Getting Credit for Doing Good to learn how to craft an effective CSR communications plan that fosters awareness of your social impact work.

Alison Servi


With a deep understanding of both organizational and marketing strategy, Alison connects the desire for actionable research insights with an understanding of what it takes from both a process and...

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