Monday, 27 July 2015

Why does the CEO need to get involved with CSR?

A question that normally crops up in any conversation is that “don’t we have enough on our plates to now look at something that is just 2% of the profit...?”  More often than not, the request or query is diverted to the CSR head.

So let me give you 5 solid reasons why the Brand Owner really needs to look at CSR from a Brand lens esp at this stage when the whole Country is talking about it !

  1. Changing demographics: No secret this one that the Country is dominated by huge numbers that are below 35. Every generation has its own favorites and Youth sees things of the past as relics.
  2. Decreasing Product differentiation: The age of the USP is over. Even before your product hits the shelf, competition has theirs out there. And those who don’t, well they can just import & re-brand it! Last time I read somewhere, even the Indian Gods were made in China!
  3. Evolving Technology: Even before you have finally got your hands on the latest gizmo or got used to its features, there is a new product out there. Flashier, faster, sharper...
  4. The Spiritual Consumer: Today’s generation is probably far more aware, concerned and caring about the Environment, Society & the need to look beyond the immediate self. Heck, who wants Blood Diamonds or that nice Rug that came from the tears & blood of little kids who worked in sweat shops somewhere!
  5. Social humiliation is just a click away: And if still don’t care, there is enough out there for the Corporate’s Stock to take a beating & tumble down in the few minutes of a PR disaster.

Given the above,  especially point 4; it is going to be increasingly difficult to connect with Customers’ at a higher emotional level, keep them engaged with the brand & stay loyal to it.

Here’s where your CSR can step in. However, it requires a change in thinking and that can only come if it’s driven from the top. CSR departments are generally averse to any Communication that is beyond reporting. Integration of the brand into CSR is seen as sacrilegious. Culturally we are aligned to believe that if you must “do good”; do it quietly...

However, there is a fine balance that must be kept. The ‘Cause’ must never get compromised. The Corporate can choose to do CSR that is aligned with the nature of the business that it is engaged in or even the Values that it believes in. But Communication must work towards raising awareness of the issues. The Brand must seek to engage community. It should help the affected or be seen as helping in mobilizing people, resources & Government. It should play the role of a facilitator. Its presence is incidental & only to ensure the success or sustainability of the Cause or the issues of the affected.

People trust Brands & big Brand owners. Their support & presence re-assures the Community encouraging donations, volunteering & involvement. It helps mobilize opinion and generates media visibility.
Thus creating a far larger impact than a silent donation would have achieved.

CEOs are influential people. The Organization’s Vision, Beliefs & involvement comes through & also helps in the above. It also ensures greater involvement of all their Employees beyond the CSR team. The Marketing teams can guide the CSR on Media planning & buying. The CEO's presence further attracts Customers, suppliers & other stake holders.
Finally, it creates a win –win situation for all i.e. The Cause, the NGOs & the Corporate which will be seen as a good corporate citizen.

About the author:

Pankaj Arora is the Director & Co-Founder of ACT – Asset CSR Team.

Friday, 26 June 2015

CSR – myths about keeping it quiet!

A couple of years ago, while CSR was considered a promoter’s prerogative and not so much a focus area for the “Corporate”, as a ‘do good’ marketing communications partner and experiential marketing company, we pitched to this one organization to support a cause which we strongly believed would be strategically viable for them to associate with. We were heard, then told that “we are already involved in CSR and are doing our bit by reaching out to nearly a million needy kids with our midday meals program and more importantly we don’t like to talk about the ‘good’ we are doing!”

Well that became the base for the existence of our exclusive, dedicated organization, “asset CSR team (ACT)”, aiming to create a paradigm shift in this area of social impact.

The example always given to us, by some of the corporates is of a mammoth, over a century old Indian Conglomerate. But in aping the giant, the basic disservice to society goes ignored. 
Many powerful connections are made with communication via different platforms. Example, would ‘Swacch Bharat’ have become a movement had the Hon’ble PM of India just quietly launched it? What if Salman Khan never carried ‘Being Human’?  What if HERO MotoCorp and Maruti Suzuki never spoke about Road Safety? Would these brands have become a household name and their causes, a movement of the masses? 

We like to call our involvement a “SOCIAL MISSION” since one of our clients said “CSR has been a formality in this country.”  Why is the good we do as a corporate kept so quiet, done hush hush and managed irresponsibly?  It’s just a necessity that needs to be fulfilled since it’s not a part of our vision and mission but just a formality!

CSR’s core power should be brought under the spotlight. Create a brand with a vision, promote it, sell it to the masses for positive impact, and involve stake holders and customers in participation.
Example - We would never have been able to control the possible HIV +ve epidemic, through corporate and individual donations for NGOs. Another example – Glance upon the polio-free mission that eradicated the virus in the country.

Today, development of the under-privileged, is no longer supposed to be just the agenda of the Government or a handful of NGOs.  In fact, the Government wants to reduce their trade deficit by pulling out up-to INR 30,000 crores from profiting corporates and reduce their social responsibility grants and budgets, and rightly so! We’d like to push for HNIs to be brought into the fold too. Hence, the government along with the PM Relief Fund ACT and take the responsibility directly!

We’d need 200 power houses to RESPONSIBLY bring down 20 key issues plaguing the country. For these causes, to make the difference, lets make it a movement, a drive “of the people, by the people, for the people!” 

About the Author :

Sanjay M Lal, is MD at Asset Communications Pvt Ltd & Founder Director at asset CSR team (ACT) - A socially responsible, exclusive, CSR Planning, Implementation & Marketing Communications Agency. 

        ·  Over 20 years of Expertise in the field of Business Creation & Management in Media, Brand Building & Marketing Communications, Experiential Marketing, Sports and allied services, Events, Entertainment, Corporate Social Responsibility and Celebrity / Talent marketing & management.

· Consulted for / pitched and executed, over US$ 1.5 billion worth of Sponsorship / Marketing association, rights acquisition & sales deals and Project Management assignments across the Indian Sub-Continent, Asia, Middle East & Africa, Europe & North America.

· Created and launched, YouWeCan, Yuvraj Singh Foundation’s Fight Cancer movement amongst various other CSR initiatives.
· Received the ‘PRIDE OF THE INDUSTRY’ Award in 2010 & the “MIDDLE EAST BUSINESS ACHIEVEMENT AWARD” in 2008.