Five key questions for sustainability and CSR communicators

Bill Royce from Weber Shandwick answers some vital questions below about communication and how to get it right

1) Tell us a few things good sustainability and CSR communicators get right - and wrong

"The best communicators think beyond the boundaries of their business to see the broad and interconnected nature of the challenges and opportunities, and the capacity for risks in entirely different industries to spill over and impact their own. Their storytelling is engaging because it is authentic: their sustainability narrative is the business narrative. They also put a lot of effort into management communication to leverage issues onto the business agenda. What do they get wrong? Too much reliance on dense annual sustainability/CR reports, not enough real-time communication, and not enough visual communication.  
 
2) Which companies do well at sustainability and CSR communications?

There’s a long list of candidates in the consumer and retail sectors. Nike, Unilever, NestlĂ© M&S, Wal-Mart, Sainsbury’s, Patagonia and Puma all stand out. The ‘big four’ management consultancies are doing great research to capture boardroom attention. However, some of the best applied thinking is in engineering and science-based industries with BT, Toyota, Ford, GKN, RioTinto, Balfour Beatty, Atkins, GE, BASF, Shell, Dow Chemical and Peugeot all doing a good job.

3) Why do you think they are better than most?

Well, it’s in engineers’ professional mindsets to look at risks and stresses, load carrying capacity – all of which are important in a carbon- and resources-constrained world. These companies build long-lived assets, and need to consider all of the environmental factors that could impact over 30-40 years or longer. Moreover, their industries can see big opportunities as well as threats (not least to their license to operate).

Royce: A PR man who gets CR, a rare breed

4) It's lunchtime, you are a communications manager in a large company. You get a call from a TV channel wanting to get a top executive on the news at 6pm to talk about climate policy and what your company is doing about climate change. What are the steps you take in the limited time you have?

First, check we have a senior executive available, if we decide to go ahead. Secondly, have the media team engage with the segment producer to fully map out the request (intent, format, potential questions, why us) while other teams gather briefing info and scan potential issues and risks. Only then would we confirm our participation. Assuming we go ahead, we would then brief and prep the executive while our media team briefed the producer on our position and initiatives. And then pray that nothing goes wrong.

5) Despite other daily pressures, how do you stay on top of developments?

I’m heavily reliant on daily and weekly news aggregations that I subscribe to, as well as people that I follow on Twitter and connect with in social communities. I find it is very important to block out time in my calendar just for reading. Clients expect me know what’s happening."


Note for readers: 

All the above issues, and a lot more, will be covered in the forthcoming online executive training course, Getting to Grips with CR Communications, which starts on November 25th here.

It covers the whole communications field: From the business case, to how to get it right, what to avoid and mistakes made, how to engage stakeholders and how to respond - and engage - when crisis strikes. 

Case studies include: McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Marks & Spencer, Puma, BMW, DuPont, Dow, Timberland, Patagonia and many many more, including some innovative companies whose work you may not yet know about. 

Find out more here, and you can sign up quickly and easily here by generating an invoice or paying by credit card . For group bookings: Tobias.Webb@stakeholderintel.com
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