Special Report: Four Knows Make a CSR ‘Yes’

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is anything but a stagnant practice. In fact, it is evolving in significant and often surprising ways. Throughout the business world, CSR is being employed in an imaginative and frequently provocative manner that perfectly blends its initial concept of good citizenship with the merging concept of good business. To get a full ROI for a CSR program, it is significant to know four key points that are crucial to the strategic implantation of this aspect of public relations. In this special report, PR News will focus on a quartet of successful examples of CSR in action. For each example, a specific aspect of the CSR creativity, resourcefulness and implementation is highlighted to show how these programs can resonate both within a company and within the communities it serves. In "Know Your Community," PR News examines how Wells Fargo regionalized its CSR decision-making across its national operations rather than anchoring it in a centralized location. The result of this action meant immediate responsiveness, including assistance in the event of a sudden local emergency. In "Know Your Mission," Deloitte addresses its reputation for financial know-how in a volunteer program with Junior Achievement that teaches students the values and principles of financial ethics. The result strengthens both the Deloitte brand and the knowledge of tomorrow's leaders. In "Know Your Employees," Hilton Hotel Corp. involves its entire workforce in an elaborate volunteerism program that offers rewards to both the employee and their charities of choice. Through this program, CSR becomes a company-wide endeavor and not just a program originating from a single office. In "Know Your Limits," the enthusiasm for CSR activity is aligned with the depth and scope of a corporate operation. For example, the San Diego-based agency Oster & Associates focuses its CSR energies on a single pro bono client, giving it a full year's worth of attention, dedication and support. Know Your Community For Chris Hammond, vice president for communications and development at Wells Fargo and a member of the PR News Advisory Board, the essential to a successful CSR program is being in touch with the communities. "Our decisions are made on a local basis, versus decisions made out of some ivory tower," says Hammond. "Volunteerism and grants decisions come locally, even at storefront levels. Local decision making is incredibly effective, and we are able to respond much more quickly." This localized approach has proven to be a lifesaver. In late December, torrential rainstorms battered California and created flooding conditions throughout the state. The bank's officers in Marin County were able to immediately sign off on a $10,000 grant to help the town of San Anselmo maintain their police and fire department activities were flooding limited their operations. "We also made grants in San Mateo, northern California and into Nevada," adds Hammond. "There was a lot of flooding in those areas - and there are Wells Fargo branches there, too." Contact: Chris Hammond, 415.623.7680, hammcl@wellsfargo.com. Know Your Employees The Hilton Hotels Corp. spread its CSR mission across the company's entire workforce. And the emphasis is on the word entire - from the executive suites all the way down to the hotel support staffs, everyone who works for Hilton is encouraged to participate. To further engage participation, the company's program (launched in June 2004 and called Hilton HEARTS) allows its workforce to choose their own 501(c)3 nonprofit or faith-based charity to support. Participants register for the program and enter the number of hours they are involved in charitable work. For their hourly input, program participants receive points (or, in this case, Hearts) to be redeemed later for both gift products (ranging from an MP3 player to a jacket) or a $300 Hilton grant to the participant's charity of choice. "It is an ongoing effort to get our employees more involved in the corporate philanthropy process," explains Andy Keown, coordinator of corporate communications and Hilton Brand PR. "It is completely cross-functional. Employees from all different levels and departments are involved, and it is a great opportunity to meet the employees from all around the company." Contact: Andy Keown, 310.205-3310, andrew_keown@hilton.com. Know Your Mission Financial consultancy Deloitte has forged a strong philanthropic relationship with Junior Achievement (JA) to present its Excellence Through Ethics program of educating and encouraging tomorrow's financial leaders. Deloitte's program serves as an example of tying its brand's mission and message to a CSR initiative; positioning itself as a thought-leader in the area corporate community involvement; and influencing the public dialogue on business ethics and corporate integrity. According to Lori Grey, Deloitte's senior manager for national public relations and community involvement, the company's successful PR initiatives in the realm of CSR exemplify best practices for practitioners looking to roll up their sleeves and get on the social responsibility radar. Timing is everything, so try to make volunteer efforts coincide with a season or well-known event, as Deloitte and JA execs did by launching the campaign at the height of the back-to-school season in 2003, thus garnering more media attention. Contact: Lori Grey, 212.492.2865, lgrey@deloitte.com. Know Your Limits As a single-location marketing and PR agency located in San Diego, Oster and Associates can't be all things to all people when it comes to CSR and pro bono initiatives. That's why its team of practitioners dedicates their resources to one pro bono client per year, making each annual effort worth its weight in communications gold. The lucky recipient this year is North Coast Repertory Theatre. For all smaller agencies and nonprofits looking to expand their services to pro bono, knowing limits in terms of time and resources is essential to promoting successful campaigns. Washington Women in PR (WWPR, which also adopts one pro bono case annually) learned this lesson with past clients, highlighting the demands on executives who have a full-time job in addition to the extra work. The key to the pro bono balancing act is establishing a schedule before the work commences and emphasizing only what you can definitely commit to; this prevents misunderstandings between the giver and the recipient. "Initiate the same formal procedure as you would with a normal client," advises Lauren Lawson, pro bono chair for WWPR. Contact: Lauren Lawson, 202.360.2406

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