Implementing a corporate social responsibility program requires more than just building a favorable brand image. It’s also about building a community by helping others. That was Toshiba America Business Solutions ’ (TABS) philosophy when it was planning and executing its Help the Helpers CSR campaign.
There are several directions a company can take when developing a CSR program, but each program’s mission should properly align itself with the company fostering it.
For TABS, a division of Toshiba that manufactures and distributes business machines and software, the challenge was to create a compelling program that maintained its brand identity.
TABS took a page out of its own playbook to implement Help the Helpers. That is, it borrowed ideas from a previous program that the company had already tried by providing dealer makeovers. As TABS transitioned into a services company, its dealer makeover program set out to offer its independent product providers the tools necessary to sell more products.
Help the Helpers appropriated many elements from the dealer makeover, but arguably the most recycled characteristic was the contest model. Still, arriving at the decision was not easy.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
“CSR is such an important part of our business. We tried to brainstorm on that concept [dealer makeover] and thought about what we could do that would tie-in with CSR,” said Sally Anderson, director of marketing communications.
She added, “What’s interesting, or a little bit difficult for us, is that office equipment isn’t very glamorous, so we thought about how can we could come up with something that uses the products we make and helps the people that need it.”
Once the general concept was established, Anderson and her team set three very specific PR goals:
• The primary objective was to bring all of the Toshiba companies together. “We are unfortunately somewhat siloed, and we’re not all aware of what the others are doing, so we wanted a cohesive effort that wasn’t just the copiers but also the consumer products,” Anderson said.
• The second objective was to showcase all of the good Toshiba does company-wide by launching a Facebook page, Toshiba for Good.
• The third objective was to leverage the Help the Helpers contest as a springboard to launch Toshiba for Good and drive engagement on the Facebook page.
IRONING OUT THE DETAILS
Anderson described the planning and implementation process of ‘Helpers’ as a grassroots effort. To wit, the program was not initially given a designated budget to work with, so the team had to use the resources that they already had at its disposal.
“Our advertising agency and PR firm were heavily involved, so we built out the plan and first established a timeline for people submitting videos,” Anderson said. “We considered the option of letting contestants submit written entries and not videos, but decided it would be more compelling to have videos, especially when we got to the stage where America was going to vote.”
TABS also sought the help of an outside partner to help monitor the Facebook account, manage entries and develop a voting system.
Internally, however, the companies needed to band together and meet regularly to assess the program’s progress. (TABS would not name the partner.)
Being a B2B company helped TABS connect to dealers that could further disseminate the program and push clients towards the Facebook page.
“We wanted our customers to encourage someone to submit. We know a lot of people are passionate about who they support,” Anderson said.
The structure of the contest asked nonprofit organizations to submit a video detailing why they needed a suite of new business productivity tools, such as copiers or laptops.
In its first year, Help the Helpers received 153 video entries, but Anderson admitted the entries trickled in slowly. “The entry period was about three months long and we had very little traction in the beginning, but then the entries came in a flurry during the last couple of weeks,” she said.
Anderson suggested that the delay was likely due to the labor-intensive process of creating the videos.
After the window closed for contest entries, the campaign began to determine who would go on to compete for more than $100,000 worth of Toshiba products.
Committee representatives from all of Toshiba’s companies took the time to watch all the entries and narrow them down to around a dozen finalists.
“I’ll tell you, it’s tremendously difficult to choose only five finalists for America to vote on, because everyone is worthy,” Anderson said.
Prior to America getting its chance to vote, Toshiba for Good’s Facebook page needed to sustain awareness and excitement for the contest.
Public relations specialist Rick Havacko, who worked with TABS on the PR campaign, said that Facebook allowed for a direct campaign. “We updated our Facebook page weekly, posting a new message to encourage worth nonprofits to enter,” he said. “It was really a direct marketing campaign, and it was done primarily on social media.”
A CSR program is a not a zero-sum game, meaning there is almost always a winning outcome. Nevertheless, warm feelings and pats on the back only go so far in terms of gauging the success of such a program.
Anderson and Havacko point to intangible successes that resulted from the communication effort:
• Help the Helpers exceeded media impressions at both the local level, and within the B2B media sector.
• The program increased awareness for nonprofits within local communities. “Nonprofits are the true backbone to any community in America and we were glad to elevate that awareness,” Havacko said.
• It offered an invaluable teambuilding experience throughout Toshiba. “We do a lot of CSR activities and people volunteer for lots of things, but this really seemed to bring the company together in a new way,” Anderson said.
Anderson stressed that the campaign met all of its goals. Help the Helpers brought all of the Toshiba companies together on a single project, established a social media home for Toshiba for Good and exceeded 10,000 “likes” on its Facebook page after its first year. PRN
Toshiba America Business Solutions’ Rick Havacko stressed that in order to plan a winning contest you must include the following elements:
1. A compelling concept: First and foremost, the key to any successful contest—be it online or offline—is developing a unique and compelling concept that has the potential to engage a targeted audience. A big component to consider is offering an impressive prize package for winners that can stimulate interest. There is a glut of contests being offered everyday, thus the challenge is making sure the right audience is aware of your contest and compelled to act. Identifying your audience, planning how you will reach them and providing participation incentives are the cornerstones for any contest.
2. Engagement: Once the contest has been planned, a major obstacle is getting people to enter. Social media provides an excellent platform for contests, and offers a direct channel to communicate with contestants. Long gone are the days of mailers; expedience and accessibility are the PR tools at your disposal.
Remember: During the course of a contest interest may wane, so it is essential to find new ways to peak interest. That means the velocity and frequency of communications should change as necessary. It’s essential to drive a steady stream of engagement throughout the campaign in order to generate excitement.
3. Partnerships: To increase awareness and help with some of the heavy lifting, partnerships are key. Partners can provide resources and access to new audiences, new technologies, prizes and capital. Still, your partners must fit in with your overall mission and conform to your corporate objectives.
Sally Anderson, firstname.lastname@example.org; Rick Havacko, Rick.Havacko@Toshiba.Tabs.com.