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How Your SME Can Build an Impactful CSR Campaign

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In 2023, sustainable toilet paper brand, Who Gives a Crap, struck the CSR jackpot when launching its first global brand campaign.

With a mission to ‘uncrap the world’, Who Gives a Crap set out to raise awareness about their bottom line of providing eco-friendly loo roll made from 100% recycled bamboo fibres. The brand played on their whimsical branding and rolled out puns that grabbed consumer attention: ‘Our Future Rests Upon Your Cheeks.’

Environmental sustainability is not the only brand’s social responsibility. Who Gives a Crap also promises to donate 50% of profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in developing countries. Since their first product launch in 2013, they have raised AUD $13,378,250 (£7,049,999) to help those in need. Furthermore, when founded in 2012, the company saw that 2.4 billion people don’t have access to a toilet. Now, that figure has reduced to 2 billion. It is without a doubt, then, that Who Gives a Crap has helped ‘the bums of the world stand (or rather sit down) for what they believe in’.

The campaign hit the sweet spot in combining social responsibility and punny digital advertising. As a result, the brand quickly garnered consumer attention and bolstered its eco-centric reputation.

In today’s saturated digital world, building and managing brand reputation can be approached with lots of different strategies. But the one that is most effective and currently rising to prominence is investment in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.

What is CSR and Why is it Important for Building Brand Reputation?

CSR refers to a company’s effort to improve society in some way, which goes beyond making a profit. This may include efforts to become more green, initiatives that benefit employees or things that bring together the local community. Engaging in CSR activities demonstrates a brand’s commitment to making a positive impact.

It’s important that companies, whether small or global giants, understand and pro-actively use their social power. However, this isn’t solely about meeting your company’s ethos but is also about building employee support and customer trust. Infact:

76% of companies believe CSR reduces brand reputation risk
83% of employees would consider leaving their jobs if CSR practices aren’t upheld
54% of global consumers consider a company’s CSR activities when making a purchase

With growing awareness of climate change and socio-political concerns, consumers today are more socially conscious and prefer to support companies that align with their values.

Our Millennial and Gen Z consumers now expect brands to:

Be positive contributors to society (72%)
Use resources and power to help people (64%)
Raise other people’s morale (48%)
Bring people together for a common goal (49%)

So, it’s fair to say that CSR activity and investing in an ethical brand reputation is rising in demand. But, when you aren’t a global giant that can make whopping donations to charitable causes, how can you begin building an impactful CSR campaign?

How to Build a Strong CSR Campaign as an SME

Outline Your Company Values

Start by clearly defining the core values your company stands for. That way, you can choose what type of CSR you’d like to focus on, whether that’s environmental sustainability, offering skills development, making charitable donations or investing in the local community.

Get Insight from Stakeholders

Engage with your customers, employees and community to find out what they care about. Conduct polls and surveys asking what social issues matter to them the most. You should also ask what associations they have made with your brand and what they know about your current initiatives. That way, you can highlight what areas of your CSR strategy need working on.

Look at the Local Community

Focusing on the local community can build up a pool of loyal customers who feel personable with your brand. Research what your community needs, what your local area is known for or whether there are current ongoing projects.

Use Rinse and Repeat Strategies

You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Look at CSR strategies that have worked for businesses like yours. Learn from what has worked well for them. Adopting proven strategies can save time and resources whilst ensuring your CSR efforts are effective.

Be Authentic

Lean into what makes your brand unique and play it up. As seen with the Who Gives a Crap campaign, great CSR campaigns don’t need to be super serious, they can be honest and authentic to your brand’s image.

Be Clear and Transparent

Develop a clear communications plan, keep everyone on the same page and ensure your goals are laser focused. Decide what information you’d like to make public and what should still be kept in the works. Clarity will reflect positively on your brand’s commitment to CSR.

Protect Your Reputation

CSR is a very public-facing campaign and, if anything were to go wrong, your brand’s reputation is at stake. Don’t leave crisis communication as an afterthought. Make sure to have a clear plan in place should something go wrong. Crisis communications can quickly take up a lot of time, consider outsourcing your crisis comms to a PR agency.

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