When it comes to environmental, social and governance combined with brand values, the line between communication and advertising is very thin, and it is easy to cross.
“I would like to tell you about the latest social responsibility action we have launched in my company”. “Please wait a moment, I’ll put you through to my colleagues in the advertising department…”. This conversation is often repeated when the communication departments of companies call the media with the intention of informing them of the social actions that the companies are carrying out.
You and I are identified by our friends, family and colleagues not only by our first and last names but also by the way we interact with others, by how we conduct ourselves in life, by what matters and moves us. In short, they form an opinion of us by how we relate to our environment, that is, by our values.
Something similar happens with companies. It is not enough to have a very prominent brand. The brand has to represent values on the basis of which the company is governed and by which it acts in a certain way. If it does this consistently and correctly, it will strengthen its identity and will be able to stand out from other companies, from which it will be able to differentiate itself.
Communicating social action is no easy task. It might seem like it is, and anyone who has not tried it and thinks that it is more bearable to have a conversation with a journalist about the company’s virtues than to communicate poor half-yearly results without succumbing in the attempt, should try to do so…
The reality is that when we talk about a company’s social action and values, the line between communication and advertising is a fine one, and it is very easy to cross.
Sadly, we live in a society in which good news does not sell and, furthermore, it is taken for granted that it is the obligation of companies to give back to society a part of what they receive from it; all this makes it a genuine struggle for communication directors to awaken the interest of the media in their social actions and, on many occasions, their call to the newsroom does not end up in the commercial department.
Sadly, we live in a society in which good news does not sell and, furthermore, it is taken for granted that it is the obligation of companies to give back to society a part of what they receive from it. All this makes it a true struggle for communication directors to awaken the interest of the media in their social actions and to ensure that their call to the newsroom does not end up in the commercial department.
For the parent of the idea, the social action that the company launches deserves to be publicised. They even determine the headline they want to appear to the communications director, but more often than not, the action is not newsworthy or it is not the right time to launch it, or there is simply a better idea that attracts more media attention and that is the one that wins the day.
At the height of the pandemic, the social action of many companies focused on alleviating the ravages of the pandemic, whether by manufacturing respirators or chartering planes to bring in face masks. To alleviate the social emergency that the coronavirus crisis generated, more than a few companies made substantial donations to food banks. We saw no news about reforestation of natural areas, or the collection of waste from beaches, although summer after summer our forests continue to burn and beaches are littered, and both tree planting and coastal clean-up are still as necessary as before the pandemic.
We are seeing this with the current refugee crisis in Ukraine. Companies have not stopped their CSR plans and are still committed to giving back to society, but the stories making the news these days are not related to the environment, the climate, the oceans or clean energy, but those promoting solidarity and aid to Ukraine or the inclusion of refugees arriving in our country.
For this reason, one of the key factors in communicating our social action correctly is to adapt to current events without falling, of course, into media opportunism. For this not to happen, truthfulness, impact, reach and humility will be the pillars on which our narrative must pivot.
It is legitimate and necessary for companies to talk about their social action, not only because it enhances their reputation and differentiates them from the rest, but also because their actions, in addition to contributing to a better world, motivate other companies and economic actors to follow their example.