Publicising CSR in 2017 - Thoughts of our Scottish PR agency

by Chris Fairbairn

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Avoid the tick-box and engage with a Scottish PR agency that knows how to deliver

Donation to local beekeepers hit local headlines with PR photography Scottish PR agency

DO GOOD things and even better things can happen.

Yet doing business with a conscience – known as corporate social responsibility or CSR – has become a buzz-phrase that many have grown weary of.

The best CSR is done without expectation of anything in return and has transcended even one-off, philanthropic gestures. For the most committed the reward is simply to know they have done something generous, helpful, beneficial or worthwhile.

But in day-to-day business, too often CSR conjures up images of a bland corporation doing what it must to not seem well … bland.

Indeed, in far too many cases, CSR has become a miserable and onerous ‘tick-box’ activity, done solely for commercial gain. Some businesses do nothing at all. Either way of operating is becoming less and less attractive to more and more consumers.

The large part of the population known demographically as ‘milennials’  hold dear the notion of businesses which contribute back to the greater good – not just to the profits of shareholders and fat cats. Meantime the internet and social media has given everybody a powerful voice to dish out praise or express displeasure.

At Holyrood PR we are fortunate enough to work with a number of clients who commit to CSR . We’ve selected a couple varied examples to highlight how it can be done – and the role a good Scottish PR agency can play.

 How Businesses Can Benefit From CSR Done Properly

New solar panels at Mackie's of Scotland - food and drink PR.

Call it fate, karma or whatever, but those who do behave selflessly in business often see unexpected benefits and rewards, even though that’s not what they set out for.

Our client, Mackie’s of Scotland embodies this. The family firm’s founder Maitland Mackie was a passionate environmentalist. His vision resulted in the creation of a significant solar farm – at its launch the biggest in Scotland – as well as four wind turbines and a biomass plant.

The upshot is that Mackie’s now produces a surplus of energy and sells some of that back to the grid. But it has also created an asset which garners plentiful and positive media coverage.

For example, our work with Mackie’s has highlighted the first year success of the solar farm, consistently referencing it as a leading voice in renewables and sustainable business practice and highlighting the development of its team.

Likewise, as part of its commitment to the local community where it is based, Mackie’s also provided financial backing for a new country music event in its own back yard. It’s important to mention the firm provided this solely to benefit civic and cultural life in the north east of Scotland, where the company is based and where most of its staff live.

However, as the trusted Scottish PR agency working with Mackie’s we wanted to telling that story more widely. With both Mackie’s and the event organisers on board, we devised an eye-catching and foot-tapping campaign, to test how the ice cream maker’s dairy herd of cows responded to the music.

The result was media frenzy, culminating in five mentions in The Scottish Sun, broadcast features and front-page spreads delivering an incredible reach and further highlighting the brand’s fun, and philanthropic reputation.

Delivering Winds of Change with Banks Group

Hamilton-based Banks Group is a perfect example of a firm engaging in consistent and committed CSR. The firm has it built-in at the very core, ‘development with care’ is even its official strapline.

As a renewables, property and mining firm it goes above and beyond what is required in the distinct and heartfelt belief that communities that host its sites should see the biggest possible benefit.

Edinburgh PR agency guide to enjoying successful local public relations campaignsLocal and Loving It – find out how we reached exactly the right audience and influencers to highlight the positive work of Banks Group, delivering success for the client and the launch of Connect2Renewables.

This culminated in the launch of Connect2Renewables, a programme that even united politicians of varying hues, with SNP, Labour and Lib Dems vocally backing it.

We also delivered a key objective for the launch – ensuring press coverage was supported with a headline feature on the highly influential ‘Scotland Tonight’ – elevating the story and presenting Banks as a committed and caring developer.

The Pitfalls For Businesses Which Ignore CSR

Abercrombie & Fitch LogoSchadenfreude. Comeuppance. Getting what is deserved.  Everyone secretly loves it when a perceived villain gets what’s been coming.

That was certainly the case for painfully-trendy US fashion brand Abercrombie and Fitch. Despite being a darling of the fashion world, a series of gaffes and mis-steps saw the retailer turned into something of a pariah.

First the all-American brand caused ripples of dissent by only hiring staff who looked like catwalk models.  A slow burning groundswell build against Abercrombie & Fitch, seeing it lambasted for hiring based on perceived good looks.

The brand was also successfully sued for banishing disabled staff to the stockroom – and the former CEO was embroiled in a row after it was claimed he said A&F clothes were not intended for ‘fat chicks’. A previous interview with the same CEO resurfaced, confirming what many already suspected (see below):

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries observed. “We go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

At a time when Abercrombie & Fitch was dealing with broadly negative sentiment, that was exploited by a USC graduate, who created a mock CSR campaign called, ‘Fitch the Homeless’ . The satirical dig suggested the retailers was repositioning its brand by giving out its  clothes to the homeless. Highlighting the brand’s lack of tact, his campaign went viral.

The fickle world of fashion and the age of the switched on digital consumer have contributed to a major collapse at A&F towers – as the firm continues an impressive slump into 2017.

If your business is committed to genuine, passionate and dedicated CSR campaign, then it may be worth considering the benefits of working with a Scottish PR agency to make sure that story is properly told to the audiences who care about it – including your staff, partners, customers and possibly even investors.

Ideally your CSR effort meets these simple criteria:

 A) It is supported by your team – so that they will get behind your programme
B) It is honest and real – so that the community and wider commentators won’t pick up on flaws to philanthropic programmes
C) It reflects your brand’s reputation and core values

If you can ensure these three points are achieved you are then – and only then – in a position to confidently shout from the rooftops – and that is where a good Scottish PR agency such as ours comes in.

CSR in 2017 – find out how effective public relations can help enhance your reputation 

It’s a brave new world, but if your firm is doing the right thing, then its time to ensure your public relations fully reflects this to embrace the feelgood factor.

Do yourself a favour and get in touch with our Scottish PR agency with its vast experience of delivering positive media to match worthy CSR campaigns.

We’re a friendly bunch too – simply call 0131 561 2244 or take a few seconds to complete the simple form below to get in touch:

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Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is an Account Director with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood PR. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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