Corporate responsibility is good business

    When disaster strikes, familiar groups rush to the fore. Churches, civic groups and the American Red Cross all are on the scene. Businesses large and small even get involved. And all deserve kudos for recognizing the value of giving back during a crisis. Their efforts provide relief to many in need and advance their standing within the communities in which they operate. Catastrophic events frequently prove human concerns and corporate America can align and benefit one another.

    Behemoths such as Miller Brewing and Anheuser-Busch, understand the reputational value gained by helping their neighbors when storms, tornados and floods rush in. Both brewers contributed to the welfare of the flood victims in Wisconsin.

    Local companies Wolf Paving and Allen Edmonds also recognized the importance of giving back. Shoe manufacturer Allen Edmonds contributed a percentage of its well-regarded tent sale to flood-damaged Wisconsinites. Wolf Paving, during one of the snowiest winters on record, supplied road salt to communities it served last February when salt was scarce.  

    The watchful eye of employees, recruits, prospects, clients, media and other influential groups, however, is fixed on companies throughout the year. For this reason, corporate social responsibility has become a prerequisite to effective business practice.

    Most large companies have sustained corporate responsibility initiatives designed to elevate their status, as S.C. Johnson puts it, to become the "neighbor of choice." Year round, these companies work to identify social responsibility efforts that will improve their ability to conduct business. Some would argue that social responsibility efforts are merely window dressing without a direct connection to the bottom line. In its purest form, corporate social responsibility is designed to bring together groups that share a mutual environment. The overarching goal for these campaigns is to identify and overcome points of contention to the satisfaction of all involved. By accomplishing this and reaching out to the groups within this shared environment, companies most definitely pave the way to smoother, more profitable business operations.

    Certainly this is great for large corporations, but what about mid- to small-sized companies?

    To demonstrate the impact social engagement can have on a company, I will share a story involving one of my colleagues who recently fathered a baby born with Trisomy 18, a defective gene that leaves little hope for survival. In his quest to reach others through social media, he started the Zoe Means Life site, which links to his blog where many parents with children affected by Trisomy 18 have come to share information on why some doctors are lax in working to continue the lives of these children who, in some cases, are living for several years.

    As a result of an online social interaction designed to share information about Trisomy 18 through my colleague’s personal experiences, our agency received inquiries from public relations and advertising professionals who wanted to work for our agency because of the culture and character of the people.

    This illustration really drives home the point that employee recruitment, which is particularly challenging in our market, certainly can benefit from companies and employees who are socially active in bettering the community. And, as we all know, our business is only as good as the people around us.

    The value that business provides when disaster strikes is laudable. But if it matters when the need is greatest, I maintain that actively engaging the community in which you conduct business year round will pay dividends in terms of brand loyalty, referrals, regulatory matters, recruiting and more.

    Karl Robe, APR, leads the public relations practice at Avicom Marketing Communications, which has offices in Waukesha and Milwaukee, Wis., and Montville, N.J. He can be reached at karl.robe@avicomdirect.com.

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