Here Bethan Williams, Head of Sales and Marketing at Impact Reporting, a bespoke social impact reporting tool, discusses with Total Business the importance of reporting on social value.
Demonstrating a social impact is not a legal obligation for all sectors but that doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t celebrate the good work they do. With the ease of access, and cost-effectiveness of digital media, this behaviour is becoming commonplace across almost all sectors regardless of organisation size.
Unfortunately, this is negated by the issue of green-washing and lip-service. These problems are hindered further by the barriers of short audience attention spans and the overcrowded, noise of online platforms which have led to difficulties in standing out as a genuine pro-social organisation.
To overcome these barriers, brands need to be trusted. To be trusted, they need to be honest with their audience. This can be difficult considering 58% of adults distrust a brand until they see ‘real world proof’.
Behaviours of ‘withholding information’ or ‘ignoring customer questions’ have been cited as key reasons for brand distrust, and so the opportunity lies in really utilising the power of social and digital media as a medium for communicating social good. Organisations should be using their platforms to talk with the people who are engaged with their business – those who care enough to ask questions. This is fundamentally the point of ‘social’ media. Having all relevant social impact data in one centralised repository is advantageous here, as communication teams can generate responses that are quick, accurate, and authentic and include real time data.
The how & who
When it comes to communicating your social impact, we recommend focusing on four key audiences:
- Internal Stakeholders
Each audience is different when it comes to what it expects from communications, so it can be challenging creating content that really resonates with all groups. That being said, there are some basic actions you can take to make sure communications are relevant and well-targeted.
Stakeholders, like board members and directors, predominantly rely on the data presented in annual CSR reports. They often don’t have the everyday, ground-level exposure needed to really understand the brand’s social impact, and so they need require high-level stats that demonstrate it for them.
For this level of seniority, keep to the key insights. Data should be displayed concisely and visually. Communicate the data in an easy-to-understand, informative way. Try infographics, visual dashboards, and graphs to grab their attention. Internal stakeholders need to be on your side, as ultimately, they’re the ones allocating budget so take the time to appease their needs.
Stories over statistics.
Keep this rule in mind when communicating your impact to your target audience. Humans are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a story. Stories are powerful, and they are an effective way of translating the impact you are having on people. If you need more support on capturing human stories, check out our article on qualitative data capture using surveys.
Share these stories frequently on the platforms where your audience exists. As normal.
Employees who engage with your socially responsible initiatives fundamentally do so because they care. As a result, they are keen to know the difference they are making as individuals, and whether they’re contributing to something greater. There is undoubtable fulfilment in doing good, so be sure to recognise and celebrate that. One approach we adopt at Impact is gamification. Individuals, teams or departments can log their impact collectively, which feeds into a live leaderboard. This sense of friendly competition has worked in improving engagement, and stimulating enthusiasm from other – previously uninvolved – employees.
Speaking of healthy competition, we support the sharing of one’s impact with other organisations within your sector. Granted, not all brands are comfortable with sharing their data, but if we truly want to make a difference, we need everyone to be motivated. And the best way to really motivate a competitor, is to show that you’re winning.
Be brave, and be boastful. The work you’re doing is helpful and worthwhile, and it is making a difference. It is something to be proud of. Show them how good you are, and inspire them to reach your standard.
The best way to communicate your achievements to competitors is through CSR reports, by winning socially-related awards, or by simply displaying your insights on your website.
Keep it simple
Our suggestions expressed here are nothing new – but that is the beauty of it. You are most likely doing these things within a different context, so be confident in applying these recommendations. It is also worth noting that we’re at the beginning of monitoring and truly understanding the value of social impact.