CSR in Content Marketing: 3 Steps for Creating Effective and Responsible Stories

Do Something Great sign; CSR; corporate social responsibility; content marketing; marketing; non-profit fundraising
Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Hopefully, right now, your company is already doing some work to make the world better and cause less harm. And your (potential) customers want to know about it: there’s a lot of research that demonstrates consumers today want the companies they buy from to be accountable and to do more for the environment and communities.

That’s why information on what your company is doing shouldn’t be relegated just to an annual report, recruitment outreach or one webpage: stories about your corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives should be firmly planted in content marketing.

This content can include things like articles and videos about your company’s environmental impact and the communities you work with. On specific national or international awareness days, highlight an issue that’s important to the company. If you’re leading in your industry on a type of initiative, create a related guide. If you have a strong community partnership, co-create a report.

Your CSR-related content will likely focus on the people that benefit from your company’s initiatives, so you also have a responsibility to represent people and causes thoughtfully, authentically and persuasively. Pulling from best practices from non-profit fundraising and marketing, here are three steps to consider to help you create effective and ethical CSR content for your company.

Do More sign on computer; CSR; corporate social responsibility; content marketing; marketing; non-profit fundraising
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

1. Connect to a purpose

Your CSR-related content should connect to your company’s purpose and what motivates the work. Focus on the benefits, not the acts, and the impacts you’re hoping they make. And if your company really cares about what it’s doing, it should believe in its work enough to encourage others to do the same. Your content should promote the organizations the company supports, call on customers to make changes in their own lives and ask others in your sector to also make needed changes. These calls-to-action should be solution-oriented and lay out the benefits of action.

2. Tell a story

In non-profit fundraising, singular stories are what donors love. Big numbers tied to big problems are harder for people to take in; while the issue remains the same, the level of empathy (and donation) can be affected when people are faced with more need. So, focusing on the singular story to engage customers on the issue is a good practice to draw on when writing about CSR activities. If instead you have a lot of data to work with, dig into it to find a creative story line or create an infographic that lays out a path or impact.

3. Give agency

However, there’s a line where a story can cross into unhelpful narratives and demeaning stereotypes which veer into poverty porn, survivor porn and the white saviour complex. Stories should be multifaceted and offer depth to the people involved and/or situation; remember that many issues are systemic and they’re not going to be solved by your company’s donation or volunteer day or changing technology. Your story writing process should be inclusive and allow space for feedback over the content to the people or organizations involved. Principles of ethical storytelling from the non-profit sector are a best practices guide for your CSR-related content.

Stories about how companies help people and communities through internal and external initiatives need to be nuanced, inclusive and humble. But don’t be put off by the extra effort: a company’s CSR work should be a regular feature in content marketing in order to engage with customers’ interests in supporting ethical and purpose-led companies. If you do it well, you’ll be promoting not only your company, but also increasing support for the issues and communities you cherish.

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Amy Coulterman

Amy Coulterman

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Attempting to link a non-profit mindset to the corporate world. Corporate social responsibility | social impact | Toronto, Canada | https://amycoulterman.com