Everyone knows that you can build your brand awareness through social media, simple marketing and even paid advertisements. The problem these days, is that brands get comfortable with that. They don’t stretch their activity to consider other methods. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) should be a part of every business’ core strategy. If it isn’t, ask yourself: why not?
In a nut shell, CSR ensures that your company is acting responsibly; this covers sustainability, social impact, and ethics. Something that should feed prominently into this, is your sense of community as a business and how you leverage this to create great brand awareness. Today, I’m going to talk about community in more depth.
Why Should A Business Care About Community?
If not for moral reasons alone, every business should be supporting the communities where they’re based because this helps to improve the reputation and image of that business. At the very least, companies, where they can, should be engaged with their local communities – as well as supporting wider initiatives and charities where possible too. This goes especially for the larger organisations with the funds to do this.
Not only does this kind of initiative build up the impression that you’re a business that cares, but it also helps to improve brand awareness through word of mouth marketing (WOM), alongside the social media and press coverage that can be garnered from charitable activity. WOM remains to be the most powerful tool in 2021 and a whopping 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family.
Building Your Own Community
In a moment, I’m going to share how to improve your CSR as a business and how to leverage that to build brand awareness. However, first, change starts at home and you need to make sure that your own strategy is well-oiled before you start working with external organisations. After all, your team are your brand ambassadors too. Here are some questions to ask before you begin putting together a community CSR plan…
Have you asked your team if they’re happy at work?
Do your staff actively act as ambassadors for your company?
Are you practising what you preach as an organisation?
…Did you answer yes to all of the above? If so, you’re ready to move on.
5 Ways To Get Involved In Your Community
Now that you understand why it’s important to encourage community and charitable activities within your business, how do you actually go about doing that?
In truth, there are hundreds of different ways to engage your business, but as a starter for ten, here are a few things you might consider:
- Find out who your local charity is, and help them where you can. Whether that’s with a one-off or recurring donation of goods or money, or organising ongoing fundraising activities as a business. Local organisations are often forgotten about in the shadow of the really large charitable bodies. This doesn’t mean they’re in any less need of help. Plenty of companies name a yearly charity that they’re going to support through various means, so this is a great place to start. Even better if you can make it a smaller firm that’s local to your HQ.
- Support your local schools and care homes because charities aren’t the only bodies that will benefit from a little extra help. Depending on what your business can afford to do, why not consider donating books or stationery to nearby primary schools, or flowers to some care homes? Or, if you have more budget to spare – you could even get more engaged by giving informational assemblies at schools, being involved in Christmas or end of term parties, and sponsoring certain school and PTA events. Or could your team donate time to visit residents of care homes? If you’re unsure where to start, then why not ask your staff which schools their children attend or what care homes they live locally to.
- Consider sustainability in your strategy. CSR includes making sustainable choices, but there’s no reason why you can’t combine this with charity and community work to make your activity work even harder. Why not team up with a local school to plant trees, or find out your local litter picking group and volunteer with them as a team unit? Not only is this sure to earn you some great engagement on social media, but the more you get involved with your local community, the more likely they are to know who you are as a business – which all helps to build your long-term brand awareness.
- Be the company that’s ‘about the town’. Local towns and cities often have community events. As a business, can you sponsor them? Think summer fetes and Christmas light switch ons, if you can spare the budget to support these then not only will you become a well-known brand about the local area, but oftentimes sponsors are given advertising opportunities such as having their business promoted on hoardings, posters, billboards, and even digital assets. I’m all for a campaign that has multiple benefits.
- Start local, then think bigger, because whilst I will always endorse including your local community in your strategy, you can reap big rewards when your brand goes above and beyond to be a great business. Think McDonalds with their Ronald McDonald House Charity. Though admittedly ambitious, the fantastic work by this organisation as an example, has helped to paint a super strong brand image. The more your business considers community, sustainability, ethics, and social impact – the better!
Reputation benefits aside, these kinds of activities (especially the second point) can help employees feel happier too and support team building. Happy staff equals a happy brand!
How To Leverage Community Engagement For Brand Awareness
Whilst being visible in the community is a brand awareness exercise in itself, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use these opportunities to further benefit your business. Though there’s a fine line, and you don’t want to seem as though you’re only working with organisations to boost your own image, there’s also no harm in talking about it to your stakeholders and benefitting not just yourself, but those you’re working with too. As a rule, when you launch a new campaign such as a charitable donation, or a local event, then you should certainly post about it on social media, linking in to all of the organisations involved so that they might share it too and widen the reach. You may also want to consider issuing a company press release, which explains what you’re doing and why, this can be issued to regional or national news depending on the angle, which can help to improve brand exposure not just for your own company, but for those you’re working with too.
That’s what I like to call a win-win situation!
Author: Jessica Pardoe is an Account Manager at Source PR, based in Cheshire. The agency offers PR, social media and digital services to a range of clients nationwide, often acting as an extension of a business and providing a service that’s second to none.