How to Leverage Corporate Citizenship for Your Brand

Many companies today consider corporate citizenship integral to their business strategy, and marketing messages touting corporate sustainability are no longer perceived as unique.

In other words, it’s no longer new to be green.

This makes it seem as though investing in marketing your company’s corporate citizenship is a waste of time – but nothing could be further from the truth.

Corporate citizenship is absolutely essential to:

  • Brand building
  • Business development
  • Employee recruitment and retention

This means that to gain a competitive advantage, companies need to make their corporate citizenship story more central to their brand and marketing. Here’s the “how to” of marketing your company’s efforts to today’s savvy audiences.

Know Your Purpose

An authentic brand voice starts with a deep understanding of your company’s larger purpose. The purpose is what lies underneath your business activities – it’s the impact that your company wants to have as a result of all its actions, including its business offerings.

Being able to clearly articulate that larger purpose with authenticity is the key to maximizing the business benefit of corporate citizenship through marketing –simply because larger purpose is the most natural starting point for tying corporate citizenship to business strategy.

Know Your Audiences and What’s Important to Them

Like with any marketing message, it’s essential to first understand what matters to your audiences. Know your buyer personas and recognize how their mindsets, needs and challenges impact what messages resonate with them most, and you’ll have a far greater chance of making a meaningful connection every time you talk about your positive impact.

Get Fully Integrated

Now that you’ve made the connection between your company’s purpose and your customers’ needs and wants, integrate your corporate citizenship story into every level of your brand and messaging (at every brand touchpoint).

This is what separates the men from the boys. For example:

Old School “Integration.” Finding one or two places to tell your corporate citizenship story (e.g., creating a separate “Sustainability” page on your website and calling it a day).

New School Integration. Weaving your corporate citizenship story seamlessly throughout all of your brand messages, marketing channels and pieces of communication. This means obtaining green business, product and/or service trustmarks and certifications; incorporating relevant content throughout your entire website rather than relegating it to a single page; making corporate citizenship a big part of your thought leadership strategy – case studies, whitepapers, blog posts, etc.; using your corporate citizenship as an employee engagement tool; incorporating the story of your corporate citizenship into your PR and social media programs and channels; and so on.

You may still have a section of your website dedicated to your sustainability philosophy and practices, but it can’t be the only place where this message lives.

Talk About Your Efforts a Lot More Than You Think You Should

This is the most effective way to maximize the value of your company’s corporate citizenship.

If you talk about your efforts very little and very infrequently, it becomes: “Hey, look how good we are [for this one day when we did this one thing]!”

If you talk about your efforts a lot, it becomes (magically) an inherent, irreversible part of your culture and your brand perception.

What makes doing this difficult for many companies is determining what they could talk about in the first place. But you likely have more to tell than you think:

  • Relevant project innovation, technical expertise, thought leadership and green project awards
  • Workplace practices such as green building or office space; energy and waste reduction programs; telecommuting, ridesharing and bike-to-work practices; and green teams
  • Pro bono work, community involvement, nonprofit board participation and charitable giving

Once you’ve identified what to talk about, start thinking about two things: 1) how to integrate those stories within your corporate communication programs, 2) what channels are best suited for each story and how to best communicate the story depending on each channel you use.

Specifically with social media, consider the opportunity to leverage your employees’ individual networks in company communications. Having employees highlight those corporate initiatives that they are personally involved in, as well as having the company sharing their individual stories of commitment to volunteering, board participation, pro bono work, etc., will amplify your efforts and speak volumes about your corporate culture.

The Call to Carve Out Your Competitive Advantage

The difference between the corporate citizenship of yesterday and today is that once sustainability and corporate social responsibility were nice ideals and now they’re essential, non-negotiable parts of business strategy. The old business world in which a handful of front-runners were creating the new triple bottom line economy has given way to a new world in which the only way for any business to succeed is to make its measure of success include people and planet, not just revenues.

This is the world that many of us early adapters had hoped to create. So, go ahead, inhabit it! Use the power of your “good works” to create long-term success for your company’s bottom line.

For more on maximizing the value of corporate citizenship, read this recent Sustainable Brands article by the Environmental Defense Fund’s Nancy Buzby: Storytelling for Sustainability: It’s Time for Corporate Leaders to Gather ‘Round the Campfire.

At Substance151, we develop purpose-based brands that give you a competitive advantage. Contact us at 410-732-8379 or to request a brand assessment or to discuss how we can help your brand stand out through corporate citizenship marketing.