Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the commitment of businesses to contribute positively to society through their operations, products, and services. It can also be understood as the broader concept of corporate philanthropy. Corporate Social Responsibility or social responsibility, especially today, is a controversial practice followed -among other things- by businesses for the formation of the corporate image. To approach this sensitive issue with scientific certainty, we must examine the environment of the conditions that created and brought to the fore this new form of communication between the company and its target audience.
What are the modes of business-to-public communication?
Factors such as the education of the social body, the revolution in the dissemination of information, and the new economic conditions decisively changed the traditional, so-to-speak, communication between businesses and the public. Advertising, of course, depending on the individual audiences it addressed even within the Western world, serving the competition, very quickly passed from innocent prompting to advertising persuasion techniques that at times raised and raise issues ranging from the simple violation of ethics to the unfair promotion and from non-existent claims to the exercise of informal extortionate value pressures. The public, which is now more educated and more television mature, is not seduced by conventional messages or does not tolerate the sometimes underestimation of its intelligence, as a result of which expensive advertising packages no longer bring the expected results. Of course, there are also intelligent display messages with the help of Communication techniques, but either they are not addressed to a large part of the public for objective reasons, or their effectiveness has not been realized to a large extent by the business community itself. In any case, businesses evaluate on a cost-benefit basis and find that the impact of traditional advertising no longer meets their expectations.
The new means of disseminating information have also contributed rapidly to the critical attitude and consequent distrust of the public towards businesses and their role. The rapid and widespread dissemination of information is undeniably beneficial. But businesses often disagree when it comes to negative reports that -no matter how true- become dangerously entrenched in the public consciousness because of how they are disseminated. The very nature of the transactional relationship inevitably creates a competitive mindset in the public’s view of business. So, such publications are enough to destroy or at least seriously damage the company’s image in the market.
What are the two approaches to Corporate Social Responsibility?
The above observations must be examined with particular attention in relation to the economic situation. In times of economic distress this “rivalry” is maximized, as the public faces financial pressures even for basic necessities, and therefore accuses businesses of profiteering and exploitative behavior. It is obvious that -regardless of the companies’ responsibilities for this climate- something like this seriously affects the market and entrepreneurship, since suspicion and hostility are an inhibiting factor for any healthy relationship.
The bona fide approach to the emergence of CSR requires us to perceive it as the awareness of the above climate by businesses and the development of reflection on their part to redefine their social role. There is, of course, the other version, that of the forced conversion and adoption of practices aimed at creating a new corporate profile, with an emphasis not on the product and its sale as an end in itself, but on the Human/consumer/customer, improving his quality of life and the contribution of the company and its product to it.
Both approaches, regardless of whether businesses actually share their social role and the responsibilities that flow from it, have the same logical starting point. The company is no stranger to social events, since it operates in the specific environment, national, or even international. Consequently, she is a social partner, influences social development and is affected by it, and is not meant to be interested only or primarily in the sale of goods or services, indifferent to the living conditions of the social body or the effects of her attitude on it. The consumer public will buy goods or services according to their financial capacity at a time. But will also prefer those businesses that with their attitude convince that they are aware of the problems by treating them as common. Of course, not all the societies of the western world have the same consumer consciousness, so that they discipline themselves in organized movements of refusal to buy, thus “punishing” socially indifferent businesses. But what is certain is that in the highly competitive environment of the markets, what will mainly distinguish businesses is their human-centric corporate profile.
Why is Marketing so important?
Marketing is the process of introducing a product or service to potential customers. It is so important because it helps businesses understand their customers and create value for them. It can be done through many different mediums such as advertising, public relations, sales, direct mail, social media campaigns, and more.
Marketing is a process of creating awareness, interest, and desire for a product. It is an important part of business strategy and is not just advertising. As mentioned, there are many different strategies marketers can use to advertise their products and they vary in what they are trying to achieve.
A business -based on its role in the market- can usually be classified as a manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, or broker. These different types of businesses all use their own set of skills and expertise to help them navigate the industry landscape in which they operate.
The cost of Marketing versus the cost of Social Responsibility
Marketing costs are not just the money spent on advertising and marketing campaigns. It also includes the cost of Social Responsibility. The two are related, as companies that invest more in their public image must spend more on marketing.
Marketing is therefore an expensive process that a company must undertake. When companies invest in their public relations, they are not only investing in the cost of advertising and marketing campaigns. They also invest in the responsibility of maintaining a positive public image. The two therefore go hand in hand as companies will spend more on Advertising and Marketing when they have a good reputation with their customers.
We understand Marketing to be a circular process: it starts with brand awareness and ends with brand loyalty. Brands need to know their customers, understand their needs and develop a strategy to satisfy them. This cycle can be divided into three stages: creating awareness, creating interest, and creating engagement. Brand awareness is making a name for the brand. It starts with acquiring new customers and building a fan base. When businesses first start out, they don’t have a marketing budget or resources to promote their business, so they rely on word of mouth to build awareness among their current customer base. This can be achieved through social media such as Facebook or Instagram, where companies can post the content of their choice to reach and interact with their target audience.
Do you need to implement a CSR strategy if you have a successful Marketing strategy?
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is -as mentioned- a strategy used by companies to maintain their social and environmental responsibility. CSR is not just a gimmick to make the company look good, but a company’s way of giving back to society and the environment by enhancing its competitive advantage. This trend is growing and more companies are investing in the idea of being sustainable for the environment and their consumers, which will help them grow and last for years to come.
A successful marketing strategy can be enough to generate revenue without the need to implement CSR strategies. However, if you have a long-term vision, then implementing CSR strategies will help you maintain your brand image and create a strong and sustainable business model.
How can you really achieve both CSR and successful Marketing?
If you want to achieve both CSR and successful Marketing, you need to be ethical. Companies indeed have many responsibilities and duties. This means your company will do everything it can to make sure it doesn’t harm any of its stakeholders. Ethical companies, in other words, must take responsibility for the impact of their products, services and operations on society, the environment, suppliers and customers and employees. So make sure your customers know the benefits and risks of what they’re buying. For example, when your customer is about to buy an item, you can tell them about the benefits and risks of that purchase. Additionally, there is an opportunity to increase sales by offering them related items or add-ons as a token of appreciation.
Successful marketing practices are imperative for a company because they can assist in CSR efforts by providing the necessary funds for the company to effectively invest in these initiatives.
The undertaking of CSR and the subsequent implementation of relevant programs goes without saying that it costs the company in various ways. But this is also the philosophy that the company shares: it accepts to be deprived of part of its profits in order to upgrade the living conditions of the wider social group, which -whether it is the direct recipient of the benefit or not- is convinced of the good intentions. Of course, the implementation of this policy also requires the creation of competent departments and/or the hiring of special consultants, who will study the market and interpret its needs and trends, so that actions can be targeted appropriately.
CSR is an advanced form of communication between businesses and their environment. Until now, businesses and the public communicated incompletely, or perceived communication, mainly verbally, in a more or less sophisticated form. CSR introduces interactive communication, which works much more effectively, as it structures the business-public relationship on an entirely new basis, which has a particular resonance in an era of social crisis and deconstruction of the social fabric.
Written by Fotis Pantopoulos.
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