Choosing the right messenger
If top-line social responsibility messaging is common at the front of corporate channels, it means audiences now expect it and are somewhat immune to the same old lines. Content must work harder than before to really resonate. So, where and how can businesses improve in who delivers this messaging?
Lead from the top
If businesses are serious about their social responsibility agenda, this message must initially come from the top. Company leaders that get involved with the communication programme do a lot to improve levels of engagement, particularly with analysts and investors. They are ultimately responsible for the business’ performance, so if they are vocal about ESG, it is likely that the rest of the company will be serious about it, too.
The bank widely promotes the voices and perspectives of its senior leadership, particularly its CEO. While the format varies, it includes a good amount of video messaging, from discussing the importance of signing the Principles for Responsible Banking, to explaining how social responsibility is connected to the identity of the Group. Much of the content is fairly simple, but it establishes a leadership presence and highlights that the CEO is actively engaged on these issues.
Some businesses push open letters, statements or simple pull-quotes attributed to the CEO on their sites, but these are not much better than generic messages. They do not get into the detail of what audiences want to hear and it certainly doesn’t feel authentic.
Outside of Capital Markets Days or AGMs, executive interviews are a simple, effective way of promoting the leadership’s voice to a wider audience and leveraging the conversation to show ESG as an integrated part of the business – how does it correlate with its strategy or financial performance, for example?
But very few organisations actively promote this kind of content.
discuss ESG issues in interviews with the CEO
Connecting sustainability with strategy
Through a Q&A interview with its CEO, Roche connects sustainability with its business strategy and highlights how its long-term focus is to ensure that the business can develop better diagnostics and medicines. The leadership perspective helps lift the conversation around sustainability away from promises and onto performance. Aligned with what the leadership sees as a key priority for Roche’s success, sustainability takes on a material significance.
Employees are some of the strongest assets
Senior leadership is not the only perspective that matters, of course. The way organisations handle social challenges is growing in focus – how well do they foster an inclusive culture or look after the wellbeing of their people?
If ESG is central to how a business functions, it should be evident at all levels, not just at the top.
UBS promotes a range of employee voices to demonstrate its commitment to building a diverse and inclusive organisation. In a short film, it pairs employees together to share perspectives of what inclusion means to them. These views feel personal, unscripted and relatable. The range of opinion emphasises how the bank is continuing to broaden the way it thinks about inclusion and its recognition of the need to do more to support it.
But most fail to capture or share these employee voices with an outside audience.
promote employee voices on ESG (below senior management)
Employees are the best ambassadors for what a socially responsible business looks like from the inside. Content doesn’t need to be complex or clever – but currently, too many businesses are missing an easy opportunity.
When promoting employee voices...
Remember stories still matter: simply having a different voice talk about business targets or projects isn’t enough – it comes down to impact. On the ground insights are the difference. How do employees feel about a business’ approach to social responsibility issues? What differences have they seen it make? Many large-cap companies have employee survey data and feedback that can be used here.
Create user-generated content: not all content needs a ‘professional’ shine. User-generated content (UGC) can be some of the most engaging – small imperfections only add to its authenticity.
Engage with employees: many employees will have great stories they want to share. Creating a two-way communications channel helps to keep content flowing and unearth some of the more interesting or unique stories within an organisation.
Be too prescriptive: employee voices create trust, but scripted messaging will kill this connection with the audience. Messaging should not be over prescribed or edited.
Overcomplicate the content: employee opinion is the focus – content doesn’t need to be complex or overly produced.
Sell the story: employees are good ambassadors – not poster pin-ups. Overly promoting these stories can appear self-gratifying and detracts from the authenticity they are trying to create.