Doing Good is Smart Business



Doing the right thing is good for business, according to Kristie Byrum, associate professor of media and journalism at Commonwealth University, who recently authored a book, Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business’s responsibility to positively impact the public. Since COVID, CSR has changed tremendously.

“Corporate social responsibility needs to be strategic to the business. For example, Starbucks sells coffee and their corporate social responsibility activities include growing fair trade coffee. They have an annual corporate social responsibility report and are well known for it,” says Byrum, who spent a decade researching before writing the book. “Once a company determines what its corporate social responsibility effort is going to be and that it works with its key publics, you have to choose how you’re going to communicate with them.”

Today, that often means social media, which allows the audience to respond to information shared by an organization and then share it with others. With the rise of social media, the importance of corporate social responsibility has grown, says Byrum, who dedicated the book to her late husband Reed, a former journalist, editor and corporate executive who passed away in 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic further intensified corporate outreach to the public through social media. “With quarantine protocols and legal regulations, contemporary businesses redefined working situations and exhibited a richer level of interaction with employees, customers, and all aspects of the supply chain,” says Byrum.

“Public relations has been measured by one specific tactic. But it’s not just a tactic. Measurements of the outcomes of the communication effort must be part of a strategic program to engender trust,” says Byrum.

“Building trust also means sharing credible information. Choosing the right media formats and channels is instrumental to building credibility. Once the trust is built between them with credible sources, businesses will see a positive outcome.”

“An example of this is the trust factor model explained in the book. In order to build trust, you have to communicate with key publics using the media that they are used to receiving. Anymore, the younger generation is using their phone to get information. But older adults, receive information in a different way to engender trust, like snail mail and the telephone. Having different channels to communicate with different audiences is important to engender trust.” says Byrum.

“I really wanted to make the book more contemporary. When my publisher, Lexington Books, asked who I wanted my audience to be, I wanted it to be not only business people that benefited but public relations students as well.”

In our interconnected world, more than ever, Corporate Social Responsibility will play an even bigger role in our daily lives.