I’m constantly amazed by the generosity of businesses and business owners in Northeastern Wisconsin. Campaign donations. Volunteers. Grants. In-kind products and materials. Making the right decisions even if they are more expensive. The list goes on and on. It’s part of what makes doing business in Wisconsin so rewarding.
Given our modest Midwest culture and perspective that many of these good efforts are “just the right thing to do,” we leave a huge portion of this generosity unknown. That may be a missed opportunity for companies that seek to grow their client — and prospective employee — engagement or brand loyalty.
The industry and company I’m a part of intersects helping with public relations — encouraging organizations to share good news, campaign fundraising communications where we share stories of impact to help prospective donors select worthy community initiatives, and organizational branding. The trends we are seeing, and the projections being made, indicate now is the time to take the bushel basket off the lantern and let light be shone on corporate good deeds.
Why? Because customers and employees are making more and more of their decisions based on the goodwill, values, and impact an organization is making.
McKinsey’s spring 2022 consumer pulse survey found “When choosing which brands to buy, consumers — in particular, younger generations — say that their choices are at least somewhat influenced by environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors.” Further, “more than two-thirds of younger survey respondents said at least one aspect of ESG is very important to them. Paramount among their concerns is that companies are transparent and show they care for people (employees, customers, others in their communities).” The report suggests that older consumers focus on environmental and health related issues with younger consumers selecting diversity, equity and inclusion issues for the top of their list.
This summer, Starbucks sent an email to customers — an e-newsletter of sorts — with a headline that read: “Disability Advocacy Partner Network Uplifts Community” with a subhead stating “Alongside our partners (employees), we are working to create a place where everyone is welcome. See how we’re building more inclusive and accessible spaces and how you can get involved.” Stories and photos of their efforts followed.
Meanwhile, Patagonia has chosen one of its top four web menu items to be “Activism” and when you click it, you can see every organization Patagonia supports. You can read stories of impact and even join them in their quest to improve the planet.
Locally, I see some companies showcasing their volunteer work on their business Facebook and LinkedIn pages. And a good number choose to publicly sponsor local programs and events. Yet it’s rare that we see companies sharing their values in action, illustrating their giving details, or using a prominent portion of their digital real estate to illustrate the good they are doing. Customers have few ways to know the impact these organizations make happen right here at home.
If employee recruitment and retainment is more your concern than customer loyalty, then hear this.
Alessandra Cavalluzzi in her book, “A Million Dollars in Change: How to engage your employees, attract top talent, and make the world a better place” claims research demonstrates that social responsibly in the community is a key driver of employee engagement. Yet, she states, fewer than 10 percent of midsize companies use their community involvement to engage employees.
So, even if the essence of modesty in the public sphere is holding you back (which we recommend you get past), then by all means, at least share your actions internally with your employees. Let them, and your prospective employees while interviewing, see how you are making a difference in your community. This isn’t bragging. This isn’t boasting. This is good common sense and well overdue.
If you are not sharing your good works, your customers, employees and prospective customers and employees have no idea if your values and actions align with theirs. And that’s a missed opportunity.
Bridget Krage O’Connor is the owner and president of O’Connor Connective, a strategic communications firm in De Pere, Wisconsin, celebrating its 10th year of helping Wisconsin organizations share their stories and make an impact.