Corporate Eye

Planning Your CSR Content Strategy

It’s one of those big givens in life: if you’ve bought flat packed furniture, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS before you even think about picking up a screwdriver.

In fact, make sure there are instructions for understanding the instructions before you even buy that corner shelving unit which looks oh-so-lovely in the promotional picture.

And also, be prepared to count.  Count all the screws, widgets and little plastic bits in and out of their bags.  Get a ruler, so that you know exactly which ones are the 4mm and which the 4.5 mm long ones.

Finally, never EVER assemble on a carpet. EVER.  No matter how short the pile you’ll lose a bit, guaranteed.

Now that you’ve completed all those steps, you may think about getting your screwdriver.

Putting together a CSR website can be a little like putting together one of these confounded flat pack thingamabobs.

It seems so easy and the standards are pretty clear.  But in the end it can be soooo fiddly and time consuming (not to mention frustrating!) that you have an epiphany about why professional services exist in the first place.

One such professional service is iCrossing, one of the world’s largest digital marketing agencies and part of the Hearst Corporation.  Their UK offices have published an ebook titled ‘How to plan a content strategy’ and it may be worth taking note of.

Key aims of CSR content

At this point I have to make one thing clear: I’ve not actually read iCrossing’s ‘How to plan a content strategy’ ebook.  They want you to email in for it and .. well, I’m not really in their target audience.

However, there is a landing page for it and it contains a few interesting bullet points.

Now, iCrossing are a “traditional” marketing agency .. that is to say they follow the well worn route of brand awareness and profile and have little or no specialism (that I can see anyhow) in CSR.  So these bullet points may be meant to be taken slightly differently to how I take them.

However that’s good stuff, because it just adds to the discussion around how you should plan content strategy for CSR.

So here are some of those bullet points, and how they should be embedded into a CSR website strategy:

Be on the side of the user: don’t preach,  don’t spin … and above all, don’t treat the website visitor as though they’re thick.  Promotional material is always about providing information and answering questions.  Answer the question the user asks, don’t give the answer you want to tell.  And give that answer honestly and transparently according to your informed level of understanding, so that you’re helping the user out, not attempting to pull the wool over their eyes.

Make it portable, findable, shareable: social media is here to stay, although it’s evolving so rapidly it is impossible for even the wisest genius to see quite where it’s going to end up.  Aside from anything else, social media is the perfect too to actively engage your consumers, clients, shareholders and other stakeholders.  But you have to have all the widgets on your pages to allow this to happen.

Fail fast: and don’t be afraid of failure.  A transparent company will have some public failures on its hands: companies which are open about such failures are likely to breed more long term trust than those which seek to cover them up.  Furthermore, the more engaged you are the quicker those failures will be spotted and reversed.  In other words, plan your website in a way which allows stakeholders to criticise as well as praise you.

Stay close to the data: social media engaged websites are not PDF brochures.  They are active, living and breathing communities; and if a company is interweaving CSR into this then it needs to ensure there are people on hand to facilitate these stakeholders’ engagement with the corporate body.  In essence these people will spend alot of their time close to the data, trying to understand what certain things are liked or not .. etc etc.

Be prepared to be surprised: again, a socially engaged website is not a brochure.  The time when boards could rule their companies in an unquestioned and authoritarian manner is fast disappearing: for example, I saw figures the other week whereby nearly half of all US institutional investors said they were actively planning to become activist shareholders.  A CSR orientated website should be about surprise, as the company’s engaged community offer real advice and direction to its corporate strategy.

What do you think? Have I missed anything out, or am I just being too radical in this vision of what a true CSR website should be all about?

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A former CTO, Chris has a broad and varied background. He’s been involved with blue chips, consultancies & SMEs across a wide variety of sectors and has worked in Europe, the Middle East and Australia. In 2007 he decided to combine his knowledge of business and IT with his passion for all things sustainable and has been busy writing ever since. However, his greatest ambition remains to brew the perfect cup of coffee.