Saturday, September 12, 2009

27 ways to make your CR report BUZZ

So you wrote a CR report! Big deal! What next? Make it BUZZ.
The thing about writing CSR reports is that they take a helluvalotta energy. The reporting process takes months, involves many internal and external stakeholders, and creates a reporting frenzy in the organization which bypasses none but the most unengaged employees. In theory, that is. Sometimes reporting is an intensive process for a just small group of individuals in the organization. Whatever the format, it's intense. There's a build-up. A deadline. Many hurdles to defuse. (is that as mixed metaphore?) Then. It happens. You send the report to print (or upload it to your fancy new html flash mini-site for viewing by the general public) and that's it. B-I-G sigh of relief. Mop your brow. Stare into space and feel the release. Off to the bar for a celebratory drink. Sit back and wait for the compliments to start flowing in.
I suspect this is how it happens in most organizations. The report is a certain end in itself, an achievement to be recognized, a tangible result of months of effort, challenge and hard, hard work. Once it's done, a nicely deserved pat-on-the-back can be justified.
Or not.
Because the report is just a milestone . It's not an end in itself and should not enjoy splendid isolation from csr processes in the business, or from the reporting continuum. For the day you finish work on one report, is the day you start work on the next. So what do you do when you have published your report? Here are 27 things (disclosure: I didn’t count them. But as list journalism is so popular, 27 seemed like a good number – actually I wish it was my age):

Public Relations: This should start before your report is published. Prior to the report publication date, certain facts, figures and stories that are worthy of highlight can be discerned. You could plan a PR build-up to a report publication using focused teasers, so that your PR mileage starts early, publish a headline referring to some worthy achievement soon-to-be revealed in the CSR report, or respond to a current issue in the press by referring to your upcoming report. Once your report is published, you could:

  • Hold a press conference
  • Issue a press release to
  • Get your report hosted on
  • Tweet it, Retweet it, Retweet Retweets, #FollowFriday it, #EcoMonday it, #SustainabilitySaturday it, Twitpic the cover, you get it. right ?
  • Announce it on, DevelopmentCrossing , CSRwire, LinkedIn, Facebook and anywhere else
  • Get it added to the GRI Reports list (if it's a GRI report)
  • Use the GRI's new report announcement service (if it's a GRI report)
  • Send posts to all the available social media
  • Make a short video about the report and post it to YouTube
  • Put up a slideshare presentation
  • Blog about your report
  • Tell your friends and family
  • Add a thumbnail of your report cover to all Company business cards

Engage Internal stakeholders: As soon as the report is published (and ideally some time prior to publication) you need to brief your employees. They need to know (a) the report exists and (b) details of the content, so that they can be effective reporting champions in their interface with all external stakeholders including customer and suppliers. There are many ways to do this:

  • post a CEO letter on the corporate intranet
  • hold communications meetings to present and discuss the report
  • send an Executive Summary to all employees
  • supply a Q&A brief for assistance in how to respond to feedback received
  • share a video presentation for employees by the reporting team to be screened on company plasmas
  • hold a report quiz in your intranet and offer a prize for winners.

Whatever the form of internal communication, a key advantage can be gained by seeking employee feedback and generating dialogue, rather than just creating awareness. Seek responses, insights, suggestions for improvement, address issues that arise, and log all interactions for your next report. Make sure your employees know what you expect of them in promoting the report.

Oh, and don't forget to THANK the employees who contributed to the report. Hold a report party. Order in a few tons of Chunky Monkey. A beer or two. Say thank you.

Engage External stakeholders: As with employees, the more external stakeholders you engage after your report is published, the more trust you will create, the more useful insights you will receive. Group your external stakeholders into meaningful categories (perhaps the ones you engaged in your materiality assessment, if you did this) and select the best way to approach them – personal letters, surveys, on-line polls, panel meetings, one-on-one discussions, initiated discussions on social media sites. Several reporters issue a hard copy to wide groups of stakeholders (sorry environmentalists!) and include a feedback questionnaire. Encourage responses, offer an incentive to provide feedback, a small prize, a daily supply of Chunky Monkey until the next report, for example. Engage your business partners in promoting the report – especially those, such as customers or suppliers, who you may have profiled in the report. They can also be ambassadors for your reporting efforts which support their own PR efforts.

Whatever the form of external activity, a key advantage can be gained by seeking feedback and generating dialogue, rather than just creating awareness. Seek responses, insights, suggestions for improvement, address issues that arise, and log all interactions for your next report. (You may have noticed I repeated that paragraph. Intentionally. Why? I thought it was important and you might have skipped it…. haha cant fool ME!)

On-line presentation: Your online report presentation is critical to creating awareness and generating engagement. One Company who specializes in getting your report effectively on-lined is See their recent analysis of on-line visibility, accessibility and interactivity of CR reports. This of course has to be planned and established in advance, but the benefits are gained after the report is published. Make sure you have someone in your team responsible for gathering, collating and analyzing the stats and relevant input from this process. Some reporters include an on-line survey on their HTML site, some have a forum for responses.

Conferences and seminars: Take the opportunity to present your report at the many many international and local conference, workshop and venues where people talk and learn about CR. Talk about the challenges in the reporting process, not just about the report itself. If you are Cadbury, and you give out slabs of Dairy Milk together with your report, you are sure to get strong interest. (it worked with me!)

Reporting awards:

  • Enter the CRRA Awards if you are anywhere in the world (it helps to be SOMEwhere).
  • Enter the CERES awards if you are in the US, Mexico or Canada.
  • Enter the ACCA Awards in the UK and many different countries around the world
  • Even if you don’t win, your report gains exposure.

Ensure your report creates positive impact
Finally, if you really want your report to be a BIG HIT and create true positive impact, you need to do something really creative and engaging. Here are some off-the-wall ideas:

  • Ask Madonna to do a benefit concert called Like a Virgin - our CR Report
  • Give a lottery ticket to each person who sends feedback and see who becomes a millionaire
  • Get Disney to produce a movie entitled : Mickey Mouse and the CR report
  • Ask Coca Cola to do a special edition CR Report Coke just for your company
  • Photoshop Barack Obama engrossed in page 48 of your report and publish to Flickr
  • Ask Ophrah Winfrey to do a prime-time show called: My husband betrayed me because of a CR report
  • Ask Al Gore to do a CR report roadshow for you called The Convenient Truth
  • Have Twitter put up your CR report banner on that page which comes up 24 times a day "there are too many tweets, please try again soon"
  • Wrap your corporate Christmas gifts to clients in pages of your report
  • Create a CR report meditation room in your head office, and have the Dalai Lama come meditate
  • Have McDonalds create a CR Report Happy Meal
  • Create an iphone app for your report which places calls to stakeholders reminding them to read it
  • Hide a bunch of CR reports in non-obvious places and run a viral cause-marketing campaign promising a modest contribution to Oxfam for each one found
  • And you guessed it… Have B&J produce a special edition CR Report Chunky Monkey flavor with extra chunks and fewer monkeys.

And now that you know, I hope to see lots of CR reports BUZZING from here on in….

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at:


Ben Richards said...

But Elaine - surely the report will only create buzz if it hits the spot with an intended audience in the first place...? And, as we all know, what works for one audience won't work for another... Tricky one to pull off, unless the migration from 'a report' to 'reporting' is sucessfully negotiated...

elaine said...

hi Ben, thank you for reading and for commenting. I think the thing is that, before it can hit the spot, people need to be aware of the report. csr reports are not "news" for the media, so companies have to find ways of making sure people know its out there. Whether people find the report interesting, relevant, worth discussion ... well that's all about the content and the way it addresses things people want to hear about...

Ben Richards said...

Admittedly, it's a bit 'chicken or egg' - but I suppose my point is that a CSR report is rarely an effective piece of communication by virtue of the fact that they're often designed for multiple stakeholder groups (breaking the cardinal rule of communication - "know your audience"). That's the rub, I guess: do you design your report for the CSR geeks, and if you do, what do you produce for the other audiences that you want to get engaged with your CSR agenda? And what are the communication 'stepping stones' for the non-technical audiences that may have an interest in some of the heavy-duty reporting content. It's a really interesting one...

Anonymous said...

The Center for Media Research has released a study by Vertical Response that shows just where many of these ‘Main Street’ players are going with their online dollars. The big winners: e-mail and social media. With only 3.8% of small business folks NOT planning on using e-mail marketing and with social media carrying the perception of being free (which they so rudely discover it is far from free) this should make some in the banner and search crowd a little wary.

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