Stratford fete helping hearts in the Midlands

December 03, 2013

Sitting in one of the education streams at the #PRShow13, I must say I was delighted to hear Sky talk about one of my favourite philosophies.

When it comes to CSR, it’s not what you say it’s what you do that matters. “It’s frankly an old fashioned view,” muttered Graham McWilliam, Sky Group Corporate Affairs Director, “to think that your products or services alone speak for themselves. Businesses now have to do a lot more than that to win trust”. Very wise words and Sky have followed through admirably in this vein with their Sky Academy.

Trust certainly is a hot topic for stakeholders nowadays when we live in an increasingly transparent society. Enquiries into phone hacking, ‘Plebgate’ and non-payment of taxes are just a few cases in point. These are instances where a reputation can turn to dust overnight, particularly if there are no evident ‘CSR credits’ in the bank!

Your approach to engaging with your internal and external stakeholders will be a critical part of this. If your business practices an open, honest two-way communications philosophy then the channels will already be wide open and well lubricated for when a slightly less cynical ear can be counted upon during times of crisis.

This is not to say all misdemeanours will be forgiven  regardless of ‘the crime’. Instead stakeholders will more readily believe you if an honest mistake has been made and openly declared.

Barclays recognised this after the heavy fines of 2012 rocked the bank. To an already unsympathetic audience, this was just another example of how the financial services industry appeared to have failed its stakeholders.

Yet for many years Barclays have actively supported UNICEF to the tune of at least £5 million per annum. To help shore up the economies of developing countries, they channelled funds to budding entrepreneurs who have now established small active businesses. Their goal was to help build healthy economies and they needed to engage in order to achieve this.

They hadn’t shouted about it – but should they have done? Would the time interval needed to recover the damage to their reputation through being fined have been smaller? It is an interesting concept –  and harks back to another favourite of mine- doing well by doing good.

Talking to stakeholders in their own language, openly, honestly, actively listening and sharing knowledge constructively are also all worthwhile deposits in the bank of trust, goodwill and ethics.

Terry Stafford, Community and Stakeholder Manager at HS2 will be talking about their particular goals for building engagement with stakeholders at the UK CSR & Sustainability, Ragley Hall, 11th February 2014 – see for details.