By Toby Cox

People often view public relations and authenticity to be naturally opposing forces, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

When businesses consider how they express corporate social responsibility, they should consider the best practices of the top PR agencies to make sure their efforts are cohesive with their brand and the message they want to get across to consumers.

How a business communicates its values with consumers matters and many businesses are unsure how to approach CSR and whether to speak up on social issues.

However, businesses can overcome these challenges by defining their brand, knowing which issues are relevant to their brand, and being strategic in their decision-making.

Define Your Brand

Businesses that have a strong understanding of who they are as a company can better define their brand purpose, which will help them navigate challenges in deciding whether to speak up on social movements.

Companies that know their purpose will be able to more confidently decide what to say or not say.

Identity Which Issues Align with Your Brand Purpose

It is impossible for businesses to predict social crises; however, companies can prepare for these situations so they aren’t completely caught off-guard. One way to do this is to identify which issues are relevant to their brand ahead of time.

If a company has a well-defined brand, they are in a good position to know which issues are relevant to their brand and audience and which are not.

For example, Patagonia has always made the environment and environmental issues a central part of their brand and their customers expect it.

Although it is usually not a good idea for brands to get political, Patagonia has become increasingly political as environmental issues become more politicized.

In 2018, Patagonia endorsed political candidates who supported protecting public lands and announced they would be donating the money they will be saving from the tax break to environmental and conservation organizations 

Bold political moves like these may not work for every brand, but Patagonia’s brand values are centered around the environment and its customers expect Patagonia to speak up on these issues.

By deciding ahead of time which issues are relevant to your brand and will warrant a response, your company can outline a strategy and draft potential responses.

If an event or issue isn’t directly related to the brand’s purpose and if the company doesn’t have a history of commenting on similar issues, usually the company is in the clear to remain silent.

Be Strategic About How You Make Decisions

Being strategic about corporate social responsibility doesn’t mean having to sacrifice authenticity and can prove beneficial for everyone involved.

Strategic corporate social responsibility can elevate your brand by showing consumers that you care about how your business impacts the community.

It benefits consumers by giving them the option of supporting a company that supports their own values.

Lastly, being strategic about corporate social responsibility helps the local community and causes you’re supporting by boosting their visibility. Strategic corporate social responsibility means that everyone benefits.

Keep Public Relations in Mind

Although corporate social responsibility and PR are different, they are connected. Corporate social responsibility should be approached keeping PR in mind and how you want consumers to perceive your brand.

By making sure to define your brand, identify which issues are relevant to your brand, and make strategic decisions, your business can do what’s best for you, your customers, and community.