Join Larry Parnell, Associate Professor and Program Director of GW’s Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program, as he introduces the Corporate Social Responsibility movement and its application to strategic public relations. He will review research and opinion on how CSR communications is an emerging trend for PR professionals and introduce webinar attendants to how CSR communications strategy is covered in the GW SPR program.
Corporate Social Responsibility
[Start of recorded material 00:04:37]
Kira: Hi, everyone. Welcome to The George Washington University Master’s in Strategic Public Relations online webinar. And thank you for taking the time to join us for the hour. My name is Kira and I will be your moderator for today. Before we begin, I do have a few housekeeping items to go through. Now, the presentation is going to be for about an hour. And all participants are currently in “Listen Only” mode. Please place your line on mute and communicate with me by typing in the chat box founded on the bottom right hand corner of your screen. This will ensure a smoother line of communication where all questions will be addressed directly through the chat function. Also, please feel free to forward any question you may have while the webinar is in progress via the chat box. And we will strive to answer all your questions in the order asked at the end of the presentation. If you are unable to get your question by the end of the hour, we will be in touch with you at a later time. Also, the enrolment advisor for the program will be happy to follow up with you at a later time on any program related questions. Now, I’d like to introduce to you our panellist for today: Professor Larry Parnell. Mr. Parnell is an Associate Professor and Director of The George Washington University Master’s in Strategic Public Relation program in Washington, D.C. GW offers both on campus and online Master’s degree with more than 130 students currently enrolled.
The program graduated its first cohort of students in May 2009. Previously, over a 30 year career, Larry has held senior communications positions in consulting, on the client side and in politics. He was named PR Professional of the Year by PR Week magazine. And he was inducted into the PR News Hall of Fame in 2009. Larry’s previous corporate experience includes senior positions at Barrick Gold, Ernst & Young LLP, GTE Corporation, People’s Bank of Connecticut and The Stop and Shop Companies. His consulting experience includes senior roles at [unintelligible 00:07:01] Ketchum, Gavin Andersen & Co, Manning Selvage & Lee. His governmental and political experience includes staff communications, positions with the Mayor of Atlanta, Carter for President Campaign, the Attorney General of Massachusetts and of Massachusetts Department of Corrections. Larry holds a MBA from the University of New Haven; and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. And now I present you, Larry, please take the stage.
Larry: Thank you very much. Okay. So, you’re going to move the slides then, Kira? Is that how we’re going to do it? Or will I okay.
Kira: You have all the privileges now, Larry. It’s all yours.
Larry: Thank you very much, I appreciate that. Okay. So, well, first things first. Big news for our program just last Thursday evening. The GW Master’s in Public Relations was selected by PR Week as the best PR academic program in the country. There were dozens of entries and 5 finalists. And we didn’t know, actually, until Thursday night in sort of an Oscar like ceremony, black tie and all. We were the big winners. So, we’re very excited. Very proud of that. The student’s testimony was just some example. The judge’s commented to us that the program was creative, innovative. They liked our hands on approach to public relations. The DC base was valuable to many of our students as well as those online who benefit from the DC perspective. And it was a really great night for our program. We’re very happy about that. Moving on, happy to chat about that.
As I said, we’re very, very proud of it. Okay. So the reason the focus of this webinar today is corporate social responsibility. And a little bit of background to give you an idea why we selected this and why this is such a prominent part of our program. Kira mentioned that in my career I worked with the natural resources sector, mining in particular, also oil and gas. And earlier in my career, probably 10 or 15 years ago, first became aware of this phenomenon of social responsibility as it relates to corporate reputation as well as desirable employer, business partner and an investment opportunity. And I really felt there was something there for our profession. I’ve done a lot of research on it since then. We have a dedicated class to this topic in our program. And I’ve come to believe very strongly that CSR represents the best opportunity for many of our colleagues in the profession to get their proverbial seat at the table in the sense that CEO’s understand bottom line benefits of activities. Which, by the way, have reputational benefits as well. And I’ll talk about this in some more detail. But this is why CSR is the focus of this seminar today and it’s a dedicated course within our program. It’s because we believe it is it represents a great opportunity for students and future professionals to take advantage of as you build your career. Plus, it’s also very personally rewarding to do this kind of work.
So, let me begin by, as I like to do it always, defining terms. I’ve got a couple of looks here at how CSR is defined. [Unintelligible 00:10:15] is a very well known book. An author on this topic. And they refer to it as improving community well being through discretionary business practices. And I’ve highlighted the word “discretionary” here because I want to emphasize that this is not charitable contributions or legal obligations. You must provide a living wage. You must provide safe working conditions. You must obey the laws of your country or the country where you operate. So, that’s not CSR. That’s business, that’s operations. But on the discretionary basis, where companies choose to do good in the communities that they serve, that’s CSR. Looking at it another way from our friends in Cambridge, they look at social responsibility from a strategic perspective. And their view is, it’s not only what you do with your profits, but how you make them. And they feel that this field addresses how companies manage their economic social environmental impact in addition to their relations with stakeholders being defined as the public employees, government, competitors, etc.
So, either way you look at it, two keys things to take away from these [unintelligible 00:11:30] is discretionary activity that has a strategic component to it. So, let’s sort of separate here and talk about traditional CSR versus strategic CSR, which is what we focus on our program, which I think represents the best opportunity for our students and our colleagues in the profession moving forward. Traditional CSR philanthropy, if you want to call it that, is more a [unintelligible 00:12:00] fulfilling an obligation. Maybe giving your percentage of pre tax earnings, or revenues to a cause. Typically, historically, companies and organizations avoided connecting with controversial topics such as AIDS, child abuse, etc. Because they were just looking to support the arts or hospitals or, you know, the communities in a united way. That sort of thing. In a sense, it was an approach of doing good as easily as possible. No ripples, no wrinkles, no challenges from whether you think you’re not doing enough or you picked the wrong issue or you’ve annoyed some stakeholder. So, that’s sort of the traditional approach to CSR as we see it and discuss in our classes.
Strategic social responsibility is this concept of doing well by doing good. That’s both operationally, in terms of how you manage your resources. And your people, but also in the community and in the world at large, what kind of activities, programs and undertakings are you involved in that benefit the market that you are hoping to serve. An example of this would be IBM or other technology companies donating used recycled computers to homework centers in cities where access to computers is hard to get for economic or other reasons. And training students on how to use computers and use computers to do science, technology, energy I’m sorry engineering and mathematics. Not only are they doing well in the context of doing the right thing in the community and helping people who don’t have access to technology, but they’re also building their market for the future, if you think about it because better educated, more adapt users of technology will be better customers for IBM down the road. Will be more productive citizens, generally speaking for society. And so, there’s both this business benefit and a societal benefit. That’s strategic CSR as opposed to just giving to an organization and doing some good in the community.
In addition to this concept of doing well by doing good, strategic CSR in our view is very accountable. It evaluates and measures the impact, both in terms of dollars saved energy, cost reduced, but also individuals that you’ve helped. Organization that you’ve advanced and has very specific built in metrics through social media, through petitions, through donations, through numbers of clicks on a website. Whatever means by which you want to measure this. But you are really looking to see that you are having an impact. That it is changing minds and changing opportunities. That’s what strategic CSR is. Further, this is very important in my view. And a big distinguisher between traditional and strategic. And that is, if the activity that you’re involved in connect with your corporate values, the mission or the expertise. You know, the organization that gives a percentage of money let’s say a retail company. For every $100 you spend, a percentage of that is saved and a mosquito net is made available to a child in Africa. While that’s admirable, certainly, it is not strategic in the sense that it does not connect to their business and there’s no connection necessarily unless there’s a business connection to that part of the world for their employees. But doing work in the community where you operate your facility, where you sponsor activities, whereas I mentioned IBM or Dell or other companies Intel does this as well supports technology acquisition by young people that’s beneficial. It’s also their business; therefore they have credentials in that space. And in longer term, it benefits them because it creates more educated consumers. To me that’s the difference.
Another big trend we’re seeing in the marketplace is this concept of volunteering or making employee time available. Many companies will have a week or day of service, a week of service. Hilton does it on a coordinated basis around the world. And they do take on projects in the immediate market area around the properties they operate in Chicago, Pittsburgh, African, Afghanistan it doesn’t matter. And what is needs to be done in that community is then done. And the business benefit of this, of course, is a healthier, more vibrant community/neighbourhood is more desirable for people to come to that community and stay in their hotel. So, you do both good in the community and you benefit your business. And employees respond very well to this. It’s a key audience for CSR in the sense that it energizes your employees. Creates positive publicity for the company. But also, everyone interacts with folks who are working for Hilton or IBM or Coca Cola, or whatever company might be doing this. And so, there’s a positive rub off that they like people who work there. They want to do business for those people.
Couple of quick thoughts. You know, if you’re going to do a major event or sponsorship like Red does, you know, with GAP and others. Then you integrate that with your marketing, and you’re advertising so people see this across all the platforms. That’s important. And oftentimes, these alliances that are formed between corporations and nonprofits, they can take place at the corporate level or, if you’re a large enough company, at the divisional level. In one market, the need may be water. In another market, the need may be education. So, companies split their activities depending upon the market needs.
So, why is this worthwhile? I mean, it makes us feel good. And we all don’t feel badly about making good salaries or whatever. But really, there’s a reason for this. First of all, doing good meets customer expectations. In the current marketplace, [unintelligible 00:18:09] publishes the trust barometer on a yearly basis. And year after year, they’re finding consumers expect business to embed purpose, as they call it or CSR as we refer to it, into their everyday operations. They expect CEO’s to lead companies that have innovative products that are socially responsible. Dove, think of that, for example. And of campaigns they’ve done around that. They expect you to make a long term commitment. Too often, organizations will announce a major initiative. Say, it’s going to be a 5 year initiative and after the 2nd year, they just sort of stop and nobody even notices that. But the market does notice that. So, in many cases, companies that engage in these programs, quick hit one offs are not going to have the results you’re looking for.
In the case, the often the study is that people expect not only do they expect the companies to be involved, but they want to see the CEO personally involved in key issues that affect their business and their marketplace. And they see this as a way to motivate employees to get engaged and to be better citizens. Other study from [unintelligible 00:19:20] communications, another leader in this field in [unintelligible 00:19:22] research which is an outside organization based in the UK that does really great research on CSR and other things is that people this is very compelling. This is back to what I said at the outset about why CSR represents the opportunity that I believe it does. If you can say to a CEO, if we do this right and if we do this well, and we publicize in an effective and responsible way, people will make a choice to switch to our brand. Assuming price and quality are the same, you know, they will pick one brand that has the better reputation than one that does not. This is also true; we’ll look at this slide later on, for potential employees. So, it’s a market benefit from doing the right thing and doing it well and communicating it because people will make a conscious effort.
Think of The Honest Company that’s doing so well in the marketplace right now that’s run by the actress Jessica Alba. That is all about, you know, CSR. All about sustainability. And given the choice, young mothers and people with young children are purchasing their products versus ones from a competitor. And the other thing to think about and this study tells us is that you need to have a global perspective of future companies of the global and look at other markets beyond your own. So, those are some takeaways from that study.
More to the point, internally, and as you talk with your executives or your clients, why is this worth doing? Because the document that have been inside your image, obviously, has improved. I’m thinking here of, you know, you move up on the list of most admired companies or best corporate citizens, or best companies to work for. Which has recruitment of retention benefits. And anyone who deals with employee communication know how critical that is. We also have pretty good sense that companies that have developed a good reputation in this space have to have a better experience in the inevitable crisis situation particularly if it’s an accident or event that might negatively impact image, if there is, so called reputation benefits in the bank from your CSR work. And you’ve been viewed as a good corporate citizen who haven’t had a situation economic or environmental. Or, you know, some kind of disaster strikes. That has a desire to be supportive and helpful as oppose to say, this company deserves that.
So, and then here in Washington, D.C., we see this all the time. Companies with an enhanced reputation of the CSR space have a better shot at getting, certainly avoiding what they may view as unnecessary regulation. But also get an audience from the Members of Congress, their staff and other leaders because of their reputation, it perceives them. So, these are all very good reasons why they do this.
Finally, this is a category that most people don’t look at. But we’re looking at a marketplace of socially responsible investors. Those who buy shares in publicly traded companies on a worldwide basis of $30 trillion, U.S. dollars in terms of assets under management. This is worth the United Nation’s global compact. So, as you are advising and recommending strategies to your company, now, if it’s a public company or your client. If it’s a public company and you can say, it’s a form of risk management. There’s a low exposure to social environmental risk because of the way that they run their facilities, they’re not going to have strikes. They’re not going to have free falls. They’re not going to have as many problems as one who is careless. That’s attractive to an investor because nobody likes bad news in the marketplace. It is also because if you are, in fact, successful at building a sustaining reputation and maintaining a stock price that is equal to or better than your peers, your ability to access capital by selling more shares or doing other financial transactions is enhanced because the marketplace is receptive to that.
There are lists both in London and in New York of publicly traded companies, indexes, they’re called, that are socially responsible. Those companies trade well. And have outperformed the standard and poorest 500 over time. So, there’s a lot of money. And there’s a lot of support. And you have the opportunity to get long term investors into your shares. This is very compelling stuff. Again, back to what I said at the outset, a reason why this sector, CSR, has the benefits for us as PR professionals because chief executives and chief financial officers and others worried about stock prices are going to be this number is going to be attractive to them. Just like marketing people and others are going to be interested to hear that you can successfully sell the product at a comparable price and get a better market recession if you have a better reputation than if you don’t.
So, let’s sum up some best practices here. And then I’ll look forward to taking some of your questions. I hope you’re logging in with Kira as we go along. It’s a really fertile area and really fascinating. And I’m anxious to hear what kind of feedback and experiences you all are having. So, let’s sort of sum up some best practices. Very important, the first bullet here, as I mentioned at the outset.
Successful initiatives in CSR have a few things in common. Most importantly, they are tied to and relevant to the business of the company. My experience in working this space is that there’s more stickiness, if you will. There’s more it lasts longer. It impacts you better if someone doesn’t. If someone hears about an initiative that you’re undertaking and says, “That makes sense because they’re an education company. That makes sense because they’re a manufacturing company. That makes sense because they use a lot of water in their business and they are concerned about water management.” So, that’s very, very important that you have that connection. Otherwise, it’s random and it doesn’t last. It’s also important to have participatory events that are not just writing a check and walking away. But customers, employees and others can play a role in what you’re doing and get engaged. And the engagement is the name of the game, as we all know, especially, when it comes to social media. I mentioned before, avoiding short term, one off efforts. That’s a problem. We’re in the public relations business. So, clearly, we would want events and activities and sponsorships which have PR potential. It’s a story. It’s an issue. It’s a concern. It’s a trend that people want to know more about. They’d like somebody to do something about it. And they respond well when they hear a company that they do business with or might do business with, is involved in doing the kind of solving the problems that they are concerned about as citizens of the world.
You also want to look from a point of view of communication planning. Is there a cross over application? Can you do something with this in your intercommunication space to engage employees? Can you represent this CSR effort in your advertising? Can you create new partnerships with new companies or organizations that enter new markets because of the activity that you’re undertaking. That you can engage your shareholders and bring in new shareholders who invest on the basis of social responsibility. These are all things to look at when you evaluate an opportunity. And these days, there are many. And all too often, people will take the first one because it’s trendy or sounds easy to do. In the long run, that may be a mistake. If you follow this method here and go down this checklist, you’re much more likely to have a successful program than if you just do it and hope for the best.
So, in terms of the decision making that you’re going to be going through as you look at this as an opportunity, you know, if you’re going to pick a social issue that you’re going to solve, choose one. Don’t choose multiple ones because, like anything else in communications, being known for one or two activities is much better than trying to be known for 20. Choose issues that are of concern and the communities where you do business. This can either be done by virtual of surveys or research or public opinion polling where you find out what people are concerned about in this part of the country or this part of the world. And then do issues that direct towards that. Again, I re emphasize that the causes that you choose must have some synergy, some connection to your business. Otherwise, it will not it will not last. And to get your CFO and operations people on board, it becomes very valuable to be able to show them that successfully launching and running the CSR initiatives that you’re proposing will support your business goals.
I’ll give you an example from my own experience. When I was in the mining sector with Bill Barrett Corporation understand that when you go you operate mines all over the world. And you go into a given country. And by definition, you are taking out a natural resource and creating gold and selling it on the market, so it’s leaving the market. The same thing is true of oil or coal or gas or anything like that. So, you know, the marketplace and the companies and the countries excuse me, where you are doing business are becoming more and more savvy. Simply telling them, we’re going to hire a bunch of people and we’re going to pay taxes, is not a business case. We found that in going into the somewhat remote areas by creating the infrastructure we needed anyway to get into and out of those areas. I’m talking about roads and bridges. You know, that was beneficial to the community as well as to our operations. Similarly, when you’re talking about remote areas, building housing, schools, hospitals for the people that you are bringing in is good business. And it’s also good for the community. Because as you wind down and finish your mining operations, those roads, bridges, schools and homes still exist. Now, we found this to be the case where we were in a competitive situation to develop a new mine in Peru. And we simply asked the members of the community from one part of the country to make themselves available through conference calls, videos, and actually flying them in to talk with the people in the new community we were looking at. And give the third party endorsement that we operated well and responsibly. And we were successful in getting that land lease over several other companies who were anxious to get it, but did not make the same case we did. So, it becomes very important that you can show a business connection. That you can show community involvement. And you can show lasting benefit for your activities.
So, what’s next for CSR? We’ve established it. We’ve moved past writing checks and posing in front of the community centers and doing the shovel in the ground routine, and to be much more strategic. So, let’s look at what might be ahead for CSR and how that might be of interest and value to you. In the current year, this is adapted from a recent article that I came across getting ready for this. The good news and the bad news is because of the height and awareness of CSR as an important initiative, there’s a higher expectation for CSR/PR professionals to do what they do. Not to the matter of just launching an event, having a party. You know, and making a donation. People have higher standards because they know more about what it is that we do. There is also good news/bad news. Increased management engagement. I think ultimately, that’s good news. The CEO and the CFO were the head of an organization or a non-profit you’re working with, is engaged. It makes the stakes higher. But it also makes it more beneficial and lasting. More and more companies are looking to integrate sustainability initiatives in every department. Water management, power management, supply chain management, etc. Big trend, as I mention before, is getting employees engaged and looking for ways to, you know, implement in the community activities where they interact with your employees as opposed to just getting a check and then going on about their business. That’s a one off. It doesn’t really have any stability. And one more we are seeing, reporting of CSR initiative for public companies done not in, necessarily, a separate CSR report. But as part of the main annual report and quarterly report. The shareholders and into the Wall Street financial community, companies talk about their CSR initiatives. Their sustainability initiatives and the business benefits that they provide in all their communications to the financial community and to the regulatory authorities. That is a positive thing that we’re going to see more and more of that. So, the good news is that there’s more awareness. The challenge is the gain gets raised.
That’s why we felt it was something that we needed to dedicate a course to, which is one of our electives. And that’s something that is actually being taught this semester on campus. And coming up, I think, this summer, online. We integrate speakers, panellists, experts from around the world who come into the classroom or come online and talk about these trends through case studies in Starbucks. You know, USSA, Timberland. All kinds of those leading companies in this space. These people make themselves available. I’ve worked with them. I know them. And they do webinars and guest lecturers for our students. And we really get into the nuts and bolts of how this works. And many students find that they take this information and use it the next day or the next week or the next month at their place of employment and get some real benefit out of it. So, we’re very gratified with that. We’re very excited about the potential for this. And very happy to have a discussion and hear your questions. Thank you very much. Kira, I’ll turn it back over to you.
Kira: Perfect. Thank you, Larry. So, yes, we have quite a number of questions coming in. We have a highly engaged audience here. So, the first question is: Is it more acceptable to calculate the value of employee volunteer time based on wages per hour or just count the hours of time?
Larry: Companies do both. You know, it depends. I think the problem that you might run into is if you get that specific and you put out that kind of detail trend data, that if it goes down, the following year, if somebody wants to know why that is. So, I think, you might be safer. And also from a competitive perspective, you know, giving the number of employee hours that are dedicated to CSR activities in the community and not exactly putting a dollar figure on it to the public, at least. Because I think there may be the risk of people, you know, measuring the dollar thing and not the activity itself.
Kira: Thank you. And the next question is from Miriam. Using the CSR as a PR tool should be condemned or encouraged. Can publicity become a trigger for a strategic a CSR? Or if CSR activities are considered as tactical tools to increase reputation? CSR would not be considered strategically.
Larry: Well, I think there’s no question that my view is that it’s a strategic communications activity for companies, clients and organization. I think if it’s done poorly, it reflects badly on the organization. But I think there are tactics I think the difference and we talk about this in all of our classes. That the difference between being a strategic advisor and being a so called good mechanic, if you will, as a PR professional, is the difference between being called in to make a decision. To help make a decision about an organizational activity or program versus being called in after the decision’s been made and told to write a press release about it or go get a story placed some place. Our students, and the kind of students we want, want to be the ones that are called to sit at the table and discuss big issues. And then are called upon to give advice.
So, the tactical side of PR is valuable. But I think ultimately, the career path and the opportunities are better for students I’m sorry professionals, who are oriented toward the strategic side and less the tactical side. I hope that answers the question.
Kira: Perfect. Thank you, Larry. And next question, what are your thoughts or case studies around using gamification as a CSR engagement strategy?
Larry: Using what? I’m sorry?
Kira: Using –
Larry: I don’t really have a view on that. I don’t know of any examples of companies that use gamification as a way to promote or engage in their CSR activities. I’d have to do some more research on that. I’d love to hear from the individual with that question, some more details. And my e mail will be flashed at the end. I’d like to look into it and maybe give you some more information. Because, offhand, I don’t have any good examples. But I think it’s an interesting question.
Kira: Great. And the next question is: What is your take on the Race Together fiasco? And is that one of the short term, one offs that a company should avoid?
Larry: No. I was just reading about this is referring to the Starbucks initiative. And, you know, there’s a long article in the Wall Street Journal today about this. And asking about the motivation behind why Starbucks and Howard Schultz does a lot of what he does. I think what’s interesting about that is that it is the concept is not necessarily the problem. It’s the execution, down to the level of asking the baristas to engage in conversation with people on the issues of race.
And I think that is a little personal for a lot of people. They’re not comfortable discussing it at home or their office. So, engaging in a coffee line is not necessarily the best idea. And frankly, you know, saying from experience, the coffee line is long enough. If somebody gets into a discussion about race and politics, I just want my coffee. So, I think there’s an element of bringing consciousness and awareness to an issue but not forces discussion about it. And that’s where I think this went wrong. I don’t think the concept is wrong. I think the interest and the concerns of the company are legitimate. And they have a track record in this space. But I think the notion of trying to force a dialogue is a little bit problematic and has resulted in them dropping that requirement now. And they’re just putting the hash tag on cups and hoping people go to Twitter or some other place and post their thoughts about it. That’s a little less direct and in your face. And then more people would probably come to that approach. So, it’s an evolutionary one, but I don’t criticize it as a concept. I just think it was poorly executed at that level.
Kira: Perfect. Now, can companies scientific advocacy efforts, i.e. integration of intellectual potential with the region with our business needs be considered as CSR?
Larry: Yes, I think so. If I understood your question, if a company is involved in programs outside of the company, in terms of science and research and creating a climate for progress, then I think that could be legitimately characterized as CSR. If there’s a societal benefit and it’s an initiative that the company undertakes with that in mind, then I do think it is. What I think you have to avoid doing is trying to shoe horn into the CSR box anything you’re doing as this sounds like it might be CSR. There’s so many things that companies are already doing, like, managing their water usage properly. Reducing electric usages. Having a lead certified building, giving flexible work hours to its employees. Those are all initiatives that qualify from a CSR perspective and could be reported. So, I think there’s plenty of opportunities and that would be one.
Kira: Thank you, Larry. And next question: Can you talk about some integrated reporting and can you give us some examples of those?
Larry: Sure. So, I mention in my own experience, when I was in the mining industry several years back, when I joined the company, they produced a dedicated sustainability report. And they produced a separate annual report to shareholders. Not only was that expensive, you know, to do two printed documents, which back in the day, people actually day. Now, it’s done online. But nonetheless, the notion that it’s a separate item apart from the day to day business of the company, you’ve reinforced that by having a separate report. So, instead, what I think more companies are doing, they’re doing more detailed reporting to various regulatory and outside organizations that do rankings for sustainability initiative. But in their annual report to shareholders or their reports to their donations that they get from their members or whatever the organization might be, they are integrating the discussion of sustainability into the discussion of the business of the company. And the message of that is that this is part of what we do. Not something that we do in addition to what we do.
Kira: Now, the final question I think we have more questions coming in. Can you elaborate on the increased management engagement and how do you measure engagement? Or rather, what is the most accepted metric in regards to engagement?
Larry: I assume, behind that question is, public engagement versus management engagement being measured there’s two questions there. The trend towards management engagement. And this, we just had a discussion about Starbucks. Howard Schultz clearly, right or wrong in this particular case, is very engaged in the sustainability initiatives of Starbucks. It’s his program. It’s his visibility. But if you’re looking at companies large and small, GE, down to local banks, CEOs are more visible. CEOs are more present in these activities. They appear at them, they blog about them, they talk about them. They talk about them in their chats with employees. So, you can see examples of CEOs, schedules, and activities and time spent in the public eye having to do with sustainability initiatives. So, that’s a very clear trend. There’s no question about that. In terms of engagement measuring engagement of the public, social media helps a lot there. Dedicated web pages that people go to as a result of seeing or reading something or hearing something. Clicking on various pages where the sustainability report is and registering those click-throughs. How much time did they spend on that site. Where did they come from? Where do they go to after they did that? If there’s a click throughs for a donation, did they do that? Is there a click throughs for a white paper or a more information, did they do that?
You know, you have all these metrics available from a social media perspective. That, to show that people are spending more time thinking about this issue. And you can also track sales to the extent that you have a product that is visibly branded and advertised as having stainable benefits. And others in your group or in your competitive mix that aren’t, and to the extent that you can see the relationship between the as I mention at the outset, people making a conscious decision to buy a brand because of its reputation of the company and its activity in the CSR space. That’s beneficial. You can do focus groups, consumer testing, mall intercepts whatever and ask questions about this topic and get data that people say, “Yes, I would like to work for, do business with or be a colleague of someone who works for a company that does these things.” So, there’s lots of ways to get metrics now through research, through social media and through just tracking CEO time and engagement to see that there is an engagement occurring.
Kira: Thank you, Larry. And one more question. Is there a difference between a CSR and corporate citizenship? Or are they being interchangeably?
Larry: No. There’s a lot of terms that get thrown around. And one of the issues and we’re all at fault for this. There’s this corporate social responsibility. There’s this sustainability, there’s corporate citizenship. You know, there’s all kinds of, you know, things. And I think, you know, it’s like PR. We have too many ways to describe PR. And I think that hurts us a little bit. But I think the market is sort of they’re blending. You know, we used to call our we had our own problem. We used to call our class, corporate social responsibility communications. And we had some students and perspective students say, “Well, I don’t want to work for a corporation, so I don’t want to take that class.” So, now we call it “sustainability communications”. People say, “Well, I care about sustainability. Let me take that class.” So, there’s some branding issues associated with the field, no question about it. But, I think, the more important thing is going back to what I said a couple of slides ago. If it meets the criteria, if the activity you’re doing meets the criteria of being business related, employee engaging, and has longevity and impact, then it is CSR, whatever you want to call it. If it’s writing a check and, you know, appearing at a fundraiser, that’s philanthropy, which is not a bad thing. But it is not necessarily a sustained effort to impact, you know, a problem or an issue facing society. It’s simply writing a check and you know, that’s important. But I don’t think, with the research we’ve seen, the average person, you know, doesn’t give you a lot of credit for that.
I just saw, you know, a show the other day where Target was writing a check for $10 thousand to a teacher who was doing great work in the community. And everybody applauded, it was very nice. But the impression is, $10 thousand to Target, first of all, is nothing. And second of all, you know, what else are you doing? You know. The more important question, which I’m surprised people have not asked about was the whole concept of green washing. And, you know, the real dilemma that many companies face, they engage in the sustainability efforts, they do the right thing in the community. Yet they’re criticized because, you know, they’re not running their factories responsibly in another country. And the idea that CSR is the diversion from other corporate practices is a challenge and a problem. But it is less and less the way companies can’t distance themselves from activities and initiatives that they undertake.
A good example of this is, you know, in the retail space, supply chain management is now becoming expected companies that manufacture in developing countries are held accountable. Apple comes to mind, of course, with the issue of, in their factories or their subsidiaries or their it was actually not a subsidiary, it was a business relationship manufacturing iPhones and iPads in China with a lot of problems in terms of working conditions. It’s not enough for Apple to say, “That’s not our company. We’re not responsible for that.” The marketplace is saying, if you do business with them and make a product, as a result of that relationship that you want me to buy, yes, you are responsible.
And that’s a big change in the market in the last few years. The notion of supply chain, all the way down to the source. You have to be responsible for your products and your reputation.
Kira: Wonderful. That wraps up our discussion session. Thank you, everyone, for providing us with your questions. And we’ve had the chance to go through them. And Larry for a wonderful presentation. It’s been so beneficial and so informative. We thoroughly enjoyed it and a fairly highly engaged audience. So, we also have some program information as well. For those of you who would like to gain more knowledge through our Master’s in Strategic Public Relations online. So, the program is completely online. And asynchronous. It is catered for the working professionals who are just simply too busy to attend normal classroom settings. It is for seasoned business professionals and the advisors will be here to assist you in terms of the application, the admissions requirements in helping you to build your portfolio.
In terms of the courses, it’s designed very strategically where you’re only required to take one 6 week course at a time so that it can enhance your absorption of the curriculum. And there’ll also be a two weeks break in between courses where you will greatly appreciate having that little downtime. The program can be completed, even though it’s one course at a time with around 24 months. And in terms of time to dedicate, our students are reporting around 20 hours per week on average. And this includes everything from doing your readings, going through your assignments. Listening to lectures and fulfilling, you know, exams, quizzes and things like that as well. The program consists of 11 courses which make up 33 credit hours. And the final 3 credits, there’s a wonderful Washington residency opportunity where you can spend one week on campus. Or you can also complete the applied research project. So, you have an option of choosing to do everything online or having the face to face experience where you can, you know, network with other professionals within the industry.
In terms of the tuition, currently it is 30 credit hours. And the tuition rate for the year 2015 16 is $1,545 per credit hour. Which totals around $50,985 for the program. If you’re interested in applying, the application portfolio consists of the online application form. There’s an application fee of $75, a statement of purpose, your current résumé, three professional recommendations and, of course, your transcript. Again, the enrolment advisor will be here to help you every step of the way.
Upcoming start dates, there’s one around the corner, April 27th. We are currently accepting applications. And there’s also the second term in the summer which occurs June 22nd. And there is time to apply for, even the earlier one in Summer 1 in April. And here you would see the contact for the program for the Master’s and Strategic Public Relations online. And the enrolment advisor is going to be reachable at 1(888)989 7068. And also following this webinar, you will see the link to our website where you can access more information. Once again, I thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. And to learn more about corporate social responsibility. It’s a wonderful topic and it’s very relevant in today’s world in helping companies achieve the triple bottom line and benefitting the wider stakeholders in terms of environment, people and given as a wonderful topic.
And I really appreciate everyone for taking the time from your busy day to be with us today. And, yes so, I look forward to having this recording forwarded to your e mail addresses. The enrolment advisor will be in touch to give you more information on where to access the recording. And looking forward to having you in our future webinars for 2015 as well. Thank you very much, everyone. And to Larry, if you have any final words for us?
Larry: No. Obviously, I’m glad to see this slide up again, because we are so proud of that accomplishment. But I think it’s important to tell those on the line still that we do not require a GRE or the GMAT. That the program is a typical student tends to be an experienced professional looking to increase their responsibilities and get promoted and to ultimately become an educator with a Master’s degree. We have students across the country and around the world in the online program. And what we hear from them, over and over again, the alums and the current students, is that the network that this creates for them as colleagues in this program and as graduates of The George Washington University is a phenomenal opportunity for their own career growth and potential. So, you’re buying into a program with all the benefits that Kira has described. But you’re also buying into a network of 250 thousand worldwide GW alumni who will be very responsive to you when you reach out to them once you’ve got the degree.
Kira: Wonderful. Thank you so much.
Larry: Thank you, everyone, for your time.
Kira: And everyone, enjoy the rest of your day. Have a great day.
Larry: All right, thank you. Bye.
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