4 Tips on How to Engage Customers & Tell a CSR Story through Press Releases

According to a Nielsen survey on Global Corporate Sustainability (CSR), “66% of consumers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands” and “sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability have grown more than 4% globally.” With a wealth of information at their fingertips, consumers everywhere feel empowered to support organisations that are committed to promoting change in the economy, environment and society at large. In an age of immense data flows, how can brands rise above the noise to get their targeted messages noticed by an increasingly message-focused audience?

There are many ways to tell a powerful CSR story to consumers, but mass media plays a key role in raising brand awareness and reinforcing its image in the public eye.  Journalists view direct corporate messages as a trusted source of information, so companies should make sure that distributing press releases is a key part of their communication strategy. A good story angle in your press releases not only improves your brand’s image, it also ensures media pickups, boosts employee engagement and attracts more customers and investors.

Here are four tips to help you with your next CSR release:

Who should care about your story?

Before you write a press release, take stock of the different audiences you have – influential external stakeholders, customers who act as brand advocates, and journalists who will shine light on your brand – and consider which ones you will want to take action after reading your release. After identifying your target audience, write in their language and use keywords that strike a chord in their hearts.

In a release related to International Women’s Day, Anne Hathaway, the American award-winning actress and United Nations Women’s Global Goodwill Ambassador, raised awareness of unpaid care work among women during her keynote address at the United Nations headquarters. Such a powerful speech inspires organisations around the world to work together to create a more gender-equal world and help women achieve their ambitions. Also, the support from the United Nations gives women the confidence to break away from the preconceived notion that they should stay at home.

Why should people care about your story?

Sometimes the excitement that you have about your story may not inspire a positive reaction from your target audience. To motivate them to be emotionally invested in your story, always answer the question “Why?” By doing so, the possible story angles you have come up with when writing a release will be narrowed down to just one – the best angle to attract the audience’s attention.

In a Loreal release from March, the company announced that they are the most ethical company in the world, as ranked by the Ethisphere Institute, for the eighth time! The communications team could have pushed out a short release to announce the recognition, but they went the extra mile by explaining why ethics is part of their culture. The message was well-communicated because; firstly, it is a source of pride for thousands of its employees worldwide which will inject a strong sense of purposefulness into their work; secondly, it uniquely positions itself as not just another cosmetic company in the cut-throat, fast-moving consumer goods industry, but a company that recognizes the need to influence and drive positive change in the community; and lastly, it motivates new suppliers and employees to work with them.

Add characters to your story

Providing a quote or two from your management is a must-have in your release. It adds depth to your story so that readers will believe in your CSR initiative. One such release that packs a punch is by 50 Reefs, a global initiative to protect coral reefs led by Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. The quotes in the release came from various spokespeople involved in the initiative. Such thought-provoking and educational quotes make readers aware of the catastrophic impact of climate change and other human causes on marine biodiversity, so that they can feel motivated to take small actions on their own to protect nature’s wonder.

Some of the quotes include:

“When people think of climate change, they often think of extreme heat, severe storms, and raging wildfires. But some of the most disastrous effects of climate change are out of sight – on the ocean floor. In fact, 90% of coral reefs are expected to disappear by 2050 and saving the remaining coral reefs are critical. Without coral reefs, we could lose up to a quarter of the world’s marine biodiversity and hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people would lose their primary source of food and livelihoods. We must not allow this to happen,” by Michael R. Bloomberg, UN secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change.

“This initiative was developed after witnessing unimaginable loss of reefs over the last two years. Even if the targets set by the Paris climate agreement are met, we will lose about 90 percent of our reefs by mid-century. 50 Reefs gives us hope that we can save enough of these surviving reefs to ensure they can bounce back over time,” by Richard Vevers, founder of The Ocean Agency.

Drive attention to your story with multimedia

Do not underestimate the power of visual storytelling. Visuals help tell your story quickly and evoke emotions that drive deeper engagement with your audience. This is substantiated by a study done previously by our analytics team that shows that press releases with visuals receive 1.4 times more views than text-only releases.

The hand-picked visuals and video embedded in 50 Reefs’ multimedia news release certainly helped amplify the core message – that the raw beauty of the underwater world could easily be destroyed by climate change, pollution and poor fishing practices.

Ian Yee from R.AGE, Malaysia’s top English daily newspaper who spoke at our recent Media Coffee event in Kuala Lumpur said, “If you’re really thinking of building your brand and getting people to like your brand, you have to be genuine about your cause. We have to find something we truly believe in and work hard for it.” If your organisation is working on a meaningful project – be it big or small – it is worthwhile to tell a genuine story that builds your brand and inspires your audience.

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