Why Corporate Social Responsibility is not PR

I am a 100% PR-person. I love my profession, my job is not really a job, for me it’s a hobby. Something that I enjoy doing 24/7. But about a decade ago part of my heart was taken by another acronym: CSR. An abbreviation of Corporate Social Responsibility.

I immersed in it so much, that I actually ended up writing a book on CSR. So now I live in this schizophrenic state with two areas both cherished. Two areas that are often confused and misunderstood.

CSR is a way of thinking, it’s a management model where a company operates in a way that it takes into consideration it’s impact on the environment and society. Responsible companies don’t have just one “Bottom-line” in the financial records, but strive to have two more (Planet and People) with similarly positive results.

A truly responsible company will have a positive effect on the environment and on the society while running a good performing operation (since we are not talking about NGOs, profit is an important part of CSR). Very simply put, being responsible means that you are fair to everyone and everything.

In my “House-model” I compared CSR to a house, where the walls are made up of things that are not usually communicated either because they are boring, or just because they are obvious. These walls are made up of work-life balance, equality, integrity, environment protection and so on.

The house’s roof is made up of sexy things that are easier to communicate like charity. But if the walls are not there or not thick enough, eventually the roof will fall on the ground. If a company strives to look responsible to be in the press, that is not CSR. That is cause-related marketing or value marketing. Close to CSR, but not exactly it.

Responsible companies like to communicate and that’s wonderful. They should set an example to others, so they can follow. But PR of CSR (called CSR-branding or simply CSR-communication) is OK only until it is not confused with the management model. Do good things and let the world know about it! But I’m begging you: first check if the walls of your CSR-house are thick enough!

Author: Zsofia Lakatos

Zsofia Lakatos is the President of the Hungarian PR Association, owner of Emerald Public Relations and a board member of the Superbrands Committee in Hungary. She started her career as a journalist, jumping into agency-world later as Director of Capital Communications and from 2008 to 2015 as Managing Director of Hill+Knowlton Hungary. Zsofia holds an MBA in Management and a degree in Public Relations. She is an internationally acknowledged CSR-expert, a frequent lecturer of conferences on PR and CSR. Her book „Corporate Social Performance in Emerging Markets” was published in July 2013 in London

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