Why storytelling matters in CSR

David Thompson, marketing communications officer at Emirates Nature-WWF, explains how to make your CSR campaigns more impactful



Storytelling is gaining recognition as a key element in delivering successful corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns.

Sure, as a concept CSR is broad, ambiguous and lacks consensus in definition, but to a storyteller it provides a vibrant playground to craft captivating tales to engage diverse audiences.

The variety of tools at our disposal to craft compelling CSR stories are equally diverse, including pictures, videos, infographics, presentations, audio recordings and more. So, with such potential to deliver engaging and impactful content, why are some companies producing CSR stories that hit the headlines, while others fail to even inspire support from their own teams?

 

Speaking with passion

Lukewarm stories never make the front page. As humans we seek triumph in adversity, we want to see ambition, conflict, challenge and drama; these are all vital components of a good story. While storytelling alone isn’t enough to achieve your CSR goals, its importance cannot be overstated. Communicating your initiatives in a way that is sincere and authentic, over a longer period, will lead to increased engagement and ultimately greater interest and trust in your brand.

The temptation to seek high-impact and short-term stories will persist, but this approach is prone to leaving audiences confused about your efforts, even questioning your integrity.

When speaking passionately, take caution to avoid the trap of positioning yourself as the hero. Be enthusiastic but keep the focus of your story on your cause and the impacts delivered through your campaign: no bragging required.

 

Facts and figures

The raw data that supports your story is important but avoid leading with it or relying too heavily on the numbers. It is tempting to only communicate the quantitative result of your efforts, announcing your big accomplishment or investment, but it’s better to focus on the impacts you deliver – every step of the way.

This is because storytelling helps to connect humans to outcomes in a relatable way. If your message isn’t easy to read and digest, then you need to revisit your narrative – pilling on the stats may grab immediate attention, but it won’t transform your efforts into a memorable story.

The impacts of your CSR work will be remembered long after the numbers have been forgotten. Storytelling will accomplish this in a way that facts and figures never will.

 

Working together

Unfortunately, even the best storytellers are unlikely to deliver the desired results if our CSR campaign lacks vision and strategy. Leveraging the expertise and success of non-profit organisations is perhaps the best option to effectively deliver the impacts you are seeking achieve.

Most established non-profit organisations will have numerous programmes running at any given time, in addition to a wealth of potential content to utilise as compelling material. Furthermore, many non-profit organisations will actively work with organisations in developing effective communications plans that demonstrate the impacts of a CSR journey.

Depending on the non-profit organisation you chose to support, tailor-made benefits may also be available, such as employee engagement activities, in addition to a media library highlighting project updates.

 

There is a great deal of freedom to be creative in every CSR campaign, just remember that organisations producing desired results are those telling compelling stories – on a regular basis – no matter how small the impact.