Creating Social Value Blog / Corporate Social Relevance

Storytelling to Amplify Social Value Creation

As part of Emily and Cheryl’s Leading for Social Value course this spring, students were asked to write closing blogs with reflections from the seven weeks of the course. This post from Andrew Franks, MBA’17 is the third in this series of posts we’ll be sharing periodically.

One of the observations that has consistently surprised and impacted me during Lewis Institute events, programs, and courses is the number of companies incorporating social value activities into their operations without sharing these stories. For instance, a major telecommunications firm known more for their expensive cell plan uses their expertise to create systems that benefit the disabled? One of the world’s largest mainstream retail establishments competing with Wal-Mart donates 5% of their profits to the community? A large eyeglass manufacturer provides major support to a non-profit aiming to get eye care within reach of every person around the world and has a plan to do it in just a few decades? WHO KNEW?

Undisputedly, storytelling is one of the most important aspects of marketing and branding today. Every company now is in charge of not just trying to sell you a product, but also a brand identity. Consumers see brands as a way to express their values and many companies are currently failing to sell their story in a way that compels consumers to care.

Some great examples from last year’s Super Bowl include the Kia Nero eco warrior ad and Coca Cola’s rerun of “America the Beautiful”. Each of the ads speaks to not just the consumers’ values but the company’s values as well. Coca-Cola is not just a refreshing drink, it’s universal and inclusive. The Kia Nero is not just a well-made car, it’s a symbol of Kia’s commitment to the environment.

Even beyond a company’s products, companies often fail to tell their own story about what they and their employees do. The two common reasons for this failure are a fear of looking phony or a lack of integration between CSR and marketing. In fact, companies that publish not just their successes but also their failures (assuming a good faith effort) tend to be forgiven by consumers. It can even bolster their reputation and build trust as customers see them as more real and three-dimensional.

A lack of integration between CSR and marketing is less forgivable. Companies doing good things in the community and for the public should be proud to talk about their efforts, not nervous. People want to know and identify with a company’s actions just as much as with their products. And just think of how much change could be forwarded by shedding light on these incredible programs and initiative. So the moral to me? Tell your story. Be brave. We all want to hear about it!