Public relations and corporate social responsibility, though different, are closely connected in their focus on building relationships with people.

“Corporate social responsibility isn’t all about gaining good publicity,” said Darian Kovacs, CEO of Jelly Marketing. “However, businesses can use public relations to reach their audience and gain their trust.”

Public relations is about building a relationship with consumers so that they see your brand more positively, while corporate social responsibility should come from a place of authenticity. Businesses can “give back” in some way through corporate social responsibility.

Many businesses struggle with how to approach corporate social responsibility, how it is relevant to their business, and what actions they should take.

People’s Expectations of Businesses Are Changing

Corporate social responsibility is not new, however, people’s expectations surrounding it are evolving. A recent survey showed that people expect all businesses, regardless of industry, to commit to corporate social responsibility.

How businesses across industries should approach CSR

People are becoming more aware of how their buying decisions may impact individuals, the local community, and wider global community and want to support companies that share their values.

“Companies can look at how they can give back,” Kovacs said. “When companies show it’s not all about profits and the bottom line, they resonate a positive feeling with consumers.”

Consider Your Brand Values

Businesses that are unsure how to approach corporate social responsibility should consider what makes their brand unique. This could be their products, how they manufacture them, or how they approach their respective industry.

“Businesses need to decide what they believe in and how these beliefs relate to their customers,” Kovacs said.

Think About Your Customers

People have more choices available to them than ever before and businesses should always think about what values their brand and customers share.

“There is so much competition out there in every industry, it’s really the consumer who has the upper hand,” Kovacs said. “Companies need to look at how they integrate corporate social responsibility in their business and research their audience’s wants and needs.”

PR firms say that businesses can strengthen their relationship with people by showing their customers that they care about the same issues and causes.

Businesses looking to make an impact can think about becoming a BCorp, like Ben & Jerry’s and Hootsuite.

BCorp businesses are those that meet the highest standards of social responsibility – they are transparent with their customers, don’t cause harm to people or the environment, and balance “profit with purpose.”

Consumers see their money as a way to support companies that share their values and businesses need to consider where their brand values and customers’ values intersect.

Brainstorm What Makes Sense for Your Brand

Businesses ultimately need to do what makes sense for their brand.

For example, Dove considered both their brand values and their customers in their “Real Beauty” campaign.

Dove's Real Beauty Campaign

“Dove took a risk,” Kovacs said. “Not only did they share an incredible message and changed perspective, but they really made sure there was an emotional connection to their brand so that they reached a much larger audience.”

Public relations agencies always emphasize that not every corporate social responsibility approach will work for every business, even for those within the same industry.

Businesses need to consider their brand values and their customers before implementing a corporate social responsibility program.