Congratulations to all the winners and finalists from yesterday’s PR News CSR awards. For readers of this blog, Frank Mantero, Director of Corporate Citizenship Programs at GE and a guest blogger for CSRPerspective last year, won Executive of the Year – Public Relations. Congratulations Frank!
I was honored to give the keynote at the event yesterday. The main theme of my address was that to gain trust, we have to establish authenticity. Authenticity will be established by the consistent application of our values. So we have to take the values declared in our corporate responsibility and in particular in our community investment activities and apply them in our core business. (I will be posting a video of the keynote shortly.)
A few people approached me with comments and in addition I facilitated a discussion immediately after the event to discuss the points I had raised. Chatham House rules applied.
I was interested in the focus of the comments;
No one challenged my main theme but neither did they jump forward to reinforce it. When asked specifically, there seemed to be support, but I had anticipated stronger reactions either for or against. I had thought some would tell me I was an idealist – no one has yet!
Commentators were more taken with my:
- use of movies to illustrate public perception of corporations;
- criticism of the terminology of ‘giving back’ as implying we are somehow taking away. A number of people approached me to express support for my raising that issue. I wrote about this last year too; and
- pitch for social media as a tool to bridge the gap between individuals in the company and external stakeholders.
Social media attracted more attention than anything else. I received a lot of support (from users of social media of course). But there was also significant and well founded skepticism about whether a corporate blog can be truly authentic (I think the obligation is on bloggers to demonstrate that this is possible). Also a comment that I do sometimes worry about myself, suggesting there is a self sustaining community of bloggers and tweeters all conversing voraciously with each other and then, there is everyone else.