We’re Not Here to Do “PR”

May 16

If you visit our office at Ogilvy Washington, you’ll encounter a group of professionals who aren’t here to “do PR.”

You’ll find people who are passionate. Some are passionate about preventing cancer, some about creating a healthier America for our youth, some about protecting the environment or preparing people to deal with disaster. But the shared reason that brings my colleagues to work every day is a personal responsibility and promise to themselves to do something to better this world by working here.

On a similar note, my Millennial peers notoriously get a lot of flack for being “me-first.” Yet, in a recent white paper published by Ogilvy’s Todd Metrokin, we learn more about the greater importance and weight that millennials place on volunteering and supporting organizations that are changing the world in order to create a better one.

“Millennials are increasingly acting as the agents of change in society, calling for institutions that are more responsive not only to their needs, but to national or global concerns, and providing the energy, creative ideas, and determination to drive reform.” – The United Nations, 2012 Annual Report

At this point, this isn’t news (especially to us Millennials, thank you). But as Millennials grow into the largest share of the American work force, you can also bet it sure isn’t going to change. In fact, from a business perspective, 81% of Millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship, and 62% are willing to take a pay cut to work for a responsible company. What my colleagues at Ogilvy Washington and my peers as Millennials have in common is that they see the value that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has in a business, and they make both job and brand loyalty choices based on that value.

Why are we talking about this?

Because we all know that CSR is no longer about how much money a company can throw at a miscellaneous cause. Take a look back at some of more high profile cases that you’ve likely heard about or studied: Toms® or Warby Parker—companies that Millennials have stood behind despite their high price points and fierce competitors. These companies didn’t build a company and then add on a CSR initiative. They took a need that they saw around them and that they were passionate about, created a company or product specifically and foremost to meet that need, and have experienced incredible business success because of it.

Shared value venn diagram

These companies built their models on shared value, a business concept first introduced back in 2006 in the Harvard Business Review article Strategy & Society: The Link between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility. [Note: Whether you’re 22 or 52, if you haven’t read up on this, now is the time!] They found business opportunities in social problems (Shared Value Initiative). In a world where stakeholders’ (including Millennials) priorities are increasingly focused on fulfilling social needs in the businesses they choose to support, this is becoming fundamental to success.

Shared value quotation by Porter and Kramer

Yes, shared value is great for any entrepreneur starting a business from scratch (Toms®, Warby Parker, etc.) and can establish this business model from the get-go. But how does an established brand make this connection? For businesses that already have successful, traditional models, it’s not exactly easy to try to weave this level of shared value into practice—but it can and is being done, and it will be worth it.

Look at FORTUNE’S 2016 Change the World List, and you can find multiple examples of large, established companies, who are being recognized for taking shared value to heart and implementing it into their business models—even if it means they have to slightly rock the boat. To keep it simple, let’s just look at #1.

#1-GlaxoSmithCline (GSK): A 300-year-old, successful pharmaceuticals company.

Most people: “Why change something good, right?”

GSK: “Uhhh, because willingness to change is what has kept us successful for 300 years.”

  • Problem they saw: GSK has the solution (think vaccines) to stop some of the most infectious diseases that kill millions of people around the world every year. But the places where those diseases hit most are also the lowest income—preventing access to the solution.
  • Rock the boat moment: In 2016, GSK announced that it will no longer file drug patents in the lowest-income regions of the world—an integral part of its patient access strategy—releasing drugs from patent protection and thus lowering their prices in low-income regions.
  • Shared value:
    1. Lower prices = more lower-income regions receiving vaccines = less infectious disease related deaths.
    2. GSK’s revenue grew 4% in the second quarter of 2016, as new product sales crossed the $1.5 billion threshold for the first time.

 

Filling a societal need? CHECK. Increasing revenue, and growing business? CHECK. So why was it again that companies don’t want to rock the boat?

A strong driver is fear of change. But companies want dedicated employees, and dedicated employees (especially Millennials) want change. As new companies continue to arise, built on the model of shared value, established companies need to do more than just talk about the idea of CSR, shared value, and social good, and begin to evolve and act to match the shifting climate of stakeholder expectations. GSK is just one example of how companies can begin to shift those values, and grow success in both employee engagement and revenue.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt to want to change the world.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 16th, 2017 at 3:12 pm and is filed under Behavior Change, Best Practices, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ogilvy Washington, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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