This week was celebrated as Social Media Week in several cities around the world, including New York, defining the growing importance of viral media to business and society. Being held simultaneously in six cities, this is the second year for this open-sourced conference where businesses are welcomed to host social media-related discussions and panels under its umbrella. As part of the many discussions and seminars hosted this week, it was Corporate Social Responsibility that took center stage today in New York.
Titled "Putting the Social in CSR," the panel featured PepsiCo's Global Director of Digital and Social Media, Bonin Bough; ThinkSocial Executive Director Jamie Daves--who moderated the discussion; SVP of Digital Strategy for Ogilvy PR's 360 Digital Influence group, Virginia Miracle; and Justmeans.com's Deb Berman and a sold out audience.
While the discussion was an hour long, there were some interesting highlights brought up by the panelists as well as the audience. Here, are some top picks as food for thought:
This one came from the audience: An HBO representative: Discussing the issue of brand marketing, he said, "CSR is about social investment. In the future, strategy will move from the CSR team to the entire company: and if the brand wins some accolade or gets attention because of that, that's great benefit but the eye should be on [the prize of ] having the workforce realize the good of doing good and creating ideas in that direction."
Bonin Bough (PepsiCo): On a question of the top-down approach within companies and whether social media should become an indicator of measuring performance on CSR: "We at Pepsi call this performance on purpose. Social media is not necessarily a tactic or a channel. It happens to be the mechanism to bring people together. It doesn't have to deliver ROI on its own, but it does have to succeed in measuring the impact of the project/message." And as he went on to explain further, it shouldn't be the number of tweets that decide how well a brand's CSR campaign is doing but how the perception of society changes as more good is done in the community. He also cited Exxon Mobil as an example saying their most recent ads claim themselves as a green company. Inviting much laughter, he explained that regardless of whether the world's largest oil and gas company was green or not, it was all about perception. And that should be how social media must be leveraged.
Another one from the audience: Disputing certain companies who certify themselves as green, an attendee brought up the issue of diversity. "Women are earning 70 cents to a dollar today, even today. And yes, contrary to common perception, even women executives are earning 70 cents to a dollar. Yet these companies call themselves green and responsible. This is not CSR!" Responding, Mr. Bough cited the example of PepsiCo female chief Indra Nooyi's and the fact that the company has more women executives on its team than most companies. He also emphasized that Ms. Nooyi had been proactive enough to realize that it was becoming a challenge to retain women in the workforce, especially senior leadership, once they have kids and had specifically asked the company's HR to address the issue and devise programs aimed at retaining them. Point well taken, and clearly not enough done at most companies.
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