Congratulations! After months of slogging through all the data, aggregating and analyzing materials from across your organization and coaxing it into a format you feel is both compelling and informative, you’ve finally done it. You’ve published your sustainability report!
The question you should now be asking yourself is, “What next?”
That’s because your work isn’t over once you publish your report. Far from it. This next stage will determine whether your sustainability report is deemed a worthwhile exercise or falls flat. Sustainability reporting is like any other business activity in that if you want people to value your effort and continue to support this type of endeavor, you need to be able to demonstrate ROI. What’s the return on the time and resources you’ve invested in the process of gathering and reporting on all of this data?
What this means is that the worst thing that can happen next is nothing at all. You need exposure, buzz, and engagement! So, how do you get the word out and ensure that people actually read this thing? How do you promote your sustainability report to your desired readers?
Find Your Audience
Where’s your audience?
Hopefully, at this point in the process you have a very good idea of who you’re trying to reach with your sustainability report. You should have identified this audience way back when you first began to gather your data: these are the stakeholders who will be impacted by or have an interest in your business’s social or environmental footprint. These stakeholders will likely include some combination of investors, employees, customers, suppliers, NGOs, government and media.
So, where are these stakeholders and what opportunities exist to reach them? If they’re at your Annual Meeting of Shareowners, for example, you’re going to want to make sure that your sustainability report is front and center for those investors. With some effort, you can turn employees into sustainability ambassadors by spreading the word and generating excitement through internal communications – employee e-newsletters, your intranet, posters around the office and the company Facebook or LinkedIn group could all be options.
You should also be asking yourself what kinds of opportunities there are to communicate your approach to sustainability to your customers (and potential customers). Sustainability has become a winning sales strategy and can have a material impact on your bottom line. More than half (55%) of global online consumers across 60 countries have said they’ll pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. In another study, 77% of Americans stated that sustainability factors into their food-purchasing decisions.
So how can you capitalize on this market? If you’re a B2B company, think about adding key excerpts of your report to your standard RFP template or sales presentation slide decks. For B2C organizations, consider how your advertising strategy can incorporate elements of your sustainability report’s main messages and use social media creatively to engage this audience! Marissa Rosen has some great tips in CRA Magazine’s July/August 2015 edition.
Create Engaging Entry Points
Back to the basics! Break down your sustainability message so that it’s easily accessible for your audience.
Sustainability reports can be pretty hefty documents, and they’re not exactly light reading material. To attract interest and get your audience curious to learn more, spend some time creating materials that pique your audience’s interest and get them asking questions and wanting more information.
Infographics can be a great tool here, like this one from Coca-Cola. You might also try a drip campaign, releasing a few interesting findings from your report over time in an eye-grabbing visual via social media (Pro Tip: Take advantage of popular hashtags like #csr #sustainability #fairtrade and even #WaterWednesday). More and more companies are also making videos, likeCaterpillar and McGraw-Hill. These are pieces of content that are fun, easily consumed and easily shared, which will help your sustainability report get the kind of exposure that you’re looking for.
Reach Out to Appropriate Media Partners
There’s an amazing online community of people who are all about sustainability, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them! Ask yourself what unique or interesting information has arisen from your sustainability reporting journey and craft a pitch. There are many great websites, including well-known names such as CSRwire, TriplePundit, Environmental Leader, and SustainAbility. If you want a little help, you might also look into distribution networks like 3BL Media, a multi-channel distribution network for corporate social responsibility news and content.
How you choose to promote your sustainability report will depend on your audience and also the time and resources you have to devote to the task. While the exercise of preparing a sustainability report can deliver rewards on its own, there is a huge unrealized value associated with a sustainability report that goes unread by its audience. Follow these tips to ensure that your sustainability report reaches its full potential!