How businesses, big and small, are connecting with customers by doing good
by Catherine Hernandez-BladesMs. Hernandez-Blades is senior vice president, chief brand and communications officer at Aflac. Her responsibilities include Advertising, Brand Strategy, Social Media and Corporate Communications, including Aflac’s award-winning corporate social responsibility program.
As children, we are taught the value of helping others, doing what is right and looking out for one another. In business, these values can be demonstrated through corporate social responsibility (CSR), a term used to describe how a company shares its business’ culture, values and ways of giving back. However, there is a common misconception that only businesses which operate on a global or national scale need to partake in CSR initiatives, but this is not true. In fact, it is often just as important for small companies and leaders, such as brokers and agents, to embody socially responsible values.
Creating your own social responsibility platform is not only the right thing to do, but it makes good business sense.
Consumers today are increasingly taking a deeper look at businesses and evaluating whether the company and its employees share their values. As a result, more purchasing behavior is being shaped by what a company stands for, what it is doing for the greater good and how it is engaged with the community.
Consider these findings:
- 87 percent of consumers will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they care about1
- More than half of consumers are willing to drive somewhat farther and pay slightly more to shop at a store viewed as socially responsible2
- 92 percent of consumers say they have a more positive image of a company when the company supports a social or environmental issue1
To put it simply, brokers and agents cannot afford to delay getting involved in their communities. Good sales people realize that growing the business requires a commitment to networking and building a best-in-class reputation. By looking for ways to engage with the community and contribute in a sustained way, sales professionals can make a positive difference, build their brand’s reputation and improve their bottom line.
Find your cause
So, how should you get started? Fortunately, giving back does not have to be complicated, and there is something for every comfort level. When looking for ways to get involved, start by thinking about your own interests, causes and personal experiences. If you love sports, consider influencing up-and-coming athletes through coaching or mentoring. If you share an affinity for the elderly, visit a local senior center to see how you can help with the facility’s needs. If taking care of the environment is important to you, look for a group organizing a community cleanup or coordinate your own.
Social responsibility is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, however. For brokers and agents working in an office, consider company-sponsored activities and sponsorships that allow your workers to support causes they believe in and allow them to give back in a way they are comfortable with. Some might be interested in hands-on volunteering, while others might be more interested in making monetary contributions.
Make the business connection
For your philanthropic efforts to be most successful, they should reflect or connect back to your business. For example, Aflac’s pioneering efforts in cancer insurance naturally led to a passion to support the treatment and research in finding a cure for childhood cancer, our core philanthropic cause. We created The Aflac Foundation, Inc., which supports the research and treatment of childhood cancer. In fact, many independent sales agents licensed to sell Aflac products have joined in this movement, donating more than $500,000 each month from their commission checks. Given that the company has been involved with this cause for more than 20 years and donated more than $125 million, it is a sustainable program ingrained in our culture.
The theme of connected causes does not stop with Aflac. According to the Reputation Institute, the concept of philanthropy tying back to brand identity is transcendent across top companies. In their 2018 Corporate Reputation Survey, they found that companies with the strongest consumer reputation consistently demonstrate delivery of brand promises through corporate citizenship.3
In it for the long term
While winning new business is always a top priority, it is also important to remember that social responsibility should be a long-term initiative. Doing good should never be seen as a “quick win” strategy. Rather, success requires an honest, sustained attempt to solve a societal challenge through consistent time and effort to create a connection to the cause you are supporting.
Keep your customers informed on your goals, progress and, if applicable, how they can get involved. Involving the consumer is exceptionally important in this equation, especially considering that 77 percent of consumers say that a company that wants to be a leader in responsibility has to be a leader on issues that matter to people.2
By demonstrating your commitment and regularly communicating your initiatives to key stakeholders, you will gradually build goodwill and a positive reputation in the community. In the end, a thoughtful social responsibility program will create worthwhile results for your business and community. As we move into the second half of the year, demonstrating the power to do what is right will help make all the difference with your business. ◊
Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.
1 Cone Communications. “2017 Cone Communications CSR Study.” Accessed May 1, 2018. http://www.conecomm.com/research-blog/2017-csr-study#download-the-research.
2 The 2017 Aflac Corporate Social Responsibility Report. Accessed May 1, 2018. https://www.aflac.com/about-aflac/corporate-citizenship.
3 Reputation Institute. “Most Reputable Companies in the United States in 2018.” Accessed May 1, 2018. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/2963875/_PDF/PressReleases/2018-US-RepTrak-PressRelease-updated.pdf?t=1524497004680.