Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, is now a normal part of the corporate world. However, it did not begin so auspiciously. CSR first started as a way for large corporations to counteract negative news articles in the 60s and 70s, about offshore sweatshops and allegations of child labor use. They needed to prove they were aware of the social impact of their enterprises.
However, corporations soon found that what they first considered as “paying back” society had economic benefits as well. In our era, with the speed at which stocks can rise and fall, the benefit of CSR to a corporation’s stock value is much clearer to the public eye. Corporations are extending even beyond CSR as they find that public advocacy in business is profitable.
Why Public Advocacy in Business Helps Single Proprietors
Single proprietors are not large enough to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars that corporations do on CSR. Even committing to a single scholarship would be hard enough, and single proprietors can have families or dependents to take care of. However, supporting a public advocacy in business–whether through volunteering, contributing to a fund-raiser, or through active promotion–can definitely help them increase network reach.
What Is A Public Advocacy?
According to the UNICEF (United Nations’ International Children’s Emergency Fund), a public advocacy is “speaking for or representing the interests of, or defending the rights of a general category of people, or the general public.”
The definition continues, “[public] advocacy concentrates on advocating for a general category of people, or even the general public, like the case of the environment [and] issues related to such categories as women, workers, [or] children.”
It might sound weird for your small business to have a “public advocacy.” It might feel pretentious, even. After all, are not those kinds of causes and advocacies reserved for your personal profile, to make you seem more human?
Yes and no. You can always have a personal advocacy that goes under your profile picture and in your author bio. Sure, it will probably convince potential customers that this business is being run by a human being. However, public advocacies do more than just humanize your business and brand: they have true economic benefits as well.
Public Advocacy in Business Increases Your Potential Customer Reach
The numbers of people supporting various advocacies, from sustainable energy sources to animal rights, are vast. They span cities, states, and even countries. Say your business is quite simple: you are a distributor of farm eggs to the city. Your potential customer reach is the whole egg-eating population in the city, and then some (inns and motels, diners and cake shops). Your challenge is to corner the egg-using market.
What if your small enterprise guarantees your buyers the healthiness and happiness of the hens laying the eggs? “Farm” is becoming another word for “breeding prison,” what with the current outrage over puppy farms and other breeding centers. Your “farm-fresh eggs” might not have the same impact as they once had.
However, you could take the time to visit farm sources, and promote the free-range healthiness of their chickens. Then you can corner both the egg-using population and that overlapping cross-section who stand for healthy and happy food sources. You can even give your prices a nudge upwards: customers pay more when they feel they are contributing to a cause.
Public Advocacy in Business Increases Brand Value
Corporations learned the need for CSR the hard way. It was only later that they discovered the economic and social values of supporting public advocacies. At the moment, 7 in 10 corporations have CSR embedded into their corporate agendas.
One of the main reasons for this is that supporting a public advocacy increases brand value, plain and simple. As we all know, brand value (and therefore stock value, for the corporations) is based on customer and stockholder perceptions of the company’s trustworthiness. Today especially, the idea that there should be some measure of CSR in a company makes upholding this perception even more important for corporations.
The advantage of your small enterprise is that you are not expected or required to have a public advocacy. The moment your business begins to push for that public advocacy, it rises in brand value because your business, small though it is, is willing to spend time and money supporting it. Your brand value will grow among your current supporters, and attract others: those who support the advocacy and are willing to use you as proxy.
Choosing A Public Advocacy For Your Business
Align the Public Advocacy With Your Business
The best way to let public advocacy boost your business would be to choose an existing non-profit organization or NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) that you can align your business with. Love local as much as you can–a neighborhood society group that repaints houses or feeds children can do well, since you can also give volunteer time.
Most importantly, choose a public advocacy group that aligns itself with your company product or service, and mission statement. Your product or service could be simple enough: female clothing, for example. Your advocacy could be teaching women about the evolution of their international rights. Your message: celebration of the rights that allow women to live in freedom of choice of their own destinies, and so forth.
In most cases, you will not even have to go so far in explaining yourself. No matter your gender or gender identity, the stand against abuse and the disempowerment of women is already a universal concern. You have the benefit of global support.
Choose Only One Public Advocacy To Support
Corporations can go ahead and furnish scholarships for a hundred children, build a dozen houses, and save a score of whales at the same time. They have the advantage of highly diversified enterprises and much more money than you (at the moment, anyway). They also have more personnel and staff time.
For your business, public advocacy is a good thing as long as you do not overstep your budget. Choosing one public advocacy will allow you to devote time and resources to it, and convince your supporters and potential supporters that yours is a business of clear vision. Perception of company trustworthiness will go up, and then so will your brand value.
Public Advocacy in Business: Benefiting Society While Increasing Your Network Reach
Whether you already have a small business or you are planning to start one soon, using a public advocacy will boost your business performance and benefit society as well. There is no reason why those two birds should not be hit with one stone.
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