The role of PR in CSR activities: Ganapathy Viswanathan


By Ganapathy Viswanathan

The cause related marketing or CSR activities is being deployed by many corporates and companies to strengthen their presence in the media on an ongoing basis. While some companies have been working on CSR responsibility with lot of focus and energy there are others who have not diverted completely towards this. One company that comes top of mind that has been practicing CSR for quite some time has been Godfrey Philips for their RED & WHITE brand in promoting bravery excellence.

The company has been doing this on a national level but unfortunately they are also promoting tobacco. But let’s not take away the credit from them as year after year they have been awarding people for excellence in bravery from all walks of life.

To me CSR has to come from the bottom of the heart if one is keen in promoting it. There are quite a few liquor brands in view of restriction in advertising has been using CSR as surrogate way of communicating their products. This according to me will never fall under CSR as the primary objective is to get the brand visible and not promote the CSR initiative.

Brand fit very important

Identifying a cause or supporting any CSR responsibility must focus on issues that relate to the business the company is into. If the brand fit is relevant consumers will also appreciate the efforts as it is important that the CSR activity is also meaningful to them in their walk of life. Hence it is important for companies to check the relevance of the CSR activity so that companies don’t support unrelated cause which at times the consumers may feel that the business simply is trying to benefit from the not for profit ‘s reputation.

Many a times this may lead to consumer to stop buying the company products. Hence it is very critical for companies to maintain good brand fit when they venture into CSR activities so that consumers also connect well with the company and also see there is an effort being displayed by the company to promote CSR with more purpose.

Role of Public Relations in CSR

A few years back a very interesting CSR effort was undertaken by a reputed finance brand SUNDARAM FINANCE in Chennai. I am sharing this example to illustrate as how this CSR effort was initiated and how successful was it. Sundaram Finance as a brand has been a very trusted and dependable brand in the finance space. The brand is almost present amongst most families mind , residing in the south. The brand over a period of time as been part of many families in south by truly demonstrating to its customers its correct brand values corporate vision. The company hardly advertises and it has entered the consumers mind mainly through strong word of mouth marketing and well networked distribution of their products with strong focus on service across South India.

As a part of their CSR push the company along with Ogilvy PR came out with the novel idea of promoting carnatic music among kids in Chennai. This move was initiated, as it was found more kids in that part of the world were getting hooked to computers, chats and TV shows and little recognition was given to the classical carnatic music. The company saw a great opportunity here and branded this CSR program as SUNDARAM FINANCE SUNDAY KUTCHERI ( Music concert ).The program was held in a park and the concept was developed to provide young kids aged under 15 to showcase their music talent. The idea was more to give a little back to the society as a CSR effort. High on recall. Low on cost was the motive on this CSR effort. The audience for this program was the young and aspiring musical talent, music connoisseurs and morning walkers in the park.

How did this CSR Program work?
* The program was held every first Sunday between 6.30 and 7.30 am
* Kids were selected through audition testsKids with good flair in music with basics were given opportunity
* Group of kids display their musical talent at the park with great ambience
* After the first half a dozen Kutcheri the concept caught on
* News papers and channels came forward to cover it

So what was unique about this CSR?
* One of its kind showcasing musical talent
* Age was the only criteria ( kids under 15)
* Open environment ,perfect and colorful settings
* No microphones. No loudspeakers
* Kids were the stars. No chief guests.
* Minimum branding from the company

The End Result:

*  Zero advertising for the event. PR got the registrations.
*  Entries came from neighboring cities also.
* Vast coverage on the event. Pre and Post.
* More audience participated
* Pressure was mounted to increase the frequency
* More parks wanted to hold the musical concert
* Boosted the confidence of the kids to perform
* Parents were thrilled and devoted more time on music with their kids.
* Finally the brand fit was also perfect as it connected well with the event.

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