Strategise or apologise: CSR and Crisis Comms
This article was first published in The Gleaner on November 30, 2022.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Crisis Management don’t appear to be related at first glance, but the latest blunder by Zip FM is a great case study for how interconnected the two concepts, by nature, are and must be.
CSR in plain English, is a business or company’s contribution to the society in which they operate; it’s their way of saying, they care about more than just profits. Others define it as companies taking responsibility for their impact on society – ZIP FM falls within this category.
CSR is not charity
Let’s be clear, it is not charity. CSR works in a sustainable way when purpose is aligned with profits and a win-win-win situation is engineered where people, profit and planet benefit. While CSR can be quantified as a line item on the books, measuring it is difficult became its impact is so multifaceted. When done well, the seeds of goodwill allows companies to sell products and services at a competitive price, it bodes well for their reputation, and they tend to spend less on advertising because their customer base equates to an army of sales representatives. This army is of great import when a crisis occurs.
Corporate crises are inevitable. They come in many forms, it could be a senior staff member being accused of misconduct, a data breach or an employee saying something or doing inappropriate which ends up on social media as was the case of Zip FM. Whatever the crisis turns out to be - at least one will require an apology. Zip FM was timely with their apology. Apologizing after an error as a corporate entity may be difficult, but it has proven to be less expensive in the long term.
Be that as it may, research shows that the public has the capacity to forgive when they sense sincerity and concern, however, it remains to be seen whether ZIP FM’s apology achieved anything. On reflection, the apology could have been less reserved, it appeared to assign blame to the ‘unauthorized person’ who recorded and shared the footage. I submit that the ‘gifting’ was the real issue. But for the gifting, the entire ordeal could have been avoided.
Blunders often show a misalignment of purpose
The blunder disclosed a misalignment of Zip FM’s purpose (informed by a mission and vision) and their content creation strategy. Generally speaking, a company that focuses on their purpose and tailors their content strategy and editorial calendar around it, will not be swayed by the frequent social media fads like what occurred with Mr Silvera. The declaration (on their website) that the station provides listeners with “the latest music from a range of genres…” and “dynamic, fun, refreshing, high energy and innovative are the hallmarks of our programming format” - does not communicate anything about their purpose or principles - this might be the issue.
The station should consider going back to the drawing board, figure out what they are about – their purpose – and how that will translate and manifest in their content strategy. This is the only way they can prevent a reoccurrence. Misalignment with their purpose or a lack of a purpose might have led this employee to go off on a frolic of her own. If their purpose was to, for example, ‘create fun and refreshing content that will entertain while uplifting and educating” their target audience. How would that align with gifting anyone with a weapon?
When all is said and done, the companies that have indicated their intention to pull advertisements from Zip FM are staying true to their purpose - which generally speaking, is to make Jamaica the place to live work and raise a family. Such a place facilitates good returns on their investments. Gifting someone, who was criminally charged with a weapon does not align with the goal or purpose of these corporate entities that have invested so much in this country.
Profits follow purpose
ZIP FM must take responsibility for their impact on society. The company must find and focus on their purpose, then engineer a content strategy around that purpose…and if done well, the profits will follow - eventually.