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How Companies Meet Stakeholder Expectations

Thomas Knowlton, Partner and Director, Corporate Services

The Importance of Impact in Telling a Strong CSR Story

“A story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important.”  Donald Miller, CEO, StoryBrand

Companies today are more engaged with and active in society and their communities than ever before, but they have not gained the recognition or trusted relationships they seek from consumers and the general public.


They lack a strong impact story.

Their efforts are usually well-intentioned, but the approach is missing the commitment necessary to address an issue and achieve impact. To establish trust, stakeholders want to see more than corporate participation; they want to see a strong commitment to solving a societal problem.

What Companies Do Now

Companies are spending more money and addressing more issues, but their efforts are often spread across numerous issues, and their goals are broad. Their communication with stakeholders is focused on activities instead of outcomes, which are neither unique nor compelling.

The good news is that most companies have the ability and opportunity to create significant impact – and it’s buried in their existing portfolio of programs.  Often they only need to refine an existing program approach to focus on outcomes instead of creating a new program or reworking their entire portfolio.

Companies tend to successfully identify the core issues that are most important to their stakeholders.  However, they often fall short in addressing these issues – goals are not fully developed; stakeholders are not fully engaged; and the stories are about activities and outputs, not outcomes.

How Companies Recalibrate

We help companies determine how to strengthen their social impact story, by using a five-step approach.  First, we develop a corporate citizenship framework and identify a priority program that aligns with their purpose.  Next, we clarify a company’s priority impact goal.  Then we develop an outcomes framework, collect the data that will help tell a compelling story, and enlist senior leadership to communicate the story in a consistent, compelling manner.

When partnering with Symantec, we refined the goals of their Cyber Career Connection program, developing new goals and an outcomes framework for the two components of the program.  As a result, Symantec was able to more clearly communicate their commitment to train underserved youth for careers in cybersecurity, versus the original, broad story that focused on encouraging all students to learn more about careers in cybersecurity.  Additionally, Symantec uses their new outcomes framework to have more in-depth conversations with their nonprofit partners about what is and is not working in the programs and to make programmatic adjustments to better serve the youth in the program.

A Step-by-Step Approach

For Symantec, and many other clients, our approach entails the following steps:

  1. Develop your Corporate Citizenship Framework
    • Clarify your company’s purpose
    • Determine your corporate citizenship drivers
    • Identify the priority issues to address – through a materiality assessment
    • Review and assess your program portfolio
  2. Identify your Priority Program
    • Which program is most aligned with your company’s purpose?
    • What is the core social issue that is most important to your priority stakeholders?
  3. Refine and Strengthen your Priority Program’s Goal
    • Work with internal stakeholders to determine the criteria for refining the goal
    • Engage with senior leaders to agree on the goal, and the resources and approach needed to achieve the goal
  4. Develop an Outcomes Framework
    • Create a logic model that maps out the steps to achieving your priority goal
    • Identify the core indicators for data collection and seeing progress towards the goal
  5. Integrate the High Impact Story into the Corporate Citizenship Communication
    • Ensure senior management and the communications team highlight the primary impact story

Our team can guide you and your company through a simple, preliminary assessment of your corporate citizenship approach that will help you determine the program to refine and the story you need to tell; the assessment will help you make the internal case to senior leadership for making a stronger commitment to a program aligned with your company’s purpose.

Focusing on a priority program’s social impact will enable your company to tell a more compelling story—both internally and externally—and will help you build trust and strong relationships with those priority stakeholders.


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