With more emphasis than ever on the importance of corporate ethics, the millennial generation has motivated companies to start actionable, sustainable and transparent corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
Millennials — people aged 18 to 35 — represent more than 25 percent of the U.S. workforce and are projected to make up 50 percent of the workforce in 2020, according to NPR.
A 2015 survey by Neilsen found that over 66 percent of global survey respondents, the majority being millennials, would be willing to spend more for products and services from companies that dedicate themselves to positive social and environmental changes. With such a significant amount of buying power, companies looking to succeed are using CSR to speak to the hearts and minds of the millennials.
Companies should also tune in to the fact that millennials are not receptive to traditional forms of advertising and marketing. Because this group attributes value to authenticity and transparency, these digital natives expect companies to meet them where they are — social media platforms.
Nearly 80 percent of millennials expect real-time customer service, according to PR Newser. Public relations professionals who invest in relationship management efforts and stewardship plans will find more success in winning millennials over. Millennials want their opinions to be listened and responded to, meaning companies’ public relations professionals need to have more emphasis on a two-way symmetrical model with publics.
Millennials use social media as soap boxes and megaphones to preach their thoughts. They are a hyperconnected generation that consumes media at an increasingly rapid rate, according to Lisa Manley, executive vice president of Cone Communications. With social and environmental causes flooding social feeds, millennials are unable to ignore how actions of individuals and companies affect the world around them.
Ethical responsibility is also fervent in millennials’ employment preferences. As thousands of millennials graduate from college and enter the workforce, criterion such as benefits and pay are matched with the desire to work for CSR-savvy companies.
Though CSR is among the top priorities that dictate millennial work, purchase and loyalty preferences, there is a right and a wrong way to appeal to this cohort. First, companies must understand that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to CSR. In fact, effective CSR platforms must be woven from the same fabric on which a company’s brand is formed.
CSR is built into the company culture and aligns with what that company’s mission, identity and actions are reflective of.
Components of successful CSR also include connections with stakeholders who are invested in the company and the publics who support them, strategic concise management of corporate ethics initiatives and a consistent unfaltering commitment to the cause chosen.
Effective CSR can lead to a successful bottom-line, encourage employee satisfaction and form meaningful company to publics relationships every public relations professional strives to create.
Lana Nasser is a graduate of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications and a member of the Community Service and Advocacy Committee at the UF PRSSA Chapter. She spends her free time adding to her record collection, reading Rousseau, London and Thoreau, and learning about the world of public interest communications. See her portfolio for more of her published works, find her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter @NasserLana.