By Odimegwu Onwumere
There is ongoing debate among stakeholders of industries that corporations should necessitate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a business necessity.
The argument hinges on the fact that corporations should become socially conscious, but the media have a great role to play on how the CSR business is heralded to the world,.
Those in this line of argument have said that the media have the right to checkmate organizations if they are living up to their expectation of what the global definition of CSR means. But wretchedly the obverse is the case as corporations have now taken to social media, while enticing print journalists with workshops, awards and sundry.
Companies entice journalists
Until of late, CSR among businesses has rotated approximately within “risk mitigation and self-regulation”. Inspired to make convinced companies to stomach the law and execute decently, CSR has focused principally on issues of in-due-course in factories.
Across the country, different companies elevate journalists through organizing of workshops, awards and seminars. Companies apparently do this in order to make journalists add more social responsibilities to their duties.
To the companies, they are observing the tree tenets that are observable in the CSR business which are People, Planet, and Profit to journalists. However, checks have proven that companies engage journalists in these so that their brands would also be promoted.
Times without number, connoisseurs have blamed journalists for promoting the nuisance of firms about CSR. There was anger that journalists aid in demeaning the CSR standard.
The Managing Director, TruContact, Mr. Ken Egbas speaking at a forum organized by Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria (BJAN), with the theme “Challenges of Corporate Social Responsibility in Nigeria – Roles of Organizations, Government and the Media”, held at Grand Seren Hotel, Iyaganku, GRA, Ibadan, Oyo State, last year, was very heated about this.
Egbas said, “Where that leaves you is that it drops the standard so low because the journalists, who are supposed to demand for standard do not even know the standard for CSR and sustainability reporting, which is very sad.”
Ifeoluwa Oloruntuyi, a public affairs analyst saw this in 2013: Of how companies entice journalists through training, awards and seminars to promote their brands.
Oloruntuyi said, “But many of the firms, which had instituted the media awards to encourage and appreciate journalists, tend to be more concerned about using the reward project to better position their brand and products if the criteria designed for winning entries are put on spotlight.”
The analyst was alarmed, adding that most of the awards instituted by the companies are awarded to journalists who best promote their brands in their entries than others.
Oloruntuyi hyped, “In most cases, winners emerge through the volume of patronage their reports have impacted on the organizations instituting the awards. Only few of the entries are immune from the toga of what critics have tagged ‘patronizing and image laundering’ reports, which are intentionally targeted at winning these awards.”
Many Nigerians are however asking where the budget for CSR goes. The question is rife. The BJAN observed that many of the companies fall below best global CSR reporting guidelines.
The Group Managing Director, SO&U Limited and chairman of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Mr. Ufot Udeme apparently saw why companies publicize whatever they do for journalists without making it secret.
Udeme said, “Is there really a need to leverage an organization’s CSR initiatives? It is argued that some of the highest givers around the world give quietly, sometimes even anonymously; they sincerely want to meet a need without attracting unnecessary attention to themselves. Why don’t organizations do the same?” Egbas wondered why many of the companies give paltry to the society and boast of giving back to the society christened CSR.
Egbas said, “They call people together and give them gifts, or give exercise books to school children or renovate a school classroom, grade a small stretch of road, then, they call the journalist and splash the photos on the pages of their paper and they call that CSR.”
CSR for social media
While journalists are being blamed for promoting the much giddiness of corporations, the companies maneuver them in most cases and begin to build Facebook pages and Twitter profiles for their programmes.
Effervescently, every CSR professional is working to achieve both measurable and attainable goals in quantitative and qualitative aspects. Companies might think they pay heavily for the print journalists to publicize their products, but they get that at a very cheap price using social media and getting to a wider audience, beyond the environs where the products are manufactured. According to InSites Consulting’s 2011 global study on social media use; in Europe alone, there are 476 million internet users, of which 350 million are using social networks.
A school of thought has said that the companies do this all in the manner that they are sharing good news of their activities. Hence, they ride on social media to massage their ego. Most times they are not transparent and the journalists they have maneuvered for social media are in dearth of fund to carry out proper investigations to tell their side of story on the companies’ CSR programmes.
Not to rubbish journalists
Companies are nonetheless not doing the social media exploits with the intent to rubbish journalists. The fact is that they are observing the shift taking place in the corporate affairs. What they are doing is to push past awareness into action.
Authorities have said that companies do this, because they have seen that CSR functions have been unlimited now against a primordial function of “keeping and restraining” companies out of woes.
CSR as driver of innovation
It was observed that globally companies have climbed above board of only selling product or service. In the world today, CSR is gearing towards being driver of innovation. This is where the three-fold comes in – which is people, planet, and profit.
CSR is centred on people and not obnoxious laws. The highlight is that stakeholders in the business world are making sure that more sustainable and socially responsible entities are built.
The global CSR operation today is that businesses now know their constituents, unlike in the times past when companies controlled the message of their products.
Social media for provocative discourse
It was discovered that companies prefer to use the social media mostly due to the quick responses they garner from their customers through provocative discourses they post on their unique social media pages that spark them to know what their consumers expect from them.
Companies also use the social media to influence their consumers and know their responses over a product. And many of the individuals that respond are self- naming, therefore enhancing dialogue between customers and companies, which is the main reason companies engage in social media.
Therefore, they are using the social media methodology as a way to get to the people quicker than hoping endlessly when a print media would vet their stories before publishing.
Odimegwu Onwumere is a writer and consultant; he writes from Rivers State. (firstname.lastname@example.org). Tel: +2348057778358.