Before we take a look at what some of the most-loved South African grocery stores have done right, it is important to understand what corporate social investment (CSI) actually is. Essentially, these strategies are projects that “are external to the normal business activities of a company” and not directly to increase the company’s profit”.

This means that a company has to use its own resources to reach out to communities. These types of projects are not focused on marketing the brand but rather on uplifting and supporting those in need.
This is where true CSI comes in; coverage of these initiatives relies on credible, free press and, as a result, can result in great organic publicity.

Here, media update’s Talisa Jansen van Rensburg takes a look at what PR professionals can learn from some of South Africans most-loved brands' approach to CSI.

Let’s look at the advice you can trust, always:

1. Partner with relevant causes

Partnering with causes that your client’s brand feels strongly about is essential if you want to actually have success with your CSI efforts. Take, for example, Woolworths, which has partnered with causes that it is passionate about. These include FoodForward SA and the National Education Collaboration Trust.
Both these causes enrich the lives of countless communities within South Africa. Thus, people who agree with these causes are more likely to support Woolworths because they are aware that the brand is also adding a helping hand in these people's lives.

What to learn from this:

Being genuinely non-profit often leads to profit. This is because once the public sees how much a brand cares for its local community, it encourages them to support that company. You, therefore, need to inform your client of the benefits of focusing on causes — even though it might not directly provide an income. They should also be let known that it will show the public the core values of their brand.

If you’re wondering how brands can grow even faster and make a more effective difference, then make use of a media monitoring service. This service will allow you to identify key issues surrounding your client’s brand, as well as any conversations regarding their CSI efforts. This gives you a true inside look into the public’s opinion.

You’ll also be able to see “which channels of communication are the most effective and what inspires people to volunteer or donate to their cause.”

2. Be tuned in to current affairs

It has been a rough year for medical professionals; they have been working around the clock during Covid-19. That’s why, in February, “the Checkers Gauteng division surprised medical personnel and healthcare workers at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital with a performance by members of the world-renowned Soweto Gospel Choir”. This surprise drew support for the brand by showing how much they value the frontline workers.

What can PR pros learn from this:

This act of kindness shown by Checkers shows that CSI is not necessarily about being spontaneous or impulsive but rather about being in touch with current affairs.

As a PR professional, it is important to be cognisant of what is happening in the world around you. By staying in tune with current affairs, you’ll be able to come up with relevant ideas to support local communities and professionals — just like Checkers did. Knowing what's cutting around you will mean you better understand the needs and what will best meet those needs.

It’s also vital for clients to show that they care and that they’re trying to make a difference. One of the best ways to do this is to show essential workers that they are valued; this will encourage consumers to talk about the brand or support them regularly, as they’ll see how the brand is aiming to make a positive change in their world.

So, it might be time to put the months of planning aside for a little bit and look into current needs and solutions that will maximise your respective PR efforts.

3. Have a clear strategy

One of the ways Pick n Pay successfully implements its CSI initiatives is by making use of the resources available to it (such as the food and supplies in its stores) to help the brand reach its CSI goals.

This is something that you should encourage with your clients. Instead of spending money and resources that are unavailable to you, you should look within your own company and see what you have to offer that can help the community.

South Africa has countless worthwhile causes to support — from feeding the hungry to being more sustainable. If you get your clients involved in various areas, however, it may dilute your PR efforts because your resources are spread over many different areas that do not build on each other and have a limited impact.

This is where you can learn a lot from Pick n Pay. The brand has a specific CSI strategy in place; it knows which areas it wants to invest in — one of which includes reducing hunger levels in South Africa — and that is where it gets involved.

For example, Pick n Pay donates food to organisations that address food hunger current issues at a larger scale. The brand has a longstanding partnership with FoodForward SA whereby it donates any food that is past its sell-by date, but not its expiry date.

Through this partnership, enough food is donated to provide more than 20 000 meals every single day, or “11 million meals a year,” — meaning that Pick n Pay makes use of the products and resources available to it to have a positive impact on the community. Talk about working with what you have!

What can PR pros learn from this:

Once your client has a clear idea of how they want to focus their CSI efforts, they will be able to achieve more. Focusing on fewer cases and making use of homegrown resources will ensure that the brand’s efforts don’t go to waste.

What is one of your favorite CSI approaches to use as a PR professional? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

Weshu... oratile ditaba tjarena akere na? Refe maikutlo agago.

Now that you are more acquainted with CSI, be sure to learn about the Four ways to use public relations in the CSR space.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy