I Published My CSR Report. Where’s My Media Coverage?

I Published My CSR Report. Where’s My Media Coverage?

Newspaper image via Shutterstock.

We help companies tell their stories. And these days, more and more of those stories are about sustainability. Often the starting point for this conversation is a shiny, new sustainability report.

Whether it's your first foray into reporting or your company is declaring GRI Application Level A for your report, you do have a story to tell. And if you don't tell it, someone else will tell it for you (see Newsweek's Green Rankings methodology).

But it can be a challenge to attract media interest in even the most substantive of reports. Of course, that's a difficult message to deliver to those who've worked hard to create the report, and for good reason. A compelling and comprehensive sustainability report is a massive internal project that requires dedicated resources, and there are typically high expectations for coverage of the report. But for many media, even new news is old news when it's packaged in a sustainability report.

So, when clients ask what kind of media reception they can expect for their report, we try to set realistic expectations. But we also counsel them on ways to differentiate themselves from the pack.

One of the best approaches boils down to this: Think outside the report.

Catching the interest of a reporter or blogger may take a willingness to share more than what's between the covers. Three things to consider, especially if you're targeting national media:

Don't Sugarcoat Your Story

What have you tried that's failed? How much money did that cost you? On the other hand, what has worked exceptionally well that you were afraid would fail?
Be Real

Who was the hardest member of the executive team to convince that a specific initiative or sustainability in general is a business imperative? How did you win him/her over?
Get Detailed

Why is it going to take you five years to make this seemingly small change to manufacturing process? Why has it been so hard to figure out the carbon emissions of your operations in Brazil?

I reached out to sustainability reporter Marc Gunther (writer at Fortune, GreenBiz, and The Energy Collective) for his thoughts on what makes a report compelling enough to cover. Here's his response:

"Sustainability reports arrive almost daily now. A company's report needs to stand out from the crowd. Ideally, by pushing the envelope in some way -- being forward-thinking, or unusually transparent, or willing to talk honestly about setbacks and frustrations as well as accomplishments and points of pride. We are all so busy and flooded with information. You have to give us something that deserves our attention."

In short, go there. If you can't, you can certainly gain some awareness for your efforts but don't expect it to be front-page national news.

There is, of course, another way to gain national media coverage for your report -- do it wrong. No publicity at all beats coverage of miscalculations or glaring omissions. So, trust but verify before you shout your results from the rooftops.

Above all, be honest and transparent in telling your company's sustainability story. If you think about it, the best practices -- those that best help other companies on their sustainability journey -- often have as much to do with mistakes made and obstacles overcome as with goals achieved.

This article originally appeared at the Fleishman-Hillard Sustainability blog and is reprinted with permission.

Newspaper image via Shutterstock.