Just Ask Consumers and Employees They Serve

By: Jeb Ory & Sima Biondi, Phone2Action

Today, people have access to more news and information than ever before. This means people have more insight about what their employer and their favorite companies stand for, as well. And people are increasingly expecting companies to give back to their communities and to support their employees. We expect these trends to continue to increase, creating new opportunities for employees and companies to work together on social advocacy issues, reinforcing the positive work the company is doing in its community.

The Public Affairs Council (PAC) recently published a report entitled “Taking a Stand: How Corporations Speak Out on Social Issues,” highlighting the increasingly interwoven relationship between the private sector and public service.

Companies and nonprofit organizations alike are facing increasing pressure to engage in public policy because employees and customers are expecting more from the companies with which they work. Widespread access to smartphones and the Internet have expanded opportunities for people to get involved in issues they care about. Organizations, in turn, are leveraging mobile technology because it is the easiest and most effective means to do so. In July 2016, the PAC found that 60 percent of the companies surveyed experienced rising stakeholder pressure to engage with social issues over the last three years, and 74 percent of the corporations expected the pressure to participate to increase in a couple of years.

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“For many corporations, key social issues have become business issues, often with bottom-line impact,” said Sheree Anne Kelly, Senior Vice President at the PAC. “Sophisticated corporate public affairs professionals no longer communicate exclusively with policymakers; but now must successfully communicate their policy positions to customers, employees, important advocacy organizations and a host of other stakeholders.”

Employees and customers have been driving organizations to contribute to a dialogue on social issues. A study conducted by researchers at George Mason University indicates that employees with a sense of purpose are more productive. Low levels of productivity and motivation hurt companies; a 2010 Gallup article found lower job satisfaction foreshadowed poorer bottom-line performance. These two trends clearly indicate that employees with a sense of purpose about their work are more productive, while those with lower job satisfaction are less productive. And social engagement represents an opportunity to strengthen that sense of purpose.

The effect extends to customers as well: customers prefer companies that make a positive impact on the world. Nielsen’s 2014 report “Doing Well by Doing Good” found that “55 percent [of consumers] will pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.” One great way for companies to do this is to empower their employees and customers to engage on pressing social issues of the day, as a new manifestation of corporate social responsibility.

Our own startup, Phone2Action, offers a platform to power civic engagement, and we’ve seen this as a real trend, with more and more of our customers using the platform this way. Customer Lindsay Dahl, who serves as Vice President of Community Affairs & Engagement at Beautycounter, says:

Beautycounter is devoted to progress. We provide a wealth of empowering information about ways we can all make the world healthier, along with safer products you can trust. We’ve been using the Phone2Action platform to reach thousands of advocates through everyday social media channels. Our mission is to put the truth back in beauty, and one way we do this is by engaging customers and the general public on environmental and health policies that affect us and the products we use.”

This sort of focus on social engagement is reflective of what we’ve been seeing more broadly in the market, and it makes sense.

Today customers and employees have more choice, and access to information, than ever before. Customers can buy products from anywhere, and employees can choose to work at socially conscious companies. Increasingly — especially among millennials — people prefer to work for and buy from organizations that clearly articulate their values. Widespread smartphone and Internet access allows employees and customers to find and share virtually unlimited information, holding companies to a new standard. These new conduits of communication are creating opportunities for companies to reflect their values while enticing potential buyers and motivating employees. In the 21st century, economic success and passionately pursuing community change are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re more closely linked than ever before.