The two most used questions by smaller businesses whenever discussing CSR:
1. What’s in it for me?
2. What’s in it for me?
They may look like the same question but they’re not. What the SME owner / manager is probably trying to say is:
1. What’s in it for my business?
2. What’s in it for me as a real person emotionally connected to wider communities but I don’t have the confidence or knowledge to articulate that yet?
We need to understand the difference and why.
Smaller businesses / decision makers don’t know what they don’t know. That is to say they do know their own organisation, market and people very well, and better than any adviser (regardless of what consultants will say). Most are passively active across multiple CSR themes but will struggle to communicate the connection to their strategic business plan.
The communication gulf between the worlds of CSR etc and SMEs is massive and it doesn’t have to be. Right message to the right audience using the right channels. Simples.
As an example, please take a look at this survey and comments posted recently on the Coethica LinkedIn group on CSR for SMEs. I totally understand and support the reasons for the survey and it’s questions, but how effective will it be at targeting SME participation? The language (in English anyway) is far too complicated and the layout is way too oppressive.
For me this is indicative of not only the gap between CSR and SMEs but the wider barrier of communications amongst higher values based business stakeholders.
Check out the survey and let me know what you think. Please share to any SME audiences you may have to help Athens University collect the data and further our understanding, but most of all tell (and Athens Uni) me how you would engage with this particular audience to get such data? Are they asking the right questions? Who will really benefit? What would work more effectively?
And no that isn’t Bill Murray in the picture, that’s me after 15 years of CSR and SMEs 😉