Using Social Media for Inbound Strategic Messaging of Sustainability Programs

As part of my exclusive series on social media for sustainability programs for Sustainable Business Forum, I look at the strategic messaging used to promote internal stakeholder adoption, what we call Stage 2 activities.  In Part 1 of the series, we defined an information and program life cycle for social media and social business tool use in sustainability programs.  In Part 2 of the series, we looked at examples of how businesses are using social media platforms to “declare to the world” their objectives and intentions of their sustainability programs.

As social media platforms mature, organizations are looking to leverage social and informal communications internally for business programs.  These social business tools, available now as both extensions to proprietary environments and as open source, stand-alone platforms, create new opportunities for executives and program managers to “hone their strategic message” platform and to gain adoption for sustainability efforts inside the organization.

Relative position of Internal Communications and Marketing – sustainability programs should delineate between the two in terms of purpose and focus. (source: Booz & Company as modified by Newport Consulting Group)

With so many emerging platforms to choose from – everything from internally-focused Facebook groups, YouTube, and Google+ “hang outs” to more sophisticated project based platforms such as Microsoft SharePoint and Jive Software – it’s tough to get a handle on where to begin.  With so many new social business platforms emerging every week,  the question becomes: does the platform work for sustainability programs and is one platform better than another?

Indeed one of the first issues to address is the role of communication inside the organization.  Key to this issue is who is going to own internal communications and who will build this capability, particularly in the area of content creation, for the sustainability program.   This can be tightly integrated with outbound, conventional marketing communications.  Indeed there is a “hand and glove” role between the two – however therein also lies the danger.  “If internal communications starts to sound like it is selling rather than to inform or build consensus, employees may feel as though the sustainability program is ‘green washing’ the company,” explained Newport Consulting Group’s Cindy Jennings, Principal for Sustainability Management services.  “The focus of the sustainability program is to share information and company objectives to build support inside the organization and to select supplier partners.  Leave sales communications for the sales teams.”

Many large corporations, such as Texas Instruments, use internal intranet sites to facilitate sustainability information and program communication. TI’s “INFOLINK” uses standard web-based platforms including polls, blogs and wikis related to their sustainability program.

The importance of getting the employees on-board with sustainability programs should never be under-estimated.  “Our employees are the most important stakeholders in our program since they make our objectives possible,” recounts Lara Hussain, Sustainability Director of Texas Instruments (TI).  Story-telling can be key to the success of internal communications used to promote sustainability programs.  Sustainability teams can provide providing engaging content in blogs, articles or news feeds shared through social business tools.

Hussain recalls that at first the TI approach was simply sharing relevant articles on what was happening in the area of sustainability for education and awareness. “We started with a sustainability website internally, with articles that focused on sustainability use both in the company and at home.  Then we added an open discussion thread on how and why sustainability is important.” Soon this led to animated videos, short and simple, produced internally.  “We experiment every year to find new ways to engage and inspire employees and maintain our focus on sustainability,” explains Hussain.

To read the full story, please visit SustainableBusinessForum.com.  Many thanks to Lara Hussain from Texas Instruments who contributed to this article with her outstanding program example.

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1 Comment

Filed under Audit and Oversight, Change Management and Leadership, Communication Planning, Compliance, Mobile Society, Program Management, Risk Management, Sustainability, Technology

One response to “Using Social Media for Inbound Strategic Messaging of Sustainability Programs

  1. Pingback: Using Social Business Tools to Increase Performance Management and Reporting in Sustainability Programs | The View from C-Level

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