Companies walk the fine line on Haiti with PR

As the terrible news unfolds about the earthquake in Haiti, companies are trying to figure out how they can help but also how they can get credit for helping.  I’ve talked to several clients on this subject and they all raise the same challenge:  how do we get credit for the help we give without it coming across as though we are only helping so that we get some positive press.  The reality is of course that good companies won’t try and exploit a disaster to get attention.  Good companies will do the right thing and if in doing the right thing people notice, then all well and good.  I know that many PROs will be encouraged to try and get people to notice the good things being done to help the people of Haiti but I for one would prefer to all the effort go in to helping people rather than into publicity.  Now if publicity in turn helps people by making more people give money or time then go get that publicity.  In other words make your relief efforts genuine and not a thinly veiled advert for the company.

When Katrina struck, a poster child for good action was WalMart.  They loaded trucks with basic goods and drove to the region.  They didn’t send out a press release telling people.  Truly good acts don’t go unnoticed.  Sometimes it takes time for people to notice but notice they will and word of mouth will eventually make sure people find out.  I’ve already noticed that major online brands such as Google, Amazon and eBay have links on their homepages so you can help the people in Haiti. Interestingly though I can’t find a major offline brand that has a similar link.  There’s no good reason I can see for that. Follow Google’s link for example and it tells you how you can donate.  It doesn’t tell you what Google is doing itself.  There’s no reason why Ford, Bank Of America, Coca Cola, Next Fifteen or anyone else couldn’t do the same…

At the end of the day, good corporate social responsibility boils down to:  Doing what’s right and doing what you can.