the grass is greener on the internet

On aid
October 19, 2011, 6:58 pm
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When will the world learn that it’s not the size of the aid, it’s the way you use it?


National Green Jobs Corps: knee-jerk or compromise?
July 31, 2009, 10:20 pm
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I’m loving the phrase ‘National Green Jobs Corps’. It doesn’t lend itself very well to acronymity but it does give the air of a revolution; a revolution that will sweep across the country like a huge wholesome broom, leaving nothing but a few specks of evasive dust in its wake**.

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Employer branding: does Gen Y want CSR?
July 15, 2009, 3:36 pm
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PR is lovely. It allows companies to make newsflashes of ‘insight’ into topics ‘we have little to no understanding of’ (ie. Gen Y**) and promote themselves in the process.

Recent example: Morgan Stanley’s report by a 15 year old intern on why teenagers don’t use Twitter.

Let’s just ignore the fact that I’ve seen umpteen posts saying exactly the same thing from ‘Gen Y’ blogs. I think a more sensational headline might have been ’15 year old interns handling affairs of global financial management company’.

Like I said, PR is lovely.

This brings me to my original question: does Gen Y really look for CSR when choosing an employer?

…because according to headlines from several large companies, this is a key requirement tabled by ‘Gen Y’ in interviews.

Is this really true or just a marketing stunt?

  1. It allows the company to grab a headline
  2. It makes students think that if everyone else is aware of it maybe they should be too
  3. A further 250 words can be devoted to the company’s CSR efforts

[Let us note at this point that just because a story has been used for marketing purposes, it is not necessarily made up – the Morgan Stanley case demonstrates this.]

However, as a blanket statement, I don’t think you can say that ‘Gen Y’ feels CSR is important in an employer.

Rants on the general nature of the term ‘Gen Y’ aside, at the moment those just graduating or in junior roles are mostly just glad to GET a job. Many will not have the option to ‘choose’ their employer, and they will rank pay and job description higher than CSR in importance. It only comes into play where all else is equal. (Not that it’s so black and white – it’s usually that we like the brand more from the impression we get.)

This is something we’ve seen from before the GFC, though. Unethical corporate behaviour can be a disincentive, but proactive CSR strategies mostly only aid HR in forming company culture.

Not to say that CSR is not important – as a generation we are more aware of environmental issues hearing about a brand doing ‘good things’ can leave us with a better feeling.

But from talking to a variety of people, there is only a select group to whom CSR is very important. They’re generally highly educated, grew up with volunteer work or come from a religious educational background. Caring about issues like sustainability or human rights often coincides with a dedication to studies and long-term results. If they form part of your target market for candidates then your employer brand will benefit from an extensive CSR program.

Me personally? I wouldn’t feel comfortable working for an unethical employer and would much prefer to go for a job where I have the opportunity to continue making an impact on causes I believe in. Quite a few friends are the same. But I know we’re definitely not the majority.

**Irony fully intended.

CSR: it’s a culture, not a role
July 7, 2009, 11:39 am
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Too often, when I ask representatives of corporations (in the wide-eyed innocent manner only a prospective graduate can achieve) what their CSR program is the answer is a resounding “Errr…”

This is most disappointing when one of the key parts of their marketing pitch to ‘Gen Y’ is that they are socially responsible.

I’d like to look at this from a branding and strategy perspective.

If one of your reps didn’t know about one of the other ‘five basic tenets’ of your business, say, client service, you’d fire them on the spot.

The best way to communicate the values that your company wants to represent are through the actions of the people that make it up. Increasingly, due to societal pressure, companies are throwing ‘the community’ on a list of things they value. But how can staff embody company values if they don’t even understand them?

As more and more companies get on the bandwagon, CSR will shift to being a hygeine factor and the motivation will have to come from interesting concepts and authentic execution.

If you are going to go for CSR programs, it’s NOT just a ‘role’ that you can palm off to one person in corporate communications. It’s not a profession, it’s not a function. It’s part of company culture.

Otherwise, you end up with the situation I described earlier. For the students you’re trying to attract who care about CSR and want to know you’re doing it, that would be an ‘epic fail’ (to use ‘Gen Y’ speak).

All it takes (imho) is training and dialogue. This is why I’d like to see companies like Carbon Planet not just offering carbon credits and consultation but also training for entire organisations.

Make sure that your employees have an idea of what your company is doing. (Especially if you’re in an ‘evil’ industry like oil.) Better yet, an understanding. The feeling that through little extra personal effort they’re part of an organisation which is helping the community gives employees something to feel good about.

At the very least, please, brief them before sending them out to represent your company.

I’d like to add something for evangelists of CSR: it’s important to remember that when you’re talking to people outside of the CSR community the things that are obvious to you may not to be obvious to them.

It’s a constant sales pitch. You need to convince them in a way that doesn’t make them hate you.

Sweeping ‘obviously we must do this’ statements, absolute refusal to discuss other points of view, spam; they’re annoying and they give others who don’t want to listen the perfect excuse to brush you off.

If you’re going to call for action, how you’re communicating is just important as what you’re communicating.

Vlogging is the future for NFPs?
May 27, 2009, 12:50 pm
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Last week I spoke to the lovely Karen Gryst of Connecting Up Australia,  an organisation which works to connect NGOs through technology. They’re also Microsoft’s most successful distributor of products to NGOs, offering a variety of software and hardware at special rates.

In Karen’s view, video is going to be the best medium for NFPs to get their message across online in the future.


  • It’s easy to relate to – it shows issues in a tangible way.
  • It’s getting cheaper and easier to produce.
  • Distribution to a wide audience costs nothing.

There’s a lot of case studies, mostly coming out of the US, of how videos are becoming a dominant storytelling medium for various causes. Some great technology I didn’t know about is the flip, a small portable video camera from Cisco that plugs straight into a computer. With developments like that, video will become even more accessible than it is today.

The issue for me is how videos with a cause are going to stand out from the clutter. What do we do when ‘not another picture of a starving African child’ is replaced with ‘not another video competition with a cause’?

Connecting Up recently ran their annual conference (that I wish I could have attended) including Beth Kanter, Cheryl Kernot, Tracey Fellows (Microsoft), Peter Deitz (Social Actions), Alan Noble (Google) and Monique Potts (ABC). (To see what happened at the conference, look for the social media tag cua09 on Twitter and Flickr or check out highlights on the conference website.)

They also have annual awards for best case practices in technology in the NGO sector. If you know of any Australian NGOs utilising technology or social media in innovative ways, make sure they enter!

Recruitment is branding too
March 18, 2009, 9:24 pm
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Here’s a few thoughts on careers fairs straight from Gen Y:

  • If you’re advertising an aspect of your business as an area of interest for your recruits – let’s say, CSR and volunteering opportunities – all of your reps should know about it. Not just HR. (If HR knows.) If your 6 month recruit has no clue, what does that say about induction processes and the integration of CSR into company culture??
  • We don’t have business cards, but if YOU don’t that’s just poor form. If we’ve been talking to you about your company, it’s nice to know that we can contact the same friendly person later.
  • Most students are just cruising for free things. Popcorn is a winner. And a good demonstration that buzz does not equal results.
  • We can smell desperation.

Generally, the people I talked to were great – and I was pushing the limits of ‘it’s as much about students testing companies as it is about companies testing students’.

A little disappointed about the lack of knowledge at times though. Evidently some ‘core values’ weren’t core values at all.

GFC was definitely hitting – a lot less free food than usual.
Best freebie: USB radio (thanks DSD! even relates to your core business).
Worst: fluoro erasers (you expect us to, like, write?), closely followed by the usual array of unidentifiable confectionery.

Government departments also appear to have multiplied. Either that or they are the only people not solely looking for accountants.

Arguing for CSR
December 8, 2008, 8:45 pm
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After reading this article on the Marketing & Strategy blog, I feel like CSR is going to suffer death by vagueness.

So I’ve written this post on Brandcurve – I had originally intended it for this blog (with slightly more colourful language) but I think it’s of better use there.

Call me an idealist, but when I think about what the world *could* be like if everyone did just a little bit more for the common good…how much better would things be?

It just takes a little bit.

[Which reminds me – if you’re in Australia, consider donating your empty cans/bottles to One Village’s Bottles for Bricks program. They’ll be recycling them (10c each in SA) with the proceeds going towards building a school in Uganda.]