What role does social media have when thinking about sustainability in organisations? How does it impact employees and how can they have their voice heard?
All of these topics and more are addressed in a brand new book by Iliyana Stareva (pictured), who has written a guest article for my blog to provide a taster of what we can expect to read.
Iliyana lives in Germany and is a Social Media Account Manager at PR and Social Media consultancy Brandzeichen, part of Ketchum. She holds a Double Degree Bachelor in International Business from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Dortmund (Germany) and Plymouth University (UK).
Over to you Iliyana…
Social media for sustainability: How employees matter
Over the past decade two relatively new business paradigms have shaken up the corporate world – social media and sustainability.
As Rob Flaherty, @flahertyrob, global CEO of Ketchum, said at this year’s CIPR International Maggie Nally Lecture, new social technologies have led to a shift in power from institutions to individuals.
Social media has given everyone a voice to openly demand change and expect responsibility and social consciousness from brands to strike the triple bottom line balance between economic, environmental and social concerns.
This post-illusion era is characterised by transparency and the requirement to walk the talk – two values that are fundamental to sustainability too.
The major challenge in the 21st century sustainability is not the lack of technology, but the need to transform consumer behaviour, which can only be done by educating society and facilitating knowledge.
What does this mean for organisations?
This means that businesses today are required to effectively communicate their efforts and to also make them relevant to the community by involving and engaging people to take action.
In its essence, promoting real change is a result of transparent, interactive, ethical and honest two-way communication. However, finding and making correct use of the right avenues and tools seems to be another challenge for brands.
Here is where the big opportunity behind the integration of social media into the overall communication practice lies.
As social media and sustainability share the same values – community, transparency, authenticity, innovation, creativity and collaboration – combining and embedding them into the organisation can be a powerful source of competitive advantage.
How and why can social media create business sustainability value? And what are the risks?
Exactly that is the topic of my new book “Social Media – Key for Sustainability Communications”, which Rachel so kindly offered me to present on her blog.
The central question the book answers is whether and how social media communications can be a value creation mechanism that helps enhance the long-term well-being of people and build a more sustainable consumption culture, by simultaneously improving the bottom line.
Providing numerous real-world examples and best/worst practice advice, the book examines the two roles social media can play for sustainability communications – as a support tool or as a menace.
When I was writing my BA dissertation (which is essentially the basis of this book) I couldn’t find one single book or study that focuses exclusively on this topic.
Sure, many blogs and some book chapters such as chapter 22 in the best-selling book Share This Too: More Social Media Solutions for PR Professionals talk about social media and sustainability.
Therefore, I hope that publishing my work as a book will fill this gap in the market and offer companies, professionals, academics and students a good source to help them learn more about how social media can be effectively used in sustainability communications and what should be avoided.
How is the book relevant for internal communications?
According to research by EYMG employees have emerged as key stakeholders in driving sustainability programmes ranking with 22% at number two of the most important interest groups (after customers (37%) and before shareholders (15%), making employee engagement highly relevant for organisational comms strategies.
To reach, educate and inspire the new Generation C consumer about sustainability companies are required to innovate and embrace social technologies.
Innovation and change, however, start from within. And as mentioned at the beginning, changing behaviour is the biggest challenge for sustainability.
Informing and engaging employees is the first step towards driving credibility and relevance in organisational sustainability efforts because employees are a company’s best advocates.
Employees who believe and act upon company values, share corporate sustainability efforts with family and friends and thereby become a powerful voice for spreading sustainability messages, endorsing company products and inspiring cultural and social change. Employees should therefore be treated as an internal and an external audience.
However, internal and external communications have to be aligned. Walking the talk is critical.
In the era of social media, greenwashing can never stay hidden – and in most cases, the truth is unveiled by company employees.
To become change agents who effectively utilise social media as the motor of transformation towards sustainability, enterprises must start from within.
Post author: Iliyana Stareva.