Social Enterprise or CSR? How to Differentiate Your Organization Through Marketing and Communications

5 min read

Imagine if today, Coca-Cola announced a corporate social responsibility initiative directly within your social enterprise’s wheelhouse. How could you differentiate your company’s mission from their campaign? Whether social enterprise or CSR, you have to be able to communicate your benefits.

Often, already-established for-profit companies will instill corporate social responsibility, or CSR, initiatives into their businesses in an effort to be more conscious of the world around them and have a greater positive impact. Among these messages of social do-gooding coming from established players, it can sometimes be difficult for younger, upstart social enterprise companies to break through and differentiate their missions from those CSR initiatives.

It can sometimes be difficult for younger, upstart social enterprise companies to break through and differentiate their missions from those CSR initiatives. Click To Tweet

But social enterprises and CSR platforms at corporations have some clear differences, and you can leverage marketing and communications to help your company stand out from the pack.

Social Enterprise or CSR? How They’re Different

Corporate social responsibility rose to prominence within the last couple decades because many companies began to understand that they could play a role in positive change. They also recognized consumer preferences for companies that give back. Social enterprises go as far back as the mid-1800s, but saw an evolution into the model we think of today in the 1980s. Today, many consumers may not be able to distinguish whether a company is a social enterprise or just engaging in CSR.

While this is not always the case, simply put, a CSR arm of a corporation acts out of a perceived obligation to society and the communities in which they work –– ultimately with profits in mind. On the other hand, a social enterprise is focused on maximizing social benefits from the beginning. Additionally, a CSR may choose projects that align specifically with its parent business’s strategic goals, while a social enterprise chooses projects based on its team’s observations of need in its communities or the world as a whole. For social enterprises, profits are just an added benefit of helping solve those problems or offering a product or service that raises awareness about key issues to a wider range of people.

How to Differentiate Your Social Enterprise from CSR

While many social enterprises like yours may not have the same initial name recognition as a huge company that is starting to dabble in social responsibility, flexibility in your communications and marketing tactics can help you spread awareness about how your company is unique. Here’s how you can work to stand out from a corporation’s CSR initiatives:

Emphasize that your mission was there from the beginning

The fact that you’re a social enterprise, actually founded on impact as opposed to just profits, can set you apart. Being able to tell your social enterprise’s origin story across multiple platforms will ensure your audiences understand that your organization’s primary goal is impact, not just profits.

Put your mission and vision at the forefront of your communication

In everything you do, emphasize the good that comes from it. Effective messaging that describes how you want to change the world for the better often stems from an effective social enterprise mission statement and vision statement. Your vision statement should answer the question: what would the world look like if you met all of your goals? That’s the north star that you want all of your stakeholders to aspire to as well, and your mission is what you do to achieve it.

You can incorporate elements of your mission and vision into all communications like social media posts, email blasts and website messaging to more effectively spread awareness about what you do and why you do it.

Leverage a powerful personality at the helm

Whether it’s through a founder or co-founder, another brand spokesperson with authority in your space or your entire team, as a social enterprise, you have an opportunity humanize your communications. A CSR initiative of a large corporation may not have this same opportunity because they often have rigid company brand guidelines to adhere to. But by leveraging individual company personalities through social media, speaking engagements and more, you can draw a more personal connection between your social enterprise brand and your audiences.

But by leveraging individual company personalities through social media, speaking engagements and more, you can draw a more personal connection between your social enterprise brand and your audiences. Click To Tweet

Partner with an impactful nonprofit, social enterprise or CSR

If there is a nonprofit organization, another social enterprise or CSR with a mission or program that aligns with yours, consider reaching out to partner with them to expand your impact. These partnerships can come through in partner product launches with other social enterprises, specific campaigns in partnership with nonprofits, co-hosting events with a CSR initiative and more. When social enterprises and other organizations collaborate –– not compete –– the entire social sector is stronger.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a social enterprise or CSR initiative within a corporation, you need a strategic marketing plan.

To learn more about creating an effective, mission-aligned marketing plan for your social enterprise, download our worksheets: “The Essential Social Enterprise Marketing Plan Template.” In it, you’ll learn how to implement our proven 4-D System for marketing planning tailored to the realities of social enterprises.

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