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Article • 24/05/2022

PR360: Comms leaders can harness insights to navigate the ESG ‘minefield’

An interesting couple of days in Brighton, listening to a number of talented PR Professionals discuss how they are attempting to navigate the post covid era, cancel culture and the opportunities and risks that ESG initiatives represent.

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation by Firdaous El Honsali. Firdauos obviously has her own individual sense of purpose and the work she has done to help young women is incredible. She is truly making a difference. From a measurement point of view I winced a little when she mentioned that the campaign had a potential reach of 6 billion. Big numbers like this are useful to a degree but I was concerned that this would detract from the actual aim of the campaign which is to make young women feel better about themselves and not hold themselves to unrealistic expectations. I was interested to hear that there was an education programme in parallel with the campaign and I would love to hear about the impact of this. Can we demonstrate that the campaign has made a tangible difference on opinion and behaviour? Intuitively it feels like it would and it is great to see such a huge brand take this initiative.

It’s difficult at a conference to go beyond the top level and I’d like the opportunity to get in the weeds of a number of the issues raised. ESG, perhaps unsurprisingly, was at the top of the agenda and it felt that most people were grappling with how to deal with ESG in an authentic way in the midst of accusations of greenwashing. I heard ESG called the wild west and a minefield so this should indicate to you how the PR industry is feeling. It is clear that an ESG initiative needs to be thought of at the strategic level, not something that should be taken lightly. I see a lot of new roles being developed that are focusing on ESG and that has to be the right approach. It is far too important an initiative to be someone’s second job in the way ‘social’ media used to be.

ESG measurement is becoming more sophisticated

The danger is that ESG becomes another acronym used in PR Measurement. I’ve been talking to clients for the past two to three years about ESG, and whilst initially I was simply asked for an ESG report, things are now becoming more sophisticated. Companies and brands now understand that it is not enough to simply do ESG.

ESG, in my opinion, is the opportunity that PR & Communications have been waiting for. For a long time now PR & Communications have struggled to get a seat at the top table, but with ESG this is changing quickly. Our recent report: The state of Corporate reputation and business performance indicates that 92% of business leaders think ESG issues will impact on business reputation in the next 12 months. PR & Communications leaders are uniquely positioned to provide their businesses with accurate insight into the risks and opportunities surrounding ESG and accurate data in terms of performance of initiatives. They are also the people who will be the face of a company during a crisis. All of this equals more emphasis and more focus on PR & Communications.

How Signal AI is helping clients measure ESG

So how can we help our clients at Signal AI navigate the minefield and take advantage of the gold rush that is ESG? I’ve listed a few ways below:

  • Monitoring of the supply chain to provide an early warning system of potential reputation damage.
  • Measurement of ESG campaigns – are messages resonating, are we making a difference with our key stakeholders?
  • Insight into where you sit in your sector. Where is the white space that helps us get our message across more effectively? Can we collaborate with our competitors or peers?
  • Build an ESG reputation score and track yourselves against competitors and peers.

As I said earlier, I’d love the opportunity to get in the weeds of a few of the initiatives discussed at the PR360 Conference. True measurement should be about Impact. PR & Communications have a huge challenge and opportunity to truly make a difference. Using data to both develop strategy and demonstrate success of initiatives will help PR & Communications leaders inform their businesses with credibility.

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