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Creating Industry-Level Interest in Sustainability: Communications Tactics that Work

Communicating sustainability remains a top priority for leading industry associations and business organizations.

Driving sustainability messages home to firms can be challenging. With various platforms at one’s disposal and competing messages hitting target audiences, getting one’s message across can be a thorny task. Despite such challenges, communicating sustainability remains a top priority for leading industry associations and business organizations.

On Thursday, June 19, the Industry Association Council (IAC) at the Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) Canada convened to discuss effective communication activities on sustainability. Facilitated by Ivey Business School Professor of Management Communications, Mary Weil, the IAC session explored the merits and implications of traditional and social media communications tactics in elevating sustainability as a key message within industry circles. The group’s key takeaways included:

LinkedIn is a valuable communications platform.

While it is undeniable that Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can be important channels of communication, LinkedIn as a business-centred social networking site can offer organizations direct outreach to professional audiences in the promotion of their story, brand and reputation. Specifically, LinkedIn enables organizations to:

  • Network: The social media site allows organizations to connect with people and business groups within specific industry circles. By using LinkedIn, an organization can join relevant groups, share information and offer industry-specific insight.

  • Converse: LinkedIn offers organizations an opportunity to showcase thought leadership. By offering its expertise to LinkedIn conversations, an organization can bolster its organization reputation and trust among targeted groups.

  • Tell Stories: Organizations can optimize the value of their LinkedIn profiles by using the on-line platform to share compelling stories about their work culture, services and people. Special applications, such as video, enable organizations to create multimedia experiences for targeted audiences better connecting them to the organization’s brand and mission.

  • Tap into high quality and economical resources: Many industry associations and not-for-profit organizations face budget constraints and operate with small teams. Luckily, there are a host of valuable resources available on line to help these organizations get their messages out on a dime. Members of the IAC specifically pointed to the usefulness of TechSoup (www.techsoupglobal.org or www.techsoup.ca), a website committed to social good offering a wealth of useful tips, webinars and in some cases free or low cost technology for not profit groups.

  • Integrate social & traditional media tactics: Social media has been a communications darling in recent years. Integrated communication plans that leverage both traditional and social media tactics, however, can ensure core messages reach target audiences in varying depth. For instance, while a tweet can be short and pithy, radio interviews allow for deeper dives into important sustainability issues offering a more comprehensive overview of an organization’s sustainability story.

  • Use sustainability as reputational insurance: Sharing sustainability stories both internally and externally can help garner credibility with stakeholders. It can also help protect an organization’s reputational value when situations go awry. Research indicates that the general public and stakeholders are often more forgiving to companies that experience product failures if the organization shows a consistent CSR record.

The workshop provoked a lively debate among participating leaders of several industry associations. In the coming months, IAC members at NBS Canada will explore additional ways to co-create informational products of value to industry associations and their members. Stay tuned to learn more and receive these materials!

Industry Association Council Members

  • Automotive Industries Association of Canada Canadian

  • Association of Petroleum Producers

  • Canadian Electricity Association

  • Canadian Energy Pipeline Association

  • Cement Association of Canada

  • Chemistry Industry Association of Canada

  • Federation of Plastics and Alliances Composites

  • Hotel Association of Canada

  • Provision Coalition

  • Purchasing Management Association of Canada

  • Railway Association of Canada

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