Ethical Marketing: how can SMEs embrace CSR without forfeiting growth?

POSTED BY   Johanna Courtney
29th August 2018

In the rapidly changing world of marketing, any corporate misdeeds can have a negative impact on an organisation’s reputation. Organisations now have to demonstrate that they exist for a greater purpose than simply making a profit. Many large organisations champion Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and dedicate entire departments to CSR alone, so it’s no wonder that many start-ups and SMEs fear CSR as there’s a belief that it’s going to cost the world and hinder growth. So how can we ensure that the tech startups of today are answering the CSR call to be small, medium and ethical?

It’s all about policy

At TDMB this is something we have embraced since inception in 2012. We understand that our team works hard and often go above and beyond for our clients as well as one another. From taking calls at 8:00 pm on a Friday night, to pulling out all the stops to ensure that a last minute job for a client is delivered efficiently and to a high standard. We pride ourselves on our agility. The key to this is ensuring all TDMB team members feel valued.

Integrity is core to how we operate and we make sure when we are interviewing for staff, our key values shine through in all new hires. Having people work for us who genuinely ‘Give a Sh*t’ (yes – that is one of our values!) is one of the most important aspects when recruiting. Skills can be taught, attitude can’t be. We believe very strongly in doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. Treating people with common decency doesn’t have to cost a thing.

Love heart with tech

From offering flexible working arrangements, to supporting charities that are close to our team members’ hearts our attitude is to work efficiently, have a great work-life balance, to prioritise our families so that when it comes to working for the agency and our clients – we are happy and fulfilled and want to do the best job possible. Gone are the strict 9 am – 6 pm hours or enforcing a ‘you must work at the office’ policy – the world is now digital, we host most of our client and team meetings on Google Hangout or Zoom, use tools such as Slack and BaseCamp for internal comms and client projects etc. People have busy lives and families to look after – is spending time and money on a delayed commute to an office really the best way of working? We think not.

But integrity goes much further than that. Two members of the ‘senior’ management team are (or have been) Beaver Scout Leaders and dedicate their time to the little people in our society on a voluntary basis, and as a company policy, staff can volunteer one day a month with a charity of their choice without forgoing a day’s pay. I for one can often be seen running the streets of South London while I train for my next half or full marathon, getting fit and raising money for charities that are close to my heart. These are little things that go a long way. Having an ethical approach is inherent in the attitudes of all people that work for TDMB, it’s part of our collective psyche. It was one of the main reasons why I chose to take up the role of Managing Director – I believe in the organisation, its values and how enthused and motivated the staff are. Finding this quality in an employer isn’t so easy and I am pleased to lead such an ethically minded team of marketing and tech superstars.

I truly believe that having this attitude helps us attract the best people to work at TDMB and build a great rapport with one another and our clients.

Ethics to engage our clients

Earlier this year I read a life-changing book by John Wood and Amalia McGibbon called Purpose, Incorporated. I also had the pleasure of being in an audience with John Wood at The Financial Times earlier this year as he spoke about how he did a complete 360 on his life as a high-flying Microsoft executive, to bring the joy of books and reading to disadvantaged children across the globe with his NFP organisation Room to Read. Room to Read was born after John Wood trekked the Himalayas on holiday and was sad to find a tiny library in a Himalayan community locked up with only a smattering of books inside. There were so few books they were kept under lock and key so the children couldn’t ruin them – but it also meant they never got to read them.

As a result, they had no access to any books. Room to Read is now an international educational organisation that serves over 12.5 million children globally – what a phenomenal achievement! I left that talk feeling inspired, my brain was buzzing with ideas on how I too could help change the world by using my skills and knowledge for the greater good.

Business marketing elements

There is still a strongly held belief in the MIlton-Friedman school of thought that businesses sole purpose is to generate profit for shareholders. There is no doubt that without profit, businesses won’t survive, but after reading this book, what is clear is that having a ‘purpose’ to your business other than making money is not your enemy. In fact, it’s your friend.

The world of tech is quite a close-knit community. In 2012, TDMB was born to help bridge the gap between the tech startups who needed marketing help but didn’t have the marketing expertise, and marketing agencies who would like to work with techies but they had little to no understanding of ‘tech.’ In such a close-knit industry, I am positive that collectively we could use our geek-like passion for all things tech and our marketing know-how to do good.

Focussing on objectives that sit outside of the traditional financial metrics of success should be woven into an organisation’s business plan, as they can have long term benefits for the success of your organisation. As I work with our founder James Dearsley on what our 2019 business plan will look like, I have a CSR idea that I want to activate that I think will bring us techie and marketing geeks together to do good for the world. It’s called the TDMB Foundation.

A network of Good-Geeks

Building on our culture of fairness and a positive ethical approach, I would like to extend the invitation to join the TDMB Foundation out to our network. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could come together and list all of our skills and capabilities and then put them to good use to help others? Is there a small charity that you are passionate about that desperately needs some help executing its social media activity but they don’t have the resource or even know where to start? How about using your robotics and engineering expertise and passing on your tech know-how to enthuse the next generation to pursue a career in tech?

Volunteer colourful hands

Collectively, we have so much to offer that is a force for good, that can change the world we live in for the better, and it doesn’t have to cost the world. The most precious thing we can give is our time – and with our time – wonderful things can happen if we use it wisely.

We are only ever remembered in terms of our last contact, how we engage with our clients, prospects, and our staff. The tone of our written content and how we follow through on our actions speaks wonders not just for ourselves but also for our organisations. You don’t have to be a big corporate to execute CSR, you can be small, medium sized and ethical. If you too are thinking that you would like to ‘do some good’ but are not sure how to go about it, why don’t we join forces and together we can work out a way of putting our skills and know-how to the greater good? If you would like to help me get the TDMB Foundation off the ground then do drop me an email and together we can do something great: johanna@thedigitalmarketingbureau.com



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