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Public Relations (PR) Social Good Marketing

Timpson holds the key to CSR done well

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By Kineta Kelsall, Founder

August 18, 2023 | 7 min read

Kineta Kelsall, founder and director at the School of Social, explains why more brands could improve their CSR efforts by closely examining a 150-year-old UK business called Timpson.

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We keep hearing that consumers are supposedly more brand-savvy than ever. If it’s not good for the baby animals or the bottle isn’t biodegradable, we aren’t buying into it. We also know that genuine social responsibility can equal sales and pound signs.

More than 50% of global consumers reportedly consider a company’s CSR practices when making purchasing decisions, and 43% of millennials claim to have made a CSR-driven purchase in the past year.

It’s probably why we love brands like Oatly, Who Gives a Cr*p and, most deliciously, Tony’s Chocolate. They don’t just shout about what consumers proclaim to care about; they mean it and get their hands dirty in their respective social impact missions.

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On the other hand, preaching your brand’s actions to highlight moral values on a superficial level is commonly known as ‘virtue-signaling.’ It can often turn off or even alienate the people they’re trying to impress. And in sustainability, the ASA and consumers are sniffing out greenwashing marketing as the climate crisis looms.

Timpson, however, gets CSR right. The key-cutting and repairs store has enjoyed 150 years on the high street and has acquired numerous retail companies. But it still maintains the family feels thanks to the great-grandson of the founder, Sir John Timpson, still steering the ship.

Its CSR commitment focuses on supporting marginalized communities, such as happily employing ex-offenders. This dedication is rooted in their family heritage. Timpson goes beyond broadcasting these efforts – it has established comprehensive training programs, engaged with these communities’ specific needs and aspirations, and provided continuous support during and after incarceration. The authenticity lies in the fact that this isn’t just a tick-box exercise to make Timspons look good, but it genuinely understands the importance of purpose.

It is evident as they equip individuals with the tools and training needed for a fresh start, beyond just practicalities but also with the support of their interest and care for mental health in the workplace, as stipulated here.

I recently picked up a book co-authored by Sir John Timpson and Louise Michelle Bomber, which offers invaluable insights into turning life’s setbacks into opportunities – a reflection of Timpson’s core ethos and commitment to individuals who may have had a tough start out to life.

Sir John Timpson consistently challenges stereotypes and wholeheartedly supports the younger generation without judgment – a theme beautifully echoed in this book series. He has empowered over 1,000 young individuals, offering fair wages and ensuring they feel valued. His authentic support defies negative stereotypes surrounding marginalized groups and dispels debates about the Gen Z work ethic, setting an example of purpose-driven leadership that permeates the Timpson brand. It’s genuine.

Amid the sea of superficiality, the Timpson brand stands out by its meaningful actions offline within communities. It’s the real deal.

In a world where it’s easy to make empty proclamations to support marginalized groups or external causes like International Women’s Day or BLM, such declarations must resonate from the heart of the boardroom rather than seeking trend-based validation.

It’s evident that Timpson’s commitment to social responsibility is deeply ingrained in their ethos. However, the brand has a notable opportunity to amplify its meaningful work and narrative across its social media channels. While it has quietly made a substantial impact within its loyal customer base and through word-of-mouth, its online presence has room for improvement.

Timpson has a unique and authentic story to share in a landscape where consumers are increasingly conscious of a brand’s social responsibility practices. By strategically leveraging its social platforms, it can engage its existing customers and reach a broader audience who may not yet be aware of its significant efforts.

The opportunity lies in striking a balance between humility and visibility. Timpson’s commitment to social responsibility deserves to be celebrated, and doing so through its social media channels can help inspire and engage a new wave of socially conscious consumers. It’s not about boasting; it’s about shining a light on its positive impact in the communities they serve.

Tips for a CSR marketing strategy:

  1. Have a strategy.

  2. CSR should start in the boardroom, not on social.

  3. Bring individuals into the conversation early who have a genuine opinion or experience on the matter. And that’s often beyond the boardroom.

  4. What is your business’s primary service or product, and what CSR aligns with? Are you trying to fit a square into a circle by tenuously linking your service or product to a social justice cause or sustainability?

  5. Once your business starts aligning with the value it wants to promote and talk about, you know you’ve created a culture of authenticity from a CSR perspective.

  6. Post about it on social media - but make sure the action starts and continues offline.

  7. CSR strategy should align with your brand values, not your marketing team’s objectives.

Public Relations (PR) Social Good Marketing

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