Posted: Tuesday, September 22, 2015, at 10:00 p.m.
by Taylor Shelnutt.
September. It’s all about the return of football, fall breezes and … social responsibility? One global PR firm thinks so.
For Ketchum, September marks its annual month of service, which falls underneath its umbrella of corporate social responsibility initiatives appropriately termed — you guessed it — Ketchum Social Responsibility (KSR).
The program began in 2007 as a way for employees to give back to communities and make a positive impact around the world. Ketchum partners with Room to Read, raises funds for the American Red Cross, assists United Nations Global Compact initiatives and supports the World Economic Forum.
But the annual KSR month is what really stands out. During September, each Ketchum office is encouraged to act on the firm’s values by volunteering in the surrounding communities. More than 900 employees join the cause each year, giving aid to over 150 organizations to date — cue the warm fuzzies.
Search Ketchum’s Twitter feed, and you’ll find a diverse range of causes and outreach opportunities. Ketchum New York sent a team to deliver meals to people in need last week. In September 2014, the Chicago office and North America CEO Barri Rafferty helped build a new garden. I’ll wait while you add “green thumb” to your résumé.
The do-good epidemic is crossing the border with Ketchum Brazil educating teens on communication tips. Germany got in on the gardening action, while the UK office also grabbed shovels. Add cleaning parks, tutoring students and serving meals to the list of activities, and we’re barely scratching KSR’s shiny surface.
First, the firm is showing it can walk the talk. PR strategists tend to give advice to clients on boosting their social responsibility, and Ketchum has smartly adopted the philosophy for itself. Agencies can actually benefit from taking their own advice.
Second, cause-related initiatives improve company culture. Who doesn’t want to work for a company that pays you to get out of the office? What’s more, it strengthens employees’ connection with the mission and values of the company. And it’s pretty attractive for job-hungry graduates looking to satisfy their generation’s fascination with doing social good.
Third, the opportunity for outreach brings work back into perspective. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the flood of emails greeting you in the morning, your huge new business pitch, or how you’re going to convince The New York Times to run your story. Breathing a little fresh air and talking to people who aren’t jittery on coffee allows for a mental refresh, reminding you of the people and causes behind the press releases and brainstorms you do every day.
Perhaps the largest testament to KSR’s success is how willing busy PR professionals are to postpone their work and pick up a shovel. It’s clear that these causes matter not only to the Ketchum executives, but also to everyone through the chain of command. We’ve known our industry could use a little self-PR to displace the “Sex and the City” stereotype and incorrect assumptions about public relations. It looks like Ketchum has figured out the secret.