Last week I attended the 3rd annual conference of the Center for Global Public Relations at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, an event I planned to attend even before I found out that Microsoft's Tom Murphy was delivering the keynote address. I've been reading Tom's PR blog since 2007, or at least that's the first time I linked to him, and I've been finding share-worthy posts all along, particularly regarding social responsibility.
Although he just moved to Microsoft Windows, he spoke on YouthSpark, Microsoft's CSR program aimed at world youth.
Murphy began with an explanation of the importance of corporate social responsibility in general at Microsoft, which has been engaged in various programs since 1983. Employee giving since that time is now past the $1 billion mark, and it's part of the culture of the organization. Murphy turned the question around: “'How could we not invest this money?' It’s part of our license to operate." He said that employees demand it, consumers and media expect it now. In fact, citizenship is one of 5 key drivers that lead people to choose Microsoft products.
Core tenants about how Microsoft decides which activities to participate in: 1. Must align with the business 2. Needs to be measured (must be impactful) 3. Must be transparent and accountable (Murphy said it's important to tell when something is not going well before other people point it out).
Social responsibility areas: integrity, responsible sourcing, human rights, privacy and safety, environmental sustainability, our people (gender, pay, benefits etc.). Example: Microsoft is now the fifth largest bus company in Washington state because employees get door-to-door service -- with wifi (are you listening, UGA?).
Ways of serving communities: empowering nonprofits (the company provides free tech to nonprofits), humanitarian disaster response, employee giving (matching up to $12,000), philanthropy (since 1983, cash, products and service donations total $6.5 billion).
Murphy then went into an explantion of the YouthSpark program specifically. Two years ago the company reframed its philanthropy around youth after it realized that the economic downturn was disproportionately affecting youth. He said it took 18 months to retool, and that Bill Gates revealed the new program at the World Economic Forum, making a public commitment to help 300 million young people in next few years..
Murphy said that 25% of working poor in the world are young, with an unemployment rate double that of rest of population. There is an opportunity divide (varies by country situation), but one solution doesn’t fit all. Therefore in the U.S. the company is focusing on STEM education with a National Talent Strategy. Get kids here started early, get young people from other countries here, or else the company will have to outsource.
From a PR perspective Murphy said they began with a listening tour and met with journalists to start a dialogue about the program, had a New York Times story placement, hosted an online webinar to launch initiative -- 10,000 people watched live online, but they also launched at a Mashable conference, etc., providing multiple moments to reach multiple audiences.
Murphy said the program has 3 pillars: education (ex: Skype in the classroom), employment and entrepreneurship. He explained that 15 divisions of Microsoft are involved, and the program is run by citizenship group.
Next, Murphy shared key learnings: "avoid being needlessly global and hopelessly local"; YouthSpark provides a framework but allows people to develop the program locally. He also said that CSR is not a large driver of public relations; instead, you have to tell each little story -- hyperlocal and hyperspecific. Finally, he said that social media are becoming more important. Traditional media still drives the agenda without question, but social media are increasingly important for companies and people to connect and share.
During the Q&A , Murphy said that consumer research indicated the top drivers for purchase are price, quality, innovation and service; citizenship has now moved into the top 5, but the gap beween it and the top 4 is large. When asked about metrics he said they look at reach, for example, the number of young people reached, surveys of consumers, etc., and they track PR performance – impressions, reach, tone etc. He was also asked about the investment community and said that a small but growing group has an interest in this; "CSR mitigates a lot of risks because we are doing the right thing." He suggested that most publics are expecting it now.
Tom's keynote was the highlight of the conference. Thanks to CGPR for bringing him in!