Corporate responsibility beyond the giant checks

Monday - 11/15/2010, 3:34pm EST

Rick Kiernan, Senior Vice President of Strategic Communications, L3 MPRI

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As a federal contractor, your company's reputation can depend on your outreach in the community. But it's going to take more than presenting those giant checks, said Rick Kiernan, senior vice president of strategic communications at L3 MPRI, a defense contractor.

Such "grip and grin" images can be seen as disingenuous, Kiernan said in an interview with In Depth with Francis Rose.

Instead, companies with employees who volunteer their time for community events are creating relationships with community members and helping the image of the corporation as a "good neighbor," Kiernan said.

"If you look at a perception of a corporation as being cruel and calculating and somewhat callous and only profit-oriented, this softens that particular image because there is more than the bottom line," he said.

Companies should be careful about how they highlight the outreach work and not be seen as self-serving. People are discerning, and in fact, advertising in general has become "more genuine," relying more on testimonials, Kiernan said.

The best way to spread the word about a company's corporate responsibility is through word of mouth, Kiernan said.

"That message has much more credibility and validity than any advertisement or marketing campaign you can put on," he said. "People touch people."

Community involvement also has the effect of boosting employee morale, Kiernan added. Through an info-net or intranet, employees can find out about each other's community work. This sort of internal advertising encourages others to get involved as well, he said.

Kiernan said an internship program is another way to spread the message of the company's good deeds. Interns may work elsewhere after the internship, but they become "disciples, not only of your product or service, but they go out and they talk about the experience they had and the kind of people who work for your company."