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Why are corporations trying to emulate fraternals?

I belong to a number of professional associations and societies, but the one I find most valuable is the Public Affairs Council (PAC), a trade group for public affairs professionals of both for-profit and non-profit corporations. I spent 25 years in the public affairs arena, doing work for a university, a national insurance broker, and trade associations representing independent insurance agents and property/casualty insurance companies. The educational programs and resource material provided by the PAC has enhanced my personal skills and increased the value of the contributions I’ve made to the organizations for whom I’ve worked and, in the case of the American Fraternal Alliance, that I’ve been selected to lead.

Public affairs is an often under-appreciated discipline; and, unlike sales and marketing, it’s almost impossible to quantify the impact of the investment that companies make in this arena. But in an environment where consumers want to deal with companies that provide value and values (see my previous blog posting for more on this), more and more for-profit corporations are getting serious about their public affairs activity and their “corporate social responsibility.” Just ask the dozens of public affairs executives from some of America’s most respected corporations who gathered last month in SF for the PAC’s “Corporate Community Involvement” Conference.

I attended the conference for a couple reasons: 1) I wanted to do a little corporate espionage. What better way to know what our colleagues and competitors are doing than to sit in a room and listen to them tell you? Talk about “hide in plain sight”…; 2) More importantly, I wanted to learn more about why for-profit corporations are investing so heavily in community outreach initiatives, how they determine what activities and organizations to support through employee volunteerism and corporate contributions, and how they measure the effectiveness of these programs.

Here’s the simple answer: corporate community involvement (we might call it “fraternalism”) is just good business. Companies that engage in these activities share some common characteristics, including:

  • A more engaged, happy, and loyal workforce
  • A more satisfied customer base
  • A wonderful story to share with public policymakers
  • A better bottom line

The fact of the matter is that there are a number of for-profit corporations out there that are “out-fraternaling” fraternals – and doing so profitably! I’ve got reams of information to share with you, and rather than give it to you in one large bucket, I’ll parse it out slowly in several blog posting over the next couple weeks.

Later this week, I’ll share with you the story of two well-known corporations and their (successful) efforts to align their business and social responsibility missions. I welcome your comments on how your society – or for-profits in your community – are working to enhance community involvement and boost the bottom line…

One Response

  1. Maybe your information can awaken a “sleeping giant.” A little competition in “our” business (specialness; uniqueness) maybe isn’t all bad. Thanks for the insight and update.

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