Media advocacy is one of the most pervasive methods for charities and non-profit organizations to advance a social cause through informing the general public (Kotler & Lee, 2005). These organizations create advertising or public service announcements that infiltrate the commercial environment of media outlets in an attempt to raise awareness and fundraise on behalf of specific social issues. Through understanding the principles and effects corporate social responsibility and analyzing previous installments of CSR in media outlets, it is possible to maintain a balance among duties of reporting the truth, while simultaneously maintaining a profitable business, and improving the society a publication or company serves.
Defining Charitable Organization The first step to understanding CSR is determining what constitutes a charitable organization. In the United States, a charitable organization is defined as a non-profit group that is created with the intent to benefit the general public. Each state has varying laws regarding requirements and policies for the creation of a charitable organization, as well as the regular formalities for organizations that solicit contributions (Kotler & Lee, 2005).
The Internal Revenue Service allows benefactors to file contributions to state-approved organizations as tax exemptions. The following types of charitable organizations are permitted under federal tax code: relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of education or science; erection or maintenance of public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening of neighborhood tensions; elimination of prejudice and discrimination; defense of human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency. A number of other organizations, including those organized for religious, scientific, literary and educational purposes, as well as those for testing for public safety and for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, may also be eligible for tax exemptions (Kotler & Lee, 2005).
Topic On Social Awareness
Each charitable organization is associated with a specific public interest. Charities often focus on social issues, which are matters which directly or indirectly affect many or all members of a society and are considered to be problems or controversies related to moral values. These include poverty, violence, pollution, injustice, suppression of human rights, discrimination, and crime, as well as abortion, gay marriage, gun control, autism, and the teaching of evolution, among many more. Social issues are broader than the jurisdiction of any one piece of legislation and more comprehensive than the amount of change achievable by any one person; the entire purpose raising awareness of the issue is to rid the community of conflicts of interest and create a more secure and healthy environment for its residents (Kotler & Lee, 2005).
The Role of the Corporate World As the consumers of the 21st century are becoming more conscience of their impact on society and the environment, the pressure on businesses and government to adapt their policies accordingly is increasing. CSR is the business world’s philanthropic enterprise that are inspired by same intentions as charitable donations. Many corporations donate time, money, and personnel to these organizations while sustaining a profitable company (Atkins, 2006).
This concept demands companies to evaluate the needs of society by assessing its impacts through the activities involving customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, communities, the environment, and any other stakeholders. Although some companies participate in CSR activities to adhere to current legislation, many companies create policies that advance these interests in an effort to put themselves in flattering light in the eyes of consumers (which will eventually lead to increased profits) (Atkins, 2006).
An example of CSR can be found in a company that guarantees regular fair trade purchases because it promotes healthy work environments and fair wages for employees. Some plans focus on educating the underprivileged or creating programs that specialize in HIV/AIDS awareness and/or treatment. A more commonplace tactic is the contributing aid to local and/or organizations for impoverished communities (Kotler & Lee, 2005).
The definition of CSR used within an organization can vary from the strict “stakeholder impacts” definition used by many CSR advocates and will often include charitable efforts and volunteering. CSR may be based within the human resources, business development or public relations departments of an organization, or may be given a separate unit reporting to the CEO or in some cases directly to the board. Some companies may implement CSR-type values without a clearly defined team or program (Kotler & Lee, 2005).
Corporations are quick to prevent interference in their business through additional taxation or regulations imposed by the government. By taking substantive voluntary steps, they can persuade governments and the wider public that they are taking issues such as health and safety, diversity or the environment seriously, and so preclude intervention (Atkins, 2006). Those operating away from their home country can make sure they remain welcome by maintaining a reputation as a good corporate citizen with respect to ethical standards. Critics concerned with potential corporate hypocrisy commonly suggest that intensified governmental and international regulation and enforcement are necessary to ensure that companies behave in a socially responsible manner (Kotler & Lee, 2005).
The Responsibilities of Media Outlets There is a strict duty to report impartiality in mass media outlets, in a fashion that best serves the needs of its audience (French, 1984). The majority of advertising and promotional projects are controlled by the marketing department; it should be noted that this hypothetically eliminates any bias or extra coverage an organization may receive as a result of being featured (Atkins, 2006). Media outlets can help spread knowledge about social causes by advertising (at a discounted rate) or showcasing relevant stories in print or over the airwaves. These companies can withstand the pressure to integrate some form of CSR into their corporate governances, as exemplified in the descriptions of efforts previously made by media outlets:
New Technologies Google Grants. Google Grants offers donations for AdWords advertising (Google’s primary source of revenue) to several charitable organizations. The organization’s philosophy is to help the world in areas including science, technology, education, global public health, the environment, youth advocacy, and the arts. AdWords is Google’s flagship advertising product; it offers pay-per-click advertising, and site-targeted marketing for both text and banner ads in local, national, and international arenas.
This form of marketing reaches Google users who search for specified keywords that are relevant to an organization’s cause by appearing as a sponsored link next to the listed search results. The program also offers companies an opportunity to review statistics regarding the success of the advertisement, including the totals and percentages of volunteer sign-ups, donations, and registrations (Google, 2008).
Atlanta Journal Constitution, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe. The Boston Globe, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the San Francisco Chronicle websites regularly promote non-profit organizations; each joined forces with non-profit advocate Good2gether to launch the Do Good channel, a website designed to connect over 650 non-profit organizations with locals who are looking for a charitable cause to support. Do Good allows users to find, research and support issues and search by the type of cause, as well as level of involvement, including volunteering, making donations or attending an event (Duran, 2008).
Newspapers The Modesto Bee. The Modesto Bee, a central California publication supports local organizations through the donation of advertising space (up to $1,000 or $10,000 in one calendar year) with two intents: to enhance the quality of life in the greater Stanislaus County area while expanding the corporate image of The Modesto Bee in our community. To help local organizations extend their audience to include The Modesto Bee’s readership, approved organizations may be eligible to receive advertising space in The Bee at no charge or at a significant discount off of published rate prices. Organizations requiring more advertising can sign a custom advertising agreement with The Modesto Bee to receive 25% of the total contract value in donated advertising (The Modesto Bee, 2008).
The News Tribune. The News Tribune is a newspaper centrally located in Tacoma, Washington that offers charitable contributions through the donation of advertising space as “part of [its] commitment to the communities [it] serves.” Like The Modesto Bee, it also lists two goals: to enhance the quality of life in the South Puget Sound Region while positively influencing the corporate image of The News Tribune in the community. It specifically focuses on programs that help the greatest number of people in the areas of need in the communities.
In cases where The News Tribune’s donation is requested to partially support a planned marketing budget, or if a program is considered a program that is not covered by , the request may be considered for sponsorship evaluation. Sponsorships consist of a combination of paid advertising and a matching donation. In addition, sponsorships guarantee advertising will appear when desired. Sponsorship advertising is published on a space-available basis, meaning that after all paid advertising and other considered necessary space is designated for the day, a portion of the left over space is made available for public service announcements or campaigning.
Preference is given to those organizations which demonstrate a clear need for private financial help, enhance the community with projects that have measurable results, and demonstrate a proven track record of providing services to the community (The News Tribune, 2007). Television MTV. MTV (Music Television) is an American cable television network with the original purpose of playing music videos. Currently, the channel mainly broadcasts a variety of pop culture and reality television shows targeted at the 13-25 age bracket. MTV’s is considered one of the most influential media outlets for young people.
In addition to its regular programming, MTV has previously promoted social, political, and environmental activism. It has in the past sponsored three voter registration campaigns (Choose or Lose, Rock the Vote, and Vote or Die); Fight For Your Rights, an anti-violence and anti-discrimination campaign; and think MTV, a television show which features many different social causes such as abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research. On April 6, 2001, MTV voluntarily stopped regular programming for a full day as part of a hate crimes awareness campaign. A made for television movie, Anatomy of a Hate Crime (based on a true story of the 1998 murder of 21-year old Matthew Shepard) was aired during primetime, followed by a discussion of the film. A series of pro-conservation ads called Break the Addiction is also aired on MTV to encourage viewers to become less dependent on fossil fuels (Haskins, 2008).