About Those Reports… Copy, Paste and Report

Let’s discuss the reports generated by the CSI Manager as I continue to receive the love from the CSI room. Have you had the opportunity to review any of them? I must admit that the reports I have read so far are quite disheartening. Effective communication is widely recognized as vital for the success of any endeavor. However, the reports produced by CSI managers in South Africa lack innovation and fail to meet high standards, which is truly disappointing.

The majority of these reports follow a consistent structure. They start with statistics from sources like Stats SA, mention international organizations such as the United Nations, briefly touch upon the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without truly understanding their significance, and so on. If you have trouble identifying this structure in any report created by CSI Managers, I’d be happy to buy you a chomp. As a business, we value addressing these issues and emphasize the need for CSI reports that are genuine, forward-thinking, and innovative.

Reading articles that simply recycle data from various sources without offering any new insights is disheartening. Copying and pasting content undermines the legitimacy and integrity of the CSI industry. When professionals engage in this behavior, they fail to provide original perspectives and contribute to the overall growth of the industry. Moreover, plagiarism hampers effective communication with the intended audience. Our team at CSR News encountered a case of plagiarism where a business used my sentence verbatim. In response, I jokingly remarked to our senior editor, “I’m glad our content is copy-paste-worthy; it means we’re doing the right thing.” While we are aware of the situation, it is concerning to witness our work being copied, even if it suggests our efforts have been successful.

One significant weakness among CSI reports is the lack of a clear vision. Without a well-defined vision, reports lose their cohesiveness and fail to effectively deliver their intended message. They become aimless and ineffective, lacking the necessary motivation to drive action. To create meaningful and engaging content, CSI managers must carefully consider their target audience, key messaging, and overall project goals. By doing so, they can develop reports that genuinely resonate with their audience. I recall working on a report for a global client and receiving meeting requests from numerous executives. When I inquired about the intended audience, I was informed it was “shareholders.” It became apparent that the client had not considered the report’s audience. Since the report was meant for their industry, stakeholders, and the communities they serve, I strongly disagreed and made my argument.

On another note, many years ago, I encountered a young man working for an NGO who used inappropriate jargon in his emails. I found myself contemplating the meaning of his messages every time he reached out to me. Eventually, I approached him directly and asked, “What exactly are you trying to convey in your email?” After providing a detailed explanation, I questioned him further, asking, “Why didn’t you simply say that?” He often used grandiose language that didn’t align with the sentence structure. This observation holds true for certain CSI Manager reports as well. I often wonder if they truly understand the content they produce. After reading their reports, one is left wondering, “What did they actually say?”

When writing a CSI report, it is crucial to consider three key audiences: the community, the shareholders, and the industry. Effective communication thrives on originality, encompassing not only the presentation of information but also the terms and phrases used in CSI reports and board reports. Content creators should strive to distill complex ideas and information into clear, readable formats that effectively convey the essence of their activities. By embracing creativity and exploring new ways to engage their audience, they can keep the information fresh and interesting.

Allow me to provide an example that illustrates this concept. Five to four years ago, Momentum Metropolitan effortlessly communicated their content. Their website offered easily accessible CSI reports, including a comprehensive report spanning 50 to 80 pages and a remarkable highlight page of about 12 pages. This demonstrated their thoughtful planning and serves as a lesson we can all learn from real leaders. Unfortunately, the majority of organizations claiming to support CSI today cannot make the same claim. Their reports are poorly organized and tedious to read.

I apologize if my statements seem blunt, but we must forge ahead promptly as the future awaits. You might wonder why I’m being so bold. It stems from the realization that some individuals are unaware of the significance of their positions. At this point, I can no longer remain silent. CSI managers need a visionary mindset to effectively guide their organizations. With a clear vision in mind, they can lead their teams, establish goals, and create a cohesive plan for impactful CSI activities. Without a compelling vision, CSI reports lack purpose, failing to inspire action or drive positive change. By adopting a visionary approach, CSI managers can position themselves as industry leaders and contribute to societal well-being.

I have come across written materials discussing the strategies you frequently mention, but it seems that nobody actually implements them. When questioned, people often provide unrealistic stories they likely don’t believe themselves. However, they seem to believe they have accomplished something remarkable. It reminds me of a proverb I heard many years ago: “Be wary of a person who talks eloquently chances are they will fail to deliver.” Unfortunately, there are instances where this statement holds true.

In this dynamic CSI environment, it is crucial to prioritize uniqueness, vision, and innovation in your work. Copy-pasting and the absence of a clear strategy hinder the industry’s growth and effectiveness. CSI managers must put in the effort to produce authentic content that engages viewers and motivates positive change. By embracing your individuality and adopting an imaginative approach, future CSI professionals will acknowledge your invaluable contributions to society.

Mtetwa Simphiwe
Simphiwe Mtetwa is the Managing Director and Editor-In-Chief for Corporate Social Responsibility News South Africa.

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