3 on the 3rd: What Makes a Great CSR Story?

January 3, 2013

BCLC's executive interview series, 3 on the 3rd, is dedicated to providing deep and valuable business insights delivered in a quick manner. As the column name suggests, interviews are three questions in length and air on the 3rd of the month.

This month I interviewed Aman Singh, editorial director for CSRwire, who is pictured here leading the News Update for one of the 2012 editions of our "Conversations" series. Over the past decade, CSRwire has served as a leading global source of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability news.

BCLC: You’re coming up on one year as a staff member at CSRwire, one of the most recognized brands in our industry. What has been most rewarding for you in this transition?

Aman Singh: Working with a team that is not just skilled at their "job description" but are also committed sustainability advocates and thought leaders on chosen areas of expertize, including carbon emissions, social enterprise, governance, higher education, communication, regulation and other subjects has been special. No longer do I need to spend a significant part of my time on convincing an internal team on why we must push for more transparency, more engagement and the importance of CSR and sustainability reporting.

Working as a front leader of a brand that has immense credibility in the market -- as you right say -- has been a privilege as well. It's satisfying to know that I have made the right choice of aligning my career with a company that is committed to a long term vision, clear ideals and transparency. This is the first time I have worked for a B Corporation and the difference is obvious.

And finally it is immensely motivating to know that we have the ear of some of the largest and prominent companies -- and change makers -- across the world who are open to pushing the envelope, are willing to strategize together, understand the value of communication and aren't just out there to check boxes on their PR/marketing plans. Our members -- almost 8,000 as of November -- are committed to reinventing their business models, using communication as a vehicle to introspect their organizations and processes, and do whatever it takes to ensure their growth is sustainable. To be able to work with the cadre of organizations -- corporations, nonprofits, academia -- that we get to at CSRwire is truly a treat and what keeps me invested in doing what I do. Who wants to spend half their life convincing people of the importance of regeneration and ensuring our future generations have a healthy planet to enjoy as well?

BCLC: In your previous positions, what experiences prepared you to become the first editorial director at CSRwire?

Aman: The Wall Street Journal taught me the importance of deadlines, news that provokes and well-written, articulate pieces. Vault.com taught me the importance of the web, the art of blogging -- which I started by launching the HR and recruitment industry's first CSR channel to connect HR, recruiters and career advisers with students, job seekers and professionals -- the value of sharp headlines, community building, as well as the strategic value of social media and engagement. It is at Vault that I experimented with social media, blogging and building a community and found out how valuable these strengths are in moving the needle across sectors. Working independently -- as Singh Solutions -- gave me a great overview of the sector in terms of where organizations are struggling, how we can use communication channels to really engage audiences and help companies use the engagement as a learning process instead of a straight up PR opportunity, and realize the continued importance of having educated opinions. Skepticism has its place for us -- and we are taught to be skeptics in journalism school -- but so does a dose of reality.

And finally through years of writing on Forbes, CNBC, WSJ and Vault, and more recently on Bloomberg, CSRwire, Triple Pundit, and Greenbiz, I can identify bad from good writing, edit pieces till they are stellar and objective, curtail opinion from overtaking a piece, and perhaps most importantly work with organizations on pieces that are objective, educational and engaging. Each of my jobs has helped me get to CSRwire. 

Being very broad, I ask where is the inspiration? What is the impact? Is it driven by data or science? Or a social motive? Is there a long term vision attached? 

BCLC: What are the key elements you look for in a good CSR story?

Aman: That's tough to answer because of the eternal appetite you need for context in anything you write/read about CSR and sustainability. Essentially though, being very broad, I ask where is the inspiration? What is the impact? Is it driven by data or science? Or a social motive? Is there a long term vision attached? Why should the common reader care? Is it really news or a celebratory note? Is it educational? What will someone learn from it? Takeaway? Is the subject driving innovation? More jobs? More profit? Scale? Opportunity? Of course, issues related to human resources, professional development, organizational change and informed job seekers are close to my heart.