Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Corporate America: Doing Well by Doing Good

From CHEN'er Kate Hoagland...

This past week, my colleague Meghan Rozanski and I enjoyed PR industry luminary Tom Hoog’s rousing call to arms at the Boston Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America’s 55th Anniversary luncheon. As a brilliant storyteller (in part due to his charming Southern accent), Mr. Hoog inspired us with his belief that both PR and corporate executives share a civic responsibility of increasing importance. As a native Virginian, it was easy to be captivated by his stories of duty peppered with examples of the Charlottesville countryside (I wanted to blurt out, “I’ve been there!” but instead kept tugging Meghan’s sleeve).

Not a stranger to civic duty himself, Mr. Hoog boasts an impressive resume of public service positions under leaders including President Clinton and Senators Gary Hart, Robert Kennedy and George McGovern. Formerly the chairman of Hill & Knowlton, Mr. Hoog now serves on the advisory board of the Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space Museum as well as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial advisory board. He also chairs the board of directors of The Wolf Trap Foundation.

Mr. Hoog argued that in the midst of a cacophony of Middle Eastern uncertainty, rising deficits and a failing education system, the voices of our corporate leaders are noticeably silent. He cited a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Washington’s Allergy to Action is Headache for Business Leaders,” by Alan Murray to reiterate his point. Mr. Hoog agrees with Mr. Murray’s assertion that few corporate leaders are taking advantage of their unique power position to foster change.

Mr. Hoog concluded with a call to action for PR professionals as “keepers of corporate reputation and integrity,” and as such, responsible for encouraging our corporate clients to join the American dialogue and foster change.

While I wanted to agree with Mr. Hoog on every point (loyalty to Virginia is all encompassing), I had a hard time agreeing that the voice of corporate America is silent.

Working at CHEN PR, I have the privilege to work with many corporate executives who exude business integrity every day both for what they achieve at their companies and for their community involvement.

For example, some of our clients volunteer at local schools as mentors, tutors and motivators. U.S. math and science students face increased competition from students in Europe and Asia. These clients roll up their sleeves to shape curricula to keep the U.S. competitive by fostering the next generation of talented engineers and scientists.

Green may be the new black, but many of our clients having been practicing environmental consciousness for years. Manufacturing lead-free parts and monitoring emissions are just two of the activities that are the norm in their business practices.

Promoting good corporate citizenship and reporting on the results is important. While we talk about our clients’ engagement in the ongoing American dialogue as part of their corporate responsibility, we can light a spark for other executives at companies large and small to join the discussion.

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