With the Third Sector growing steadily yearly, it is important for companies to ensure that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is integrated into their business model. There are various types of CSR that companies can engage in. Environmental responsibility where companies reduce their carbon footprint, or Human Rights responsibility – where companies provided fair trade products such as chocolate and coffee for staff.
We caught up with Ben Matthews who founded Bright One, a volunteer-run communications agency for the third sector, to ask him a little bit more about what he does, and why it is important for businesses to engage in CSR.
Ben Matthews (Ben)
PHAB: What does Bright One do?
Ben: BrightOne solves two problems:
Third sector organisations get professional communication services at a low cost (often free!).
Inexperienced PR and communications people get the skills and mentoring they need from seasoned professionals.
We also run Bright Works, a task-based volunteering platform that gives causes an easy way to connect with skilled volunteers in an effective, simple-to-use and easy-to-get-started way.
PHAB: What inspired you to set it up?
Ben: In this case it was the frustration that there a lot of people and third sector organisations out there doing some amazing work and helping a lot of people, but for some reason – whether it is through a lack of expertise, time or resources – these organisations haven’t been able to communicate what they do as effectively as other charitable organisations. We set out to solve that and formed Bright One.
PHAB: How does it work?
Ben: The company is run by enthusiastic volunteers and led by experienced communications professionals; each Bright One team is committed to delivering high quality communications briefs in a cost-effective manner.
With volunteers from wide-range backgrounds, Bright One is able to match each brief with the most relevant expertise. Each application is thoroughly reviewed, putting experience, skills and degree of commitment into consideration. Regular progress meetings are organised to ensure that everyone stays ‘on brief’ and that the output is consistently high quality.
Bright One makes public relations possible for third sector organisations who can’t afford a commercial agency. In return, our volunteers get practical experience and our experienced consultants get to do some good by giving something back to the community. It really is a win-win situation.
PHAB: Where do you see the company going in the next 5 years?
Ben: We want to be helping more people (both the charities and the volunteers who join our community), doing it better and keep on having fun and as well as learning along the way.
PHAB: What can businesses and entrepreneurs learn from the company?
Ben: Passion and persistence can go a long way, even if the odds are highly stacked against you.
“Never underestimate the power of a small but committed group of people to change the world”
PHAB: How important is communications in the third sector?
Ben: As fundraising is becoming increasingly competitive, third sector organisations need to communicate their contributions to society in an effective and efficient manner. A good communications strategy helps create multiple opportunities, from raising funds to recruiting volunteers, and from increasing awareness to standing out amongst other similar organisations. So in my opinion, it’s vital.
PHAB: Is there any advice you’d give to new entrepreneurs in regard to PR?
Ben: There’s a lot to cover! But one piece of advice is that PR requires consistency and nurturing over time – it’s all about relationships, so build them well and build them early. Always make sure you’re getting the most out of your relationships with the media by treating any contact with them like a long-term relationship. That said if an opportunity comes along, you should be very quick to react – otherwise the chance will be gone in a moment!
PHAB: Why do you think PR is important?
Ben: PR is more than getting media coverage – it’s everything about how your company relates to its public, mainly your customers. And that’s the most important part of most businesses.
PHAB: How can people get involved with Bright One?