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Corporate social responsibility in media

CSR has already become part of the DNA of many companies in Slovakia. But these same companies say information about CSR activities is lacking in the media and that there is some reluctance on the part of the media to report about them, or participants in them – although they admit that the situation has improved in recent years.

CSR has already become part of the DNA of many companies in Slovakia. But these same companies say information about CSR activities is lacking in the media and that there is some reluctance on the part of the media to report about them, or participants in them – although they admit that the situation has improved in recent years.

The Slovak Spectator spoke with Anton Molnár, spokesperson for oil refiner Slovnaft, Peter Bednár, spokesperson for gas utility SPP, Andrej Gargulák, head of corporate communications at Slovak Telekom, Peter Tóth, corporate affairs manager at Orange Slovensko, Martina Jamrichová, spokesperson for Telefónica Slovakia, Marta Krejcarová, director of communication and sponsorship at Slovenská Sporiteľňa, Alena Walterová, spokesperson for VÚB, Zuzana Böhmerová, sponsorship and foundation manager at Tatra Banka, and Ľubomíra Šoltésová, media relations manager for U. S. Steel Košice, about their perceptions of coverage of CSR activities by the media in Slovakia.

The Slovak Spectator: How does your company perceive the level and scope of coverage of CSR activities by the media in Slovakia?
Anton Molnár:
Coverage in the media of CSR activities by companies depends on the focus, content and especially the presentation of individual projects. When companies present their CSR activities without any concept, only as bare facts, their chance of getting space in the media is very low. By contrast, when they add attractive content to their activities, they will certainly catch the attention of the media more, and the media will be willing to promote the given project more widely. The current trend when carrying out CSR projects is to join the media in the form of media partnerships by which companies secure in advance publication of information about their activities.

Peter Bednár: Our experience is that the media are somewhat reluctant to report on CSR activities, and if they do so they avoid publishing the name of the company which has supported or carried out the given activity. It is obvious that presenting and reporting on CSR activities can be perceived differently and controversially. The media often resists publishing the name of the company or the brand, arguing that such information can be perceived as commercial.
For companies financing CSR activities, often beyond their assignment from corporate taxes, and drawing funds from their net profits, presentation in the media is, apart from providing a good feeling, often the only satisfaction which they can expect for their support. CSR activities should get more space in the media. In the end this may help to get other businesses involved in these activities because they will see that “it pays to help”.

Andrej Gargulák: Corporate responsibility is not a very attractive topic for the media. They perceive it mostly as a commercial theme, even though CSR means a positive, and elsewhere in the world automatically expected, shift in the business done by companies. A problem persists with publishing the name of the initiator of the project thanks to which the given activity or help took place.

It has happened to us that a TV channel refused to publicise the title of a [series of] non-commercial educational fairy tales for children, claiming that this might be perceived as advertising. Our CSR projects have developed into long-term and targeted help in certain fields and thus we do not identify with the opinion that CSR activities are just well-targeted PR tools for the company. On the other hand, it happens that journalists when talking with us become enthusiastic about a specific problem of corporate responsibility, which results in very good cooperation.

Peter Tóth: We still regard the approach and the scope of coverage of CSR themes in the media as insufficient and superficial, with the exception of some economic and specialised media, which try to [report] on the topic of CSR systematically. However, this theme is almost completely absent in the influential mainstream media. When the media even deal with the CSR theme, they usually narrow it to charity, which presents it via formal charitable gestures by celebrities.

If we want consumers to be more aware, the media should pay more attention to positive as well as negative examples and report more about what CSR is and why consumers, aside from companies’ products and services, also take into consideration how responsibly their favourite producer of computers or mobile phones, or provider of services, or chocolate producer behaves towards the environment, or whether it does business ethically and transparently, whether it takes care of its employees on an appropriate level, whether it supports the community in which the company operates, and so on.

On the other hand, over the last two to three years we have seen a moderate increase in interest in these themes and activities, but we still see significant room for improvement.

Martina Jamrichová: Reporting in the media about CSR activities by companies is justified and we believe that it will gain more space. Even though we have a mostly positive experience with the topics that we bring in this field, from the side of the media a certain caution is felt when reporting more specifically about what activities a brand supports.

Marta Krejcarová: Information about CSR activities by large companies in the Slovak media is often regarded as promotion for the given company and thus the media mostly approaches such reports as advertorials. In general, with regards to large companies, the media focuses especially on negative themes.

Of course, there are also exceptions in this regard. We have a very good experience with smaller regional media outlets, which publish information about CSR activities in their region and comment on their impact on the given community or sector.

Our bank gives more than €1 million to public projects annually, and informs the media about most of them. It is not difficult to find how much of this information has been published and I think that this is true not only in the case of our company.

Alena Walterová: Compared with the situation two to three years ago the situation today is significantly better. The proof is not only the increase in the number of articles about CSR in the media but also, for example, the Via Bona awards, which are now granted not only to companies doing business in a responsible way but also to media or specific journalists.

But we still feel concern and a certain unwillingness on the part of the media to speak about CSR projects by large companies or corporations. Presentation of their activities is perceived as advertising and is thus either charged for or not published. Fortunately, an increasing number of media outlets are able to distinguish when something is ‘cheap’ PR and when it is a project which really serves people and brings the community or the region permanent benefit.

Zuzana Böhmerová: We would welcome greater interest especially in activities which have a nationwide contribution. Among these, for example, are various grant programmes, where non-profit organisations or students or the expert or artistic public have a chance to obtain support for the development of their projects. The second group of activities which deserves attention in the media comprises various volunteering activities in which many Slovak companies participate under the organisational leadership of non-profit organisations. Making the public more informed would motivate other companies to join and boost the help into a completely different dimension.

Ľubomíra Šoltésová: Even though we encounter presentation of CSR activities in the Slovak media more often than in the past, it is still scarce.

Topic: Corporate Responsibility


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