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06 Aug. 2015 | Comments (0)

Several years ago, the Verizon Foundation took an opportunity to go into a “quiet period” and re-evaluate its path forward. The result was a decision to move from a philanthropic model to a social innovation platform. This shift allowed the Foundation to accelerate social change by incubating innovative technology solutions to benefit underserved populations. This realignment provided the basis upon which the company’s social impact narrative has been written. The underlying premise is the belief that mobile technology can help solve the biggest social problems and that Verizon has a critical role to play.

The communications team approached its master narrative challenge by identifying key audiences and learning what was important to them. “Let your audience tell you what they want to hear and guide you in creating your master narrative,” says Angela Peluso, director, global corporate citizenship. “Our research had shown that our stakeholders were not really interested in hearing us talk about what we were doing. What they were interested in were the issues. When we talked about those—in a simple way, with a clear connection to technology—we saw increased attention. Our communications had the biggest impact when we took ourselves out of the story and let it unfold from the perspective of others.”

Verizon’s platform is built around three key areas of opportunity: education, health care, and energy management. So deciding what and when to communicate was important in crafting the communications strategy, according to Peluso. “We decided not to talk about everything we are doing, believing you can be more effective by putting your resources behind one thing rather than many.”

Unsurprisingly, social media played a significant role in how the narrative was brought to life. Facebook, for example, was chosen as the most appropriate channel for reaching parents, one of the targeted audiences. Followers get information, tools, resources, and more to help get their kids interested in hands-on learning, technology, and computer science. By continuing to place importance on providing value to stakeholders, both sentiment and awareness of Verizon’s work in education has increased in an organic way.

The master narrative allowed the CSR communications team to measure every request through the same lens:

  • Is there a focus on people in underserved populations rather than the company?
  • Is there a technology component?
  • What percentage of our target audience will it reach?
  • Will it have a measurable impact?

“We are constantly measuring the impact of our communications and refining our messaging to remain relevant to our audiences. We want to be thought leaders, and we always need to be one step ahead of the issues,” concludes Peluso. An added benefit is the ability to feed the data back to the business, not only to help inform future product decisions, but to provide the “human face” that is so compelling to consumers.

About Communicating Social Impact
This case study is taken from Communicating Social Impact, the report of a 12-company research working group convened by The Conference Board that examined how leading organizations have effectively integrated promising communications practices into their corporate social responsibility and social impact work. Available free, the report is one of a range of publications on social impact measurement that The Conference Board has published in the past 12 months. The other publications, including Framing Social Impact Measurement, are available to members here.


  • About the Author:Vicki Wray

    Vicki Wray

    With more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications, Vicki Wray has a passion for helping leaders at all levels of an organization engage employees and drive organizational change in sup…

    Full Bio | More from Vicki Wray


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