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August 24, 2017

4 CSR storytelling strategies

Written by Investis Digital

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) storytelling can connect audiences more deeply to your company’s goals and objectives. Investis recently worked with Symrise, one of the world’s leading fragrance and flavor companies, to create a multimedia interactive site that tells the story of one of their most important products: vanilla.


From candles to cooking to fragrances, vanilla is an iconic scent whose complex and fascinating harvesting process entails a strong corporate social responsibility component. Here’s a closer look at how Symrise’s focus on a single ingredient made it possible to approach the project with dynamic storytelling and create a compelling audience experience.

Less Is More: The Power of Focus

One core element the Symrise vanilla site highlights is the power of focus. Companies today do business in a world of busy digital scanners. Using CSR storytelling to incorporate a single storyline is often more effective than creating a number of different properties. One unforgettable experience is likely to yield better results than a dozen mediocre ones. Go deep to capture and hold visitors’ attention.

Find the Overarching Narrative

Banner from Symrise vanilla site

Find a single story to focus on when you’re designing a CSR storytelling initiative. Listing a number of disparate CSR initiatives that your company is completing makes it difficult for audiences to understand the integrated impact. Symrise’s vanilla story, however, demonstrates impact by using a single narrative to look at many different aspects of CSR, from improving the lives of local workers to environmental conservation throughout the supply chain. Taking a story-based approach:

  • Reinforces that CSR is part of the way that your company does business.
  • Shows the impact of corporate social responsibility choices throughout operations and the supply chain.
  • Develops a narrative throughline that audiences are more likely to remember and positively associate with your brand.

Embrace Education and Storytelling Best Practices

Syrmise vanilla perfume information

While most people encounter some form of vanilla on a near-daily basis, few know where it comes from, how it’s processed or even the diversity of ways it can be used. This presented an opportunity to play on audiences’ curiosity and thus to educate and entertain. Symrise found a variety of angles and elements to help illustrate the story, including introducing different voices, including flavor specialists, scientists and agricultural workers. As your company considers its own CSR story, it’s important to ask:

  • What elements of our products or services touch people’s lives in an interesting way?
  • What would audiences be curious about that we could use as a hook?
  • Are there voices and perspectives that would help bring this story to life?

 Use Multimedia Storytelling to Create an Engaging Experience

The Symrise vanilla site uses a mix of interviews, video, text, graphs and other imagery to help tell a complex story. The digital-first long form interactive mirrors the best practices found today at the world’s top media and entertainment companies. As a result, busy consumers are more likely to pay attention. With significant amounts of information competing for the attention of today’s consumers, investors and media, a well-crafted experience can stand out. For companies seeking new ways to communicate their CSR initiatives and successes, it’s important to think about ways to go beyond static blog posts or reports.


Communicating that your business makes a positive impact in the community and has respect for Mother Nature are important parts of managing consumer relations. Whether you’re connecting with the London media or members of the public across the globe, it’s part of your story. Think beyond the confines of static, annual reporting and explore what narrative-driven CSR storytelling can do for your brand.

Liz Alton writes about technology, marketing and business for enterprise audiences. She’s a Forbes contributor and her writing has been published in Inc, USA Today, Entrepreneur, the Huffington Post, Mic, Harvard Business Review blogs and the WSJ. She holds an MBA and a BA in journalism, and is completing a masters in Journalism at Harvard.

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