Almost four years ago, in response to the advent of more competition in the local telecoms business, AT&T decided that a campaign to become a more ‘local’ company was imperative. For the AT&T Foundation, this meant a dramatic shift towards local grantmaking. But first AT&T wanted to better understand what it really means to be local.
To this end, the AT&T Public Relations Research Group designed a study to answer key questions about the concept of ‘localness’ and to determine to what extent localness affects buying decisions at the local level.
At the same time, a review of AT&T Foundation grantmaking showed that roughly 75 per cent of all grants were headquarters driven, with only about 25 per cent being made because of locally driven priorities – a situation that had to change.
Following a survey of 4,403 key community and business leaders in 22 local markets, AT&T concluded that localness is what Director Tim McClimon describes as ‘the combined rational and emotional assessment of a company’s tangible participation in the life of a community and how the community feels about that involvement’. Philanthropy and employee volunteerism were identified as crucial signs of a company’s localness.