Redefining Purpose in Corporate Narratives

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Purpose has been at the forefront of corporate communications for many years now, but it came to a head this year at Davos. With the fierce calls to action at the World Economic Forum, the importance of purpose-driven narratives will likely only intensify.

But the definition of purpose has changed. As The Holmes Report covered in Purpose Is Passé, “purpose in its current incarnation needed to evolve further, and fast, to solve global problems.”

If they haven’t already, brands need to start talking less about what they offer. They need to focus more on what they’re doing and why it matters – and not just from a product perspective.

Purpose goes beyond business
There are growing expectations of all companies to do right by society and actually solve problems, and it’s driving action. Consider the Davos meeting of 50 CEOs around the world to tackle practical things they can do reduce emissions; or Levi’s SVP and chief communications officer, who spoke of the company’s work organizing over 200 businesses in efforts against gun violence.

In the new era of activism and ‘conscious capitalism’ the communications function needs to help brands figure out how to not only align to, but show real, demonstrable action around doing good.

SHIFT SVP Amanda Munroe says, “PR professionals need to ensure clients have a genuine higher purpose. Their vision, mission and accompanying narrative must go beyond selling products and services. The company must, ultimately, understand what’s happening in the world around it (and to its audience) and be committed to making a positive impact.”

Communications strategies and vehicles will need to evolve
While the communications function will be critical to making a brand attractive to stakeholders by demonstrating its purpose, it can’t just rely on earned media to tell those stories.

The media world is getting smaller and “ink” is getting harder to come by. Thus communicators need to get creative about getting those messages out across paid, earned, owned and social channels. Brands will have to become more adept at telling their own stories. And they must do so in ways that engage stakeholders using their own channels, campaigns, corporate reports and content hubs.

Taking an “outside-in” approach to purpose and finding new ways to bring progress against that purpose to light will be a winning combination for communications in 2020 and beyond.