Whether part of a brand’s DNA from inception or cultivated by a new generation of leadership and employees, purpose has the power to connect companies and brands with a range of stakeholders in the most authentic of ways. As BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink said in his 2019 Letter to CEOs: "Purpose is not a mere tagline or marketing campaign; it is a company’s fundamental reason for being – what it does every day to create value for its stakeholders."
This is an exciting time to be in the PR industry, with companies and brands focused on finding and activating their purpose, propelled by both internal and external stakeholders that are prioritizing purpose in their decisions to join, purchase and otherwise support businesses and brands.
As we counsel our clients, it is imperative that we help them translate macro goals to communication and initiatives that are accessible and invite stakeholders in.
Participating in Purpose
Much has been written about connecting Product and Purpose, but the third and equally important "P" in the equation is Participation. The most successful brands make their purpose accessible and include key stakeholders – customers, employees, local communities – enabling them to take action.
Last year’s "Time to Vote" challenge, a nonpartisan effort to increase voter turnout for the mid-term elections that was supported by nearly 150 companies, including Levi Strauss & Co., Kind Bar and Nordstrom, is an example of purpose powered by participation. Harvard Business Review reports that companies with similar voter turnout programs – which ranged from offering employees time off to vote, to closing retail locations on Election Day – cited tangible benefits to their brands, including "raising brand awareness, strengthening relationships with employees and shareholders, and even elevating the company with elected officials."
For Stonyfield Organic, purpose is in its DNA with its longstanding commitment to Healthy People, Healthy Planet and Healthy Food. Stonyfield’s most recent and ambitious embodiment of its mission is called #Playfree, a multi-year initiative to convert playing fields and parks to organic grounds management, free from harmful pesticides.
Since just last year, we’ve helped Stonyfield bring organic playing fields to one million people and counting. Visiting communities across the country, Stonyfield hosted Field Days in partnership with regional retailers like Walmart and Jewel-Osco that educated families on the need to get pesticides out of kids’ playing fields. Families embraced the effort, with 92% saying they want to learn more about how their local fields are managed and a dramatic increase in traffic to Stonyfield’s web site to learn about the effort.
"Today’s consumers are savvy and they’re increasingly looking for transparent, mission-driven companies using our platforms and resources to make concrete, positive impacts on the planet. From the very beginning Stonyfield has proven that green business is good business. I can’t think of a single sustainability investment that has not enhanced our growth or profitability."
- Stonyfield Co-Founder and Chief Organic Optimist Gary Hirshberg
Participation as a KPI
While earned and social media are integral to spreading the word, one of the truest indicators of success in communicating and activating purpose is stakeholders’ participation. Stonyfield’s #Playfree initiative is a prime example of that.
Another important "P" is profits, which enable companies to further their investment in purpose-driven initiatives. While companies need to take a long-term view of their brand’s purpose and what it takes to create real societal impacts, we have seen, time and again, evidence of these initiatives translating to increased support for brands by customers, too.
Victoria Renwick leads 360’s Purpose Plus™ work, helping Certified B Corporations, such as Stonyfield Organic Yogurt and Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, and many other purpose-driven companies and brands connect the dots between product, purpose, participation and profits. To learn more, visit 360PR+.