Companies have to walk a tightrope to create purpose initiatives that are developed from inside of an organization and are strategic, integrated and impactful, while also avoiding accusations of “purpose washing,” said purpose marketing legend Carol Cone at PRDecoded.
The CEO of Carol Cone on Purpose asked other experts how brands can do just that during a breakout panel entitled How to Power Purpose for Maximum Business, Brand and Societal Impact.
Burghardt Tenderich, professor of practice at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said he examined case studies from the 2019 PRWeek Purpose Awards and found it’s important to have a clear campaign objective. It’s also helpful when organizations publish their purpose statements, “putting it on-record how they’re going to do it,” to introduce accountability and rally stakeholders.
“The need to be authentic and genuine, that comes through when brands take the public service approach,” he explained. “We saw that in addressing healthcare issues such as mental health or specific disabilities. Partnering with nonprofits is key, such as Levi Strauss on a gun violence prevention campaign.”
Balaji Ganapathy, chief social responsibility officer and global head of corporate social responsibility for Tata Consultancy Services, noted his company started with a commitment to its employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The first position we took was not to have any layoffs,” he said. “We doubled down on existing employees and the health and well-being of employees was a primary focus.”
Kimberley Goode, SVP of external affairs at Blue Shield of California, also emphasized the organization’s employees, and stressed the importance of purpose to them.
“We look at purpose in the form of a North Star, and that’s something every one of our employees understands what we are trying to do,” she said.
That extends to partner organizations, as well.
“It really is recognizing that you cannot superimpose your purpose or your North Star on other stakeholders,” she explained. “You have to bring them in and engage them in an honest and genuine way.”