The ‘COP Flop’ for agencies: What is it and how can you avoid it?

Do you want to unlock stronger, harder, longer-lasting ideas that prove how powerful your brand purpose really is, but fear it was only developed halfway through 2020, while considering pivots into knitting kits and shunning your Aunt Aggie who panic-bought all the loo roll?

This is not the moment to cop out, warns Chloe Franses
This is not the moment to cop out, warns Chloe Franses

Well, sit back, hum along to The Proclaimers, and let your mind empty of all the stress of how you will get to the world’s most sustainable summit when you shouldn’t fly, train prices are through the roof and, even if it was sustainable, the £3.75 of petrol you have left is never going to get you there (thanks Aunt Aggie!)

Let it all go and let’s nail this.

Brands and agencies have been using the term ‘purpose’ as a catch-all for charity, philanthropy, social impact, CSR, D&I, ESG (the list goes on…) for the past few years. It has become something of a dumping ground – and now all that intention is being called into action on a public and global stage.

Having worked in this space for over 20 years, with some of the world's leading brands, I celebrate the embracing of the space; but ‘purpose’ cannot be about spin – we don’t have time for that.

As an industry, PR has had a reputation as something of a dark art, whispering in the ears of the consumers – working with the psychology of human nature to shift behaviour and sell, sell, sell.

However, there is a Yang to our industry Yin. Just as we have been celebrated for our soft skills in cigarette sales, we must now know that we can use that power for good.

This Conference of the Parties, COP26, is highly anticipated for many reasons. However, as global leaders such as Scott Morrison of Australia and Xi Jinping of China start pulling out of attending in person, the question, especially for those who have taken steps to invest in this as a platform and moment to shine a spotlight on the pressing environmental needs and responding strategies, is how do we ensure that this is not a COP Flop?

First, this one is different. Not only because of the actual flop of COP25, or because President Joe Biden has taken the reins that Donald Trump was steering away from progress, but because of the Black Swans currently, aggressively, flapping their wings in our faces – fires, drought, COVID-19 and beyond. There is a reason that ESG investment is so dramatically on the rise.

The real way to avoid a COP Flop is to see this as an opportunity, whether you have been playing in this space for some time or you are entering with trepidation.

Global problems need global solutions, and the time for passing those problems to the underfunded, well-meaning charities and hoping they can hand them back a little less broken has passed.

The world needs well-funded, brave, innovative solutions and courageous communicators who can change behaviour – whispering in the ears of the public, and changing psychology. It is those soft skills that now have the power to save us.

Chloe Franses is the founder and chief executive of Franses

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