Communicating purpose: five insights

Following our article on Communicating purpose, we asked five expert communicators to answer the question: what are the challenges you face when communicating purpose? Read on to find out some of the wisdom they imparted.‍

This week, one thought dominated our creative thinking; why communicating purpose lands for some and falls flat for others.  

Clients often come to us when their messaging isn’t sticking. In most cases we find they can be confused and unclear on how to define and express their company’s purpose.

Principals Ingrid Brown and Ian Firth jotted down their thoughts in an extended article earlier in the week, which you can read here. But it got us thinking how others in our network navigate their roadblocks when it comes to communicating purpose. So, we asked five expert communicators to answer the question: what are the challenges you face when communicating purpose? Here’s some of the wisdom they imparted.

Laura Hayter, CEO, The Investor Relations Society

"The implementation of corporate purpose requires embedding an outcomes-focused approach across the value chain of a business. Corporate purpose should not be considered in isolation and sustainability should also be at the heart of strategy, culture and operations, starting with the statement of corporate purpose that underscores this approach. Imperative to this process is demonstrating to investors that a company’s business model, strategy, governance and performance are responding to emerging risks and opportunities."

Josephine Corbett, Managing Director, Head of UK Consumer Industries, Strategic Communications, FTI Consulting

"There is still plenty of scepticism about the role that Purpose plays and a perception and tension that profit and purpose cannot co-exist.

There are many who see purpose as simply a strapline; a phrase that can go on the website or be put on a mouse mat (do these still exist!?) and it’s a job done. Usually these are the organisations are those who find it hard to look beyond their immediate audience and performance and therefore struggle to consider the longer term societal impact of the business."

Caroline Brill, Marketing & Communications Director, SustainCERT

"Communicating your purpose is easier than demonstrating why this is your purpose and how your values genuinely guide and shape how you deliver this. Values can be the most powerful or weakest tool a company has depending on how these are experienced.  

To do this well, it requires for a purpose to make commercial sense, balanced with a human and transparent approach. Taking the time to craft a balance of this for one consistent overall message, then demonstrating benefits and impact to stakeholders, is more effective than multiple purpose messages for different stakeholders."

Jennifer Sproul, Chief Executive, Institute of Internal Communication

"In communicating purpose, it's challenging to ensure that it aligns and has meaning with employees' personal purpose and with that, feels authentic to an organisation’s voice and values. Purpose communication needs to feel lived and embedded, not only in the words of an organisation but in their behaviours and actions, which builds that emotional connection with employees and creates somewhere they feel proud to work and advocate for."

Anna Corbett, Director of Client Success, Base Creative

"The biggest challenge in communicating purpose is measuring those comms. Sadly there seldom is any measurement of comms around purpose and how it is received by stakeholders, so organisations fall back into broadcast mode.  

With purpose being such a crucial factor to employee loyalty and happiness we need to build a framework to monitor the effectiveness of our comms around purpose, so we can learn how best to create internal buy-in."

This was an extended excerpt from Bright Space's weekly newsletter The Friday Five at Five. If you'd like to stay informed and entertained on a Friday afternoon, then subscribe here.

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