With shared value firmly on our corporate agenda, a wide range of companies are transforming their business models to unlock the commercial opportunity of doing Business on Purpose. And increasingly, the ability for PR and communications professionals to drive and leverage this important business strategy is becoming a competitive advantage.
This was the focus of today’s Communicating Shared Value lab, as part of the 2019 Shared Value Summit Asia Pacific in Sydney. Among the more than 30 participants was Federal MP for Paramatta, Ms Julie Owens.
The session was split into two parts; the first entitled: ‘Acts not ads. Doing good and building trust in a suspicious world.’ Delivered by Republic of Everyone and Edelman, the group explored the Brands Taking Stands phenomenon and the increasing expectation on business to address social issues.
Managing Director of Edelman, Fran Boase, set the scene of an increasingly distrusting public by sharing the Edelman Trust Barometer results. The research shows that only half (56%) of the public trust in business, yet 72% of Australians believe a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the community where it operates.
“Australians are typically more cynical than the rest of the world, and there is fear and impatience around the desire to see big change,” she said. “This appetite and agitation for institutions to step up has seen an increase in businesses taking meaningful action on social issues.”
Republic of Everyone Founder, Ben Peacock, suggested that brands which communicate purpose well “start with an insight; an invitation to join a movement”.
“These brands’ ads have nothing to do with advertising a product, but rather questioning an issue or pursuing a cause,” he said. “Importantly, this is then backed up by a strong corporate strategy which is embedded across the business and supported by the CEO.”
Mr Peacock offered some insight around how to communicate purpose, by way of the following advice:
- Acts first, ads later
- Purpose needs to be lived, not just marketed
- The ‘hotter’ your issue, the better you better understand it
- If you’re in it, you’re in it for the long haul – trust isn’t built in one conversation, but over time
The second part of the session, ‘Communication impact,’ explored the place for communications in companies’ shared value journeys.
Rhod Ellis Jones, founder of social impact agency Ellis Jones, emphasised the importance of communications professionals being integrated into the pursuit of purpose at every stage. He suggested that communicators need to take partial responsibility for this.
“If we think like an advertiser or PR rep, we will act like one, and we’ll get briefed as one,” he said. “That impacts our agency, but most importantly it means we can’t achieve the impact the organisation wants or that society needs.”
The lab was followed by a Shared Value 4.0 session, where a select group of the region’s leading visionaries, innovators and shared value experts will convene to co-design the next evolution of shared value – and effectively, the future of business.