The Importance of Strong Purpose in Turbulent Times

August 25, 2022
By PRSA-SV Members Meghan Curtis, Partner + GM San Francisco, Allison+Partners and Whitney Daily, EVP Purpose, Allison+Partners
The Importance of Strong Purpose in Turbulent Times

Allison+Partners recently released its latest report, Purpose Under Pressure, in collaboration with Carol Cone ON PURPOSE and The Harris Poll — noting significant growth in a company’s Purpose driving employees’ decision-making and overall buy-in. The research builds upon the findings of a 2020 study, The B2B Purpose Paradox, to understand how Purpose has evolved internally during a tumultuous two years with the pandemic. As we look ahead to more likely turbulence given economic uncertainty, we predict that Purpose will stay paramount based on our findings.

Our research reveals how American workers’ priorities have shifted from pre-pandemic times – with 66% of employees citing employers’ positive impact as more important than before the pandemic – identical to the increase in the importance of salary and compensation. The research also uncovered the deep commitment of senior executives to the power of Purpose, with 92% agreeing if their companies were more focused on Purpose, their organization would be more successful.

Here are the top five takeaways to consider for your Purpose programming:

  1. Brand Purpose must be authentic: Purpose-washing and increased employee skepticism are rising, according to our report. While we mentioned that 92% of C-suite leaders believe the greater emphasis on Purpose would lead to greater corporate success, only 76% of managers agree. Purpose must be truly specific to what your organization can uniquely provide to the world if you want it to resonate with employees and consumers. The more precise and “human” your Purpose is to the company, the more easily actionable and understood..
  2. Show action through ESG: While Purpose can become your North Star and rallying cry, ESG is how you deliver on it. Putting ESG into action could include programs, policies, and widely shared goals that help to actualize your Purpose ambition in a concrete and actionable way. And our report shows there’s plenty of room to play here: Nearly nine-in-10 (86%) employees said companies should double down on Purpose, and only 53% said their company’s Purpose was mature.
  3. Get buy-in: Our report found a disconnect between C-suite and lower-level adoption of Purpose. Employees at all levels must understand that their brand’s Purpose is central to all their roles. Our report shows more work to be done across company divisions. HR is largely bought in, with 70% of employees agreeing their employer’s Purpose gives their work meaning. But only 36% of marketers and 32% of strategists agree.  Successful brands build Purpose goals into job descriptions, KPIs, and team or individual reviews – as well as ongoing mentor conversations, company meetings, and all internal communications.
  4. Build an invested team: More than ever, employees seek roles at organizations with values that match their own. In fact, 86% of respondents in our survey say having “meaning” in their work is more important than ever before This means organizations must put those values front and center in the employee experience to build a team that is wholly invested in a singular Purpose. This might manifest as weighing in on controversial issues or providing support to employees during or after specific events. Use your Purpose as a filter to understand if, how, and when to act during these moments.
  5. Turn employees into ambassadors: Employee-fueled communication and programs will be the key to achieving enterprise engagement. To activate employee engagement, identify Purpose ambassadors in each department who are trained to speak, engage and champion the Purpose – and regularly schedule cross-functional meetings to ensure Purpose is aligned and activated.

Our Purpose Center of Excellence at Allison+Partners lives, breathes, and sleeps Purpose – and we’re also thinking and developing 360-marketing programs. While employees play a critical role in defining and actionizing Purpose, our programming considers various stakeholders such as customers, consumers, partners, communities, and shareholders. We welcome conversations and brainstorms with brands on their Purpose journey – no matter what stage.  If you’d like to read the full Purpose Under Pressure report or get in touch to discuss how Allison+Partners creates breakthrough programs, visit us here.

About the Authors

Whitney Dailey, Executive Vice President, Purpose at Allison+Partners
With 15+ years of experience in the purpose/ESG/impact space, Whitney Dailey is a thought leader at the intersection of purpose and communications. Whitney leads Allison+Partners Purpose Center of Excellence – a dedicated team specializing in Purpose brand strategy and ESG leadership, backed by A+P’s global network of more than 500+ creatives and storytellers. In this role, Whitney helps Allison+Partners clients establish, communicate and measure ESG goals and strategies, as well as build breakthrough social impact programs and thoughtful, strategic Purpose programs and initiatives from the ground up.

Meghan Curtis, Partner + SF General Manager at Allison+Partners
As general manager of the Allison+Partners headquarters office in San Francisco, Meghan helps foster a collaborative, supportive and entrepreneurial environment for staff to thrive. She oversees strategic communications and integrated marketing programs that elevate reputation, visibility and drive business for consumer brands. During her 20-year agency career, Meghan has led award-winning work for clients in CPG, retail, travel and hospitality, consumer technology and food and beverage.

If you missed our 8/5 #FridayForum Purpose Under Pressure , you can listen to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple, and Spotify. Or replay the event on PRSA Silicon Valley’s  Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube channels

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