Outtakes: On Purpose and Communications

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Outtakes: On Purpose and Communications

Purpose is a topic that is at times overlooked as communicators are busy supporting organisations and leadership. It is however, incredibly important, especially at this time as we communicate with people during a global pandemic and attempt to build trust and engagement.

We need to understand what it is and where it fits in the company narrative and culture. We also need to understand the leader’s heart and vision – what’s important and why. With this in mind I decided to explore what it means for organisations to be purposeful at one of my events. Way before this pandemic, organisations were looking at purpose and its importance, as employees of all ages increasingly want to work with places that have meaning. In recent times companies that have lost their purpose struggle to stay relevant and successful. And many have realised that employees, stakeholders and clients don’t trust brands that don’t have a clear and lived purpose.

To speak at this event, I invited Simon Farrell – a brand strategist who now runs ‘Today the Arena’, where he champions purpose and works with companies to enable them to become purposeful. Here are some of the takeaways from the event.

Simon kicked things off with a few questions:

  • Is purpose important – to you as an individual, and to you and your organisation?
  • Can your business be more purposeful?
  • Can you be more purposeful in your business?

I felt that we sometimes focus on what the organisation and our leaders should be doing and forget that we have a part to play. Every company has a vision, mission and values all of these imply that there’s a purpose in there somewhere, so maybe we should be considering what we can do as individuals to get behind this. And where we are supporting these organisations, perhaps we can identify ways to enable them to demonstrate and live out their purpose effectively in how we shape communications.

He shared that “Times are changing: A new breed of purpose-led business is emerging to meet consumer and employee expectations. And they’re succeeding!”

I found this really encouraging – think of how much easier it would be to develop a clear communications strategy for a business that decided that it’s important to be driven by more than just profits.

Not being great at mathematics, I found it fascinating that Simon had developed a ‘purpose equation’ or ‘the algebra of purpose’ as he outlines in his blog.

Next, was a discussion around the role of communication – ‘the purposeful ecosystem’ where Simon gave his observations and here, I’ve added my thoughts:

The world is changing. Profit maximisation now feels wrong.
Purpose businesses aren’t charities; it’s okay to make money by making a difference.

Profits are important and if we can demonstrate, through data and examples, how having meaning and engaging people can increase productivity and keep talent, then perhaps we can change the perception that we have to sacrifice purpose for profits.

I found this really good quote from Simon Sinek that supports this: “Profit isn’t a purpose, it’s a result. To have purpose means the things we do are of real value to others.”

Employees and customers are crying out for more meaning.

I believe this is so true and it’s not just millennials and Gen Z – most employees are looking for meaning, and trust the leaders and organisations that are purposeful.

Don’t aim to be purpose-led. Aim to be more purposeful.
Leadership intentions must be genuine.

This should be the goal of every organisation and in some way, it takes the pressure off – demystifying purpose. If being purposeful is being pursued and it means something to those that lead, it can then be better articulated and experienced by employees, stakeholders and customers.

Focus on aligned interests; engage people in the process.
Don’t deny the shift in consciousness you sense. 

This is so important for us in communications, as we work on plans to communicate the company vision and purpose. Alignment, consciousness and connection is what being purposeful can achieve and as much as possible we should encourage this.

I really appreciated a fresh look at purpose and thinking that Simon brought to the session. It provided me with a lot to consider around the part I play in opening this up for those I support. I hope you this will encourage you to do the same.

Talk/50 is an event series featuring topics that open up thinking and influence how we approach and achieve effective communications. The events are designed to be casual and informative, exploring relevant topics in a direct and inspiring way presented by expert speakers.