Several Coyners recently attended PRWeek’s excellent PRDecoded: Purpose Evolved conference in Chicago. The well-attended event featured top communication professionals from the world’s most influential brands spanning multiple industries, including Bayer, Google, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Molson Coors, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Seventh Generation, General Mills, UPS, McDonald’s, Allstate, Kellogg’s, and many others.

While it’s impossible to sum up everything we heard and discussed over two days, there were several key tenets that encapsulated how communication leaders and brands are thinking about purpose. Some of the highlights included:

Financial success and doing good is not an “either, or” it’s a “yes, and”
Several panelists spoke to the power of purpose-driven initiatives, from influencing societal change to emboldening partners and transforming employees into engaged advocates for a brand. Several more spoke to how there’s no push and pull between profit and purpose – it’s possible to do both – doing well financially while also doing good for society.

Find your voice
A company can very easily get caught up in a cycle of trying to be all things to all people, especially a large organization serving many audiences. There was a robust discussion about the need for companies to clearly define their voice, which included aligning purpose around a company’s mission, vision, and values, deciding where a company can make a meaningful impact, and articulating not only what a company stands for but what is needed to influence change.

Align and empower
There was universal agreement that the CEO and C-Suite need to be aligned on purpose; without their input and support, any approach is destined to fail. But an equally important takeaway is having the flexibility to empower employees or other stakeholders to “own” purpose-driven efforts. Employees, business partners and organizations help create scale. Empowerment stirs passion. Passion fuels action. Action drives change.

Don’t go it alone
There are plenty of organizations, influencers, and community leaders that are ready, willing and able to partner with companies. These change agents can play multiple roles – helping inform the true need, acting as a sounding board for initiatives, and providing untapped resources to drive meaningful change.

Be humble and open
There were several references from panelists that brands could benefit from being humble. Brands may not have all the answers, but they also may not need them. Having the skills (and the right tools) to listen to audiences can help fill in the gaps.  

Measure to inform and enhance
Through more sophisticated tools it’s easier to measure the impact of your messaging, outcomes and impact than it was in years past. Measurement not only charts progress but also provides valuable feedback that informs enhancements. Several panelists noted that ample time should be devoted upfront to make sure you’re measuring what truly matters to your organization.

For more information on the event and its highlights, we recommend listening to the PRWeek Podcast as well as visiting PRWeek’s website. We thank all the panelists, moderators, attendees, and editors of PRWeek for putting together a thought-provoking and enlightening event.