It’s time to define ‘purpose’ in brand PR

Messaging that focuses on the ‘why’ speaks directly to customers says TishTash’s Natasha Hatherall-Shawe

How do you show clients, customers, employees and stakeholders that your business ’mission statement’ isn’t just words, but truly stands for something, and really, does it matter?

Yes, it does matter, but it’s definitely time to define what it really means. Globally, the P word – Purpose – is integral to how a brand acts in public, and we are talking about the bottom line as much as the shop floor.

It feels inauthentic and out of character when a brand acts or comments politically. Brands try and fail to align with causes on a level that faces immediate backlash from customers and commentators alike. It can make or break campaigns, stall sales or set you back years in terms of brand goodwill.

Many brands sit on the fence when it comes to values or ignore them full stop. It’s not about acting against them, many will not even have a clearly defined set of brand values to work with at all.

But by ignoring the P word entirely – are regional brands doing themselves a disservice? If they are, can we actually define what purpose led PR means for this region?

Here to stay

Define ‘purpose’ we must, because the message is clear – purpose-led communications and campaigns are here to stay.

Global brands are leaving the lure of short-term profit on the table and making huge decisions on market-entry or even pulling out of particular territories – guided by a corporate moral compass we would never have seen even 5 years ago.

How can purpose fit into your public perception when political or social leanings are not and will never be a part of that mission statement?

Tishtash Talks UK Launch
Tash Hatherall, founder and CEO (top) with managing director Polly Williams.

By defining what that ‘purpose’ truly is for your communications then you can positively affect the bottom line and visibility, coupled with priceless goodwill.

When a brand is not guided purely by revenue, this tends to pay long term dividends, and we are getting there, albeit slowly.

Messaging that focuses on the ‘why’ speaks directly to customers in a market where consumers absolutely do buy what a brand stands for as much as what they are selling.

You don’t need to be an MNC to define that purpose and create that strategy. When true company values and campaigning is clearly defined, you do not need buzzwords or PR ‘fluff’.

Speaking to the best of human values – the ‘hearts of your audience’ works not only for public perception but also within. Your staff care too, and you should care about them.

Prove ourselves with purpose

Honesty, integrity and authenticity is key to marketing through a generational shift. Underpinning our work with concrete company values and purpose has the potential to drive better revenue performances in the short, medium and long term.

There is a strong economic incentive at play here, and this is why we have to stop dancing around fashionable cliches and prove ourselves with purpose.

I can’t tell you what your brand or business purpose should be. It might be around ESG goals, but it should not be just because the COP28 conference on climate change is coming to the UAE this year.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are more popular words this year, but once again, any claim on purpose and values must extend beyond a hastily posted social media image on International Women’s Day.

Bandwagoning is boring and Gen Z and Millennial consumers especially see straight through it. Short sighted comms thinking is endemic regionally and at best ignored, and at worst, creates the wrong kind of publicity and reputational damage.

We are not going to see local brands or businesses campaigning on divisive issues anytime soon, but this does not mean we cannot create clearer, purpose-driven comms for longevity and alongside grassroot causes that matter to our customers.

Ethical stance

Both newsrooms and consumers are increasingly motivated to support work that shows an ethical stance or pure minded support for community issues or needs.

Using brand voice as a force for good should not be a scary proposition for the C-Suite, nor should it be a pure marketing tactic or a seasonal planning tactic.

I’m tired of reading brand statements that read like a word salad, and your customers and employees certainly are, although they are probably not reading them at all.

Creativity and purpose go hand in hand. Knowing what it is that your target demographic resonates with on a social and cultural level is the first step to true understanding, and if a repositioning is needed, then so be it.

Follow them – after all, it is them who will create your reputation for you, but by defining what it is you actually stand for and utilising suitable PR, you can make sure you tell them first.

By Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, CEO and Founder of TishTash Communications