Humanising Corporate Brands

What could public relations of a corporate brand have to do with global challenges if anything? What is the relationship between corporate communications, climate change, social inclusion and equality or any geopolitical affairs for that matter? 

The two-year pandemic introduced ground-breaking shifts in the corporate world not only due to the financial consequences of a global standstill but most importantly the gravity of the various dimensions related to the health crisis, the labour market, and vast cultural changes in society. The latest of these, the so called “great resignation” trend, is a clear manifestation of a human need to reassess roles in work and everyday life. The epicentre of all these challenges are of course human beings, the human factor. 

These changes accelerated the urgent need for brands to evolve, adapt to the new environment and certainly embrace more purposeful values and actions. Humanising brands or a more humane corporate world led to a purposeful culture mainstreaming across diverse business practices. 

Accountability towards humanity 

This business shift is directly linked to the responsibility and obligations of the brands towards society when addressing global changes in their corporate mission statement. Stakeholders expect them to be accountable to their own Environment Social Governance (ESG) as well as Diversity Equity and Inclusion, (DE&I), goals and standards. 

It is now essential for brands to go beyond their mission statement with a clear content strategy and a measurable activity plan. They need to adhere to values deemed important by consumers, employees, investors, and a society that is closely monitoring their activities. Companies need to be focused and set substantiated goals in how they communicate their purpose. They will be held accountable by their stakeholders, including their employees, consumers, and investors. A mere mission statement and an annual report are not enough. Stakeholders will be closely monitoring a brand’s actions serving their purpose communicated through any generated content; earning media; other communication activities commissioned. Towards this end the communication function serves as the tool helping a company be accountable for its own ESG goals. 

Purpose shaping organisational structures

According to the “Purpose in Practice” survey conducted by Notified, a global Communications PR brand and PR Week, almost 78% of survey respondents said they have increased the amount of time spent on Purpose, ESG and DE&I matters, compared to 2020. The survey was completed by 217 in house and agency respondents. 

ESG is progressively assuming a vital role in the corporate world as evidenced by 84% of agency respondents, who said that it is now a more prominent part of their work for existing clients compared to three years ago. 

Moreover, the results of the survey do highlight significant changes in the corporate world and the importance of communication strategies for brands. Over 80% of respondents said that impact of PR work is in fact tangible as it even influences an organisation’s wider policies and procedures and enhances an organisation’s accountability both horizontally and vertically. Equally important is an evident shift towards organisational restructuring addressing purposeful activities: 48.8% of the respondents say that their organisation currently employees at least one senior-level staff member devoted to ESG. And 59% of the respondents believe that at least one senior level staff member is devoted to DE & I. 

Admittedly, purpose work has been incorporated horizontally in almost all communicating actions whether internal or external. In fact, it seems that this trend is largely mainstreamed across different functions of a company and is largely shaping a new organisational culture. It transcends every function of a company, while each member of an organisation is a messenger of the company’s purpose.  

Content, Content, Content 

It is important for purposeful narratives to be communicated not only at an international level but also at a regional and particularly the local context as communities need to understand how a company’s work affects society.  Therefore, content is important for all communications related to a brand’s purpose be it internal or external. PR Week provides the example of Enbridge, an oil company with pipelines in the US and Canada with a multitude of stakeholders in different regions:  investors, governments, local communities. Enbridge communicates its “energy transition goals” to all their stakeholders, aligning their beliefs for a much needed conclusive and collaborative action to combat climate change. 

Being Strategic, measuring impact, humanising the message 

PR needs to use the vast improvements it has made in measurement and data and to adjust and strategize its communication activities related to ESG and DE&I to measure impact. This in turn will help brands become more strategic and efficient in communicating their purpose. An opportunity has risen for the PR industry to measure impactful and purposeful work of a brand through ESG and its business value through employee retention and recruitment.92,2% of respondents agreed that a commitment to ESG can tangibly impact brand reputation, 88% believe it can affect employee recruitment and retention while an 85.7% customer retention and 73.2 % investor decisions. 

Evidently communication agents need to measure data assessing this impact as it is important to understand stakeholders’ demands and therefore determine the brands’ accountability. Leading to a more humanised corporate world.

Purpose Communications role

We work closely with organisations and corporate brands to navigate their transformative shift towards purpose-driven communications and re-evaluate their role in the greater social system. We enable brands dig further into their own mission statements and support their efforts in becoming more strategic in communicating their own purpose in a meaningful and socially impactful way. We work closely with our clients to help them identify and stand by their purpose, strengthen their employee engagement, deepen their customer relationships, and connect with the broader public and other interested audiences.

Fuelled by market insights and strategic planning, we create authentic industry-leading communications campaigns that drive impact for our clients and enhance both their reputation and overall business. From financial and policy to issues and crisis, brand purpose, ESG and DE&I, we take an integrated approach that deeply engages audiences for maximum effect. 

Contact us for more information.