How to communicate your company’s social purpose

Corporate Communications
Corporate Social Responsibility

Something that has increasingly come to dominate boardroom discussions about communications and operations in the past decade is purpose – social purpose – and the contribution of a business to its people, society and the planet.  

As the customer, shareholder and recruitment landscape has evolved, so have stakeholders’ expectations of the businesses with whom they interact and work.

A raft of recent statistics has revealed that this shift has transformed everything from employer brand and internal communications to hard-won customer loyalty, mergers and investments.  

78% of employees state that they would be more inclined to work for a purpose-driven company, whilst purpose-oriented businesses have reported 30% higher levels of innovation

97% of respondents to a recent survey said they’d observed an increase in asset allocation to impact-focused funds over the last two years.  

Sizeable, older businesses may have more of a challenge when defining their purpose – versus established companies with a social role at their core. But for those businesses that have defined their values, mission and purpose – the next question is how to communicate authentically and with impact.  

Establish key audience groups; who needs to know, and why?  

Having a firm grip on your stakeholder landscape is critical when communicating your organisation’s social purpose. The likelihood is that your stakeholders will come from various groups and demographics, so it is vital to conduct a thorough audit of who exactly these groups are. Examples could include investors, employees, customers, journalists, local communities, and potential partners.  

Following the completion of the audit, it is essential to establish which of these stakeholder groups are most important, both culturally and commercially. These decisions will be contingent upon your objectives as an organisation and which groups impact short-term and long-term business performance most. It’s also important to note that these groups’ relative importance may evolve over time.  

Benchmark awareness of your social purpose  

To extract maximum value from this analysis, businesses must assess each group’s awareness of its purpose. This assessment will enable you to establish solid foundations for your strategy and measure progress in 6, 12, and 24 months.  

Measuring progress requires metrics for success; these could include prompted and unprompted awareness through to visibility of your messaging through internal communications, news articles, or social media engagement.  

To gauge awareness and understanding of a business purpose, you can gather insight in several ways; focus groups and surveys, social listening tools and market research or brand recall studies can all be effective. In addition, media monitoring is crucial to establish what people are talking about, what they are saying and what the sentiment is surrounding the organisation.   

Finally, you need to track progress concurrently rather than just at the end of the campaign. To understand how your strategy is performing, regular benchmarking against KPIs is vital. Set these now, but be aware things will shift outside of your control, and you will have to be agile and optimise on an ongoing basis.  

Map out where to reach audiences  

Understanding your stakeholders is a necessary first step, but understanding where they interact and what content they engage with is key to unlocking shifts in behaviour and perception. 

Establishing this insight can be challenging due to the breadth of sources you must analyse. To build a plan that genuinely reaches your target audiences, you must consider the full suite of channels with which they interact. On a high level, this can include everything from events and networking shows to advertising, internal communications platforms, the press and social media.  

Then once a company identifies the channels, it is vital to drill down further. If you establish that certain groups trust traditional media outlets, which publications are they reading? Furthermore, who are their most significant influences if they are active on social media? This granularity will enable you to develop a plan that ensures you distribute your purpose-led messaging via the correct channels.  

Think carefully about your language 

The tone is important when communicating across multiple channels and to stakeholders who don’t want to be preached to or patronised.  

You should weave your organisation’s social purpose through the company’s DNA. ‘What’ your social purpose is as a business should be the ‘why’ your business exists, and communicating this will be through different voices from an organisation internally and externally. Authenticity comes firstly from a genuine belief in what you’re communicating and secondly, using appropriate language to convey your message – whether you’re talking to an investor, customer or colleague. Nobody wants to be alienated, confused, or patronised, so pick your words wisely and with the channels and audience closely in mind. 

Execute, measure and optimise 

So you’ve conducted your analysis, established your audience groups and built an ambitious, omnichannel communications strategy; now it’s time to execute. Ensuring you have a clear long-term structure and plan for your communications is critical for its success. However, it’s also vital to remain flexible as the landscape changes 24 hours a day, directly influencing how and why you communicate. 

Contact our specialist corporate team today if your organisation would like to discuss a bespoke approach to communicating its purpose internally and externally.  

This piece was authored by The PHA Group’s Head of Corporate, Mimi Brown.