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How to use PR to tell your company’s purpose-driven story

No matter what they’re selling, B2B and B2C companies serve up product advertising alongside their core company beliefs. Usually, these ads are intended to demonstrate how brands are fighting for purpose, whether it’s a more sustainable future or equality for all people.

Prospective employees and customers want to know how a company or brand’s purpose or values impact social, cultural and environmental issues. Values can set a company apart from competitors, clarify organizational identity, and serve as a foundation for employee behavior. They guide culture and innovation. When a company’s support of its customers, community or the world aligns with an individual’s own values, it makes consumers feel good about purchasing products from that company. And company values that align with employees can also help to attract and retain talent.

Do good.

While at first glance it may seem self-serving to do so, research shows that communicating company values is important when connecting with employees and customers. Whether they’re making decisions about where they want to work or from where to buy, decisions are often based on values that align with their own; in fact, 64% of consumers point to shared values as their main reason for working with a brand. Similarly, 90% of consumers expect companies to operate responsibly and address social and environmental issues. And 84% of consumers say they purchase socially responsible products whenever possible.

Values follow you.

Purpose and values are integral to a company’s reputation too.

As an agency, TriComB2B’s core values include delighting customers, performing independently, leading by example, being happy at work, and embracing individuality. Even though we work hard, as an employee, I see these values exemplified every day.

Emerson as a company is also committed to “drive innovation that makes the world healthier, safer and more sustainable”. They create new products with that purpose in mind and aren’t afraid of sharing it, as seen in this video and on their website. They do an excellent job of putting their beliefs into action to positively affect their customers. And they’re known for it too!

Be real.

That’s right. The key is to put that purpose into action. It’s actually self-serving to tout. You don’t want to seem inwardly focused when it comes to your company’s purpose and values, so it’s important to back those values with results. Customers can immediately identify when a company is not being genuine, which in turn creates distrust. So live your purpose. Walk the talk. Don’t just say you believe in something. Show it!

Identify what your purpose means to customers.

Do your purpose and mission resonate with your customers? 

Emerson knows that many of its customers in the food retail industry are trying to meet sustainability goals, and refrigeration is one place they can make a difference at the facility level. Emerson has become a thought leader in conveying the latest environmental regulations surrounding this topic. They go out of their way to compare the pros and cons of alternative refrigerants to those with high-global warming potential (GWP) hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Customers know that global, federal and state regulations are steering the industry away from HFCs and toward lower-GWP alternatives and want advice on which to choose. Emerson not only has thought leaders who are extremely knowledgeable on the topic and communicate this information to customers, but the company also develops products which help their customers to meet these environmental requirements. That’s action behind those core beliefs — while making the world better.

Conversely, clothing company H&M says it’s being sustainable, but has been called out for greenwashing. The company touts its in-store clothing recycling bins and sustainably sourced collections. However, research shows that only 35% of their donations are successfully recycled. And the majority of that is for carpet padding, painters’ cloths or insulation. And only 0.7% is used within H&M’s garments. Because their efforts don’t seem genuine, they don’t resonate with customers.

There are also companies that outright fail to support their value statements. One example is from US Bank, whose value statement had been that employees should “do the right thing”. But in 2020, one of their employees was fired for doing just that. The former employee had brought a customer who was stranded at a nearby gas station $20 after learning the paycheck he had deposited was on hold and he was unable to pay for gas. The bank employee’s manager was also fired for approving the trip, because call center workers are not allowed to meet with customers. You can read an opinion column here, but suffice it to say that no good deed went unpunished in this case. The online backlash to US Bank did not paint them in a good light, especially given their value statement.
So when making claims toward sustainability or any other social cause, be able to back it in a way that matters to your audience.

Use PR to communicate company values.

When you’re ready to back your words with genuine actions, how do you use PR to communicate your company values? The simple answer: Through a good story. And that story lives within your owned media: website, blog and social channels.

External strategies to communicate your company values:

  • Your executives and subject matter experts (SMEs) can create industry commentary on LinkedIn by starting conversations and exploring new ideas. 
  • Employees can be featured in company podcasts. 
  • Demonstrate your purpose through an industry event, such as a webinar. 
  • Attend an industry trade show where you can have your company’s purpose-driven product on display. It will allow you to share why and how it helps to make your customers’ lives better. 
  • And always back your PR efforts with a marketing campaign that ties these beliefs to your customer goals.

Now go out there and share your company’s meaningful contribution to the world.