Arthur W. Page Member Marcia DiStaso recently authored a Page Turner blog that provides a deep dive into 70 organizations, revealing the progress they have, or haven’t, made in determining their Purpose, Corporate Character, Mission, Values, Principles and Beliefs.
I purposely provided that laundry list since, as DiStaso’s research pointed out, different organizations use any, or all, of the above terms to more or less describe the same thing. (Note: I found the very same lack of consensus when I recently interviewed 23 CCOs and CMOs on behalf of The Institute For Public Relations. If memory serves, not one respondent described digital in the same way.)
But, back to DiStaso’s work. She found that:
– 73 percent of respondents had examined or redefined their mission/vision/purpose in the past three years, and 43 percent had done so in the past year;
– 67 percent had examined or redefined their values/principles/beliefs in the past three years; and 36 percent has done so in the past year; and
– More than one-quarter indicated their organization needs to examine or redefine corporate character (which, in my opinion, means they haven’t done a thing).
I found the report fascinating since we’re knee-deep in defining an updated Purpose that will align with our re-positioning and branding. While we’ll remain a public relations firm at heart we will, in fact, be digitally-driven. Indeed, we’ve hired scores of researchers, designers, digital strategists, data analytics specialists and an HVAC repairman named Harry. I’m still trying to figure out his role in the grand scheme of things.
For those organizations that have succeeded in defining their “new” corporate character, CEO buy-in was a MUST. So, too, were “getting the semantics right”; “ensuring buy-in at all levels”; “aligning with business strategy”; and “keeping it simple”. I’ve found the latter is usually a deal breaker whenever decisions are made by consensus.
A few other interesting tidbits:
– More B2C companies have a defined corporate character that do their B2B counterparts (I’m not sure if the first cohort did, or didn’t, include Uber. Regardless, the company needs yet another new Purpose).
– More non-US companies have a defined corporate character than those in the good, old U.S. of A. That was a bit of stunner for me.
– And larger organizations were far more likely to have a Purpose than small businesses. That seems obvious since the latter can’t invest the same level of time or resources to examine all of the elements that comprise corporate character.
One last point: ALL respondents from the consumer packaged goods and telecommunications industries had a defined Purpose.
Many in the technology, food & beverage, healthcare/pharmaceutical, financial services and energy fields were laggards, pure and simple. That’s puzzling, if not downright troubling.
It strikes me that, in an era marked by fake news, hate crimes, intense divisiveness and god knows what else, a carefully-defined corporate character has never been more important. It does far more than address why you exist and what higher purpose you serve; it provides something of a safe harbor for every organization’s constituent audience in the tsunami-like seas of 2017. And, lord knows, we need as many safe harbors as we can find.