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Follow your purpose

Follow your purpose

Jennifer Leppington-Clark

Managing Director,

Hill+Knowlton Strategies South Africa


In the past few months, our lives have changed dramatically. We have an overload of information, and while this should calm us, it can also make us more unsettled.

In this new and ever-evolving world, brands and businesses are increasingly looking to make sure they are still heard. So, how can they find their voice amidst all the noise?

The answer is simple: follow your purpose.

At Hill+Knowlton Strategies we believe that brands with a clear, authentic purpose and performance strategies aligned to business objectives are most likely to succeed. All around us businesses are closing or under massive stress. It’s critical that we continue to be able to stay the course and recover when things finally reopen.

A company’s purpose is its North Star and a useful guide to know what to do in unprecedented times, whether it be from an external or internal perspective.

A brilliant example of this is Yoco, a technology company that builds tools and services to help small businesses facilitate payments, run their businesses better, and grow.

It was founded by four friends with the goal of leveraging their love of technology to help develop small businesses. As a result, Yoco’s purpose has always been centered around helping small businesses thrive. And the national lockdown has had a severe impact on its customers, with Yoko’s platform seeing a 90 percent decline in in-person transactions since it went into effect.

Yoco knew that the best way to support its customers was to find a way to keep money coming in. So, they launched a suite of online payment solutions. In addition, they have created a COVID-19 small business guide and used their Yoco small business community on Facebook to engage regularly with business owners and help them navigate the crisis. Yoco’s agility and ability to respond quickly has secured significant brand love and respect. It is a company that is truly living its purpose.

Similarly, Dow’s purpose speaks to a “people first” approach and “leveraging its people and using their unique perspectives and backgrounds to find new ways to solve challenges”. Fittingly, the organization has retooled many of its plants to produce hand sanitizer and is donating it to governments around the world.

Another example is global pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which has officially announced that it (along with many others) is working on a vaccine for COVID-19. Its purpose? According to the company, it’s to create breakthrough treatments that change patients’ lives. While Pfizer will make money should it crack this vaccine code, it has stated publicly that its main focus is to collaborate with partners to make sure that a solution is found as quickly as possible.

That said, having a clearly defined purpose to guide a business is not enough. You also need to tell your story effectively. In our media and messaging training sessions, we stress to our clients how important it is not to sell your product or service in an interview, but rather to talk about the problems peoples are facing today and how your solution addresses them.

Many zoos, aquariums, and nature reserves around the world are doing just that. They are recognizing that people are bored and longing for the outdoors. So, they are live streaming from their enclosures and creating content with their staff and the animals they take care of.

Locally, Woolworths is testing a drive-through, click-and-collect service at select stores, where customers would never have to leave their cars. This is addressing the need to stay at home and also providing relief to the company’s overloaded delivery system. It also speaks to the brand's overall purpose of “adding… exceptional quality in every product we sell and every experience we deliver, to our customers and our people”. It’s also a great story to tell about innovation and finding solutions for its customers.

The final piece of the puzzle is people. Every day, we’re talking to people who are making decisions about which product to buy. Is it the item in the blue packaging or the red? People today are navigating a new reality. Their buying habits are changing and their access to goods and interaction with brands are also evolving.

As the world changes, so too will the way we authentically connect with our audiences. Brands will need to reevaluate customer and stakeholder journeys. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow. But those who stick to their purpose and let it guide their approach are likely the ones who will not only come out the other side intact but will thrive in the new reality.