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How to Communicate Brand Purpose


While adopting a brand purpose has become an important obligation for many companies, doing so is just a first step. Communicating that purpose is equally important. For guidance on how to do so, consider four tips offered by guests of the ANA Center for Brand Purpose's Beyond Profit podcast.

Be exactingly precise. "Greenwashing and purpose-washing are real, and it is incumbent upon the marketer, the communicator, to understand those topics and to make sure that what we're sharing with consumers out in the world is true and accurate to the commitments that we're making as a brand."
Lindsey DeWitte, president of public relations and EVP of purpose and sustainability at Barkley

Tell stories rather than making claims. "You've got to tell a story of people, not of organizations. ... So, one, stories are about individuals, not about organizations. Secondly, our stories have got to be around the benefits to people. They can't just be a story around how what you are doing has brought better price points, how what you're doing, it's bringing sustainability advantages. It's got to be around what's in it for me. ... And thirdly, stories are about journeys and not outcomes. It's not about the last page where you find out who'd done it in the last act of the [Agatha] Christie novel; it's all about the journey of getting there. And so particularly with businesses, I say, stop telling me your claims. Stop claiming; start telling me [about] your journey because I know you're not perfect on sustainability. Nobody is. So, use social media, use all these fantastic new tools that we have to show me how you are getting there."
Solitaire Townsend, author of The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix the Future

Enlist stakeholders in your storytelling. "You need to be the celebrant of your stakeholder community, not the celebrity. ... a), they'll look at it because it's about them; b) they'll share it because they're an advocate for the role that their own agency is playing in shaping a better future; and c) you won't suffer all the accusations of self-directed, self-serving greenwashing."
Simon Mainwaring, founder and CEO of the strategic brand consultancy We First

Focus on evoking feelings. "Purpose — it's a promise. It's also a feeling, it's also an emotional connection that all your stakeholders are going to have with you as a brand or a company. And communication is an integral part of explaining that in a way that people feel a sense of partnership with you and understand what their role is in helping you achieve your purpose. Because you're going to need your customers to behave differently, your suppliers to behave differently; you're going to need your employees to behave differently."
Sandy Skees, EVP of purpose and impact global lead at Porter Novelli and author of Purposeful Brands: How Purpose and Sustainability Drive Brand Value and Positive Change

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


Morgan Strawn

Morgan Strawn is a director of editorial and content development at the ANA, which he joined in 2018. You can email him at