Purpose in Practice: PR’s Growing Priority

Get the latest insights on DEI, ESG and purpose communications from our new report created in partnership with PRWeek.

Pete Kidd

December 07, 2022

Public relations pros are spending more time than ever integrating Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) into corporate narratives. It’s critically important work.

For example, in a recent Notified/PRWeek survey of in-house and agency PR leaders, 78% of respondents said they work on matters related to DEI, ESG and purpose more than they did two years ago. These areas are a bigger part of PR pros’ jobs than ever before.

To help you plan for 2023 and beyond, we compiled a report based on the data and insights from this survey entitled Purpose in Practice: PR’s Growing Priority.

In this new eBook, you’ll learn:

  • How the role of PR has evolved when it comes to telling a company's DEI and ESG story
     
  • Which platforms PR teams are using to communicate their purpose narratives
     
  • What data points and metrics are being measured to determine success
     
  • How purpose is embedding itself across organizations and company cultures
     

Keep reading to learn more about the report and its key takeaways.
 

PR’s Impact Across the Organization


PR has become the stewards of corporate purpose across an organization.

Rather than focus on messaging and crisis counsel, 82% of our survey respondents said PR is having a tangible impact on organization-wide policies and procedures.

For example, with oil pipelines in the U.S. and Canada, Enbridge has a myriad of stakeholders: about 12,000 employees; 3.5 million customers in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec; governments; investors; and communities where its pipes run.

“What we talk a lot about is our energy transition goals,” said Mike Fernandez, the company’s CCO and SVP, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability. “Refiners, for example, love to deal with companies that are cleaner. Communities want to know that we’re better than the average bear in maintaining and modernizing our pipelines. And when it comes to investors, there’s a group who are skeptical about investing in an energy company, so we need to address their doubts.”

To that end, Enbridge talks about energy transition in the context of a roadmap it has publicly laid out. The Calgary-based company has promised to achieve a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to be net zero by 2050.
 

 

Purpose in Practice: PR's Growing Priority

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The PR Measurement Opportunity


Given the increased hours being put in by PR pros, the communications function has a real opportunity to be long-term stewards of corporate purpose, further solidifying its seat in the C-suite.

However, PR needs to nail down the measurement piece.

Survey respondents agreed that a commitment to ESG can tangibly impact brand reputation (92.2%), employee recruitment and retention (88%), customer retention (85.7%), the bottom line (85%), competitive positioning (83.8%) and investor decisions (73.2%). Yet a lot of companies don’t have the data to support their beliefs about ESG’s impact on the C-suite.

For instance, 28.1% of respondents report that they don’t track the role ESG and purpose-related content has on customer retention. Of those who do, 12% said the data was “poor." Similarly, 27.6% of respondents don’t collect data that would measure the impact of ESG content on employee retention. The largest percentage (44.2%) opine that this data was “satisfactory.”

But If your company is one of those without or lacking the data, don’t worry - at least not yet.
 

"A lot of companies are in the early innings of measurement work around purpose, as it is highly nuanced," advises Sylvie Harton, SVP and Global Head of PR and IR Solutions at Notified. “We suggest establishing a baseline around corporate, executive and brand sentiment. You can then take this baseline and measure the impact content related to purpose, ESG and DEI has on it.”


 

Telling Stories in New Ways


For example, there are many channels that brands can - and should - use to tell their ESG stories. Stakeholders no longer look for content in one place.

Harton uses the investor relations community as an example to illustrate her point.

In understanding the role ESG can play in investment decisions, companies targeted ESG messaging to investors pretty much exclusively with a section in an annual report or IR website.

Now? Investors research content from social media channels, earned media and more.

“Content such as an annual report is still important, but we see brands exploring non-traditional ways of communicating their purpose and ESG commitment to investors, including the use of video to humanize messages and user-generated content,” said Harton. “Companies are also seeking ways to infuse their message into their pre-existing, overarching communications strategies to reach investors.”

In other words, a publicly traded company may take what traditionally lived in these reports to thought leadership as part of a larger earned media strategy.

The survey data supports a multichannel approach. While 40.1% of respondents rank “as part of an earnings report” and 26.3% “an annual ESG report” as their top choice for reaching investors, more than 21% put “earned media coverage” in the pole position.

In addition, our survey asked respondents to share how they’ve increased reliance on different platforms to tell their ESG stories.

Check out their responses below.
 

1 - ESG Channels
2 - ESG Channels

 

Download Our Free Public Relations eBook


Want to learn even more? When you download our new eBook, you’ll get additional key data points and takeaways from the Notified/PRWeek survey.

You’ll learn about:

  • How the role of PR has evolved when it comes to telling a company's DEI and ESG story
     
  • Which platforms PR teams are using to communicate their purpose narratives
     
  • What data points and metrics are being measured to determine success
     
  • How purpose is embedding itself across organizations and company cultures


We hope you enjoy this free resource created in partnership with PRWeek.

Author Name
Pete Kidd