A sell-out crowd of 200 public relations and business professionals gathered at the British Library in London yesterday for the 2018 CIPR National Conference.
The Conference – chaired by Professor Anne Gregory Hon FCIPR – explored social purpose and the role of business in creating a better world for society.
The day began with an energetic talk from John O’Brien, European Managing Partner, ONE HUNDRED, who reflected on the importance of social purpose in business. “Ethical purpose is critical because it shapes how and why we do things,” said O’Brien. He went on to claim that corporate social responsibility had become “defunct” as businesses traditionally regarded it as distinct from their core strategy.
It was a message echoed by M&C Saatchi PR’s Global CEO, Molly Aldridge. “Purpose has to be authentically rooted into a brand’s DNA. It can’t be superficial or difficult to understand,” said Aldridge. “It’s then down to businesses to find and engage the right people to deliver on that purpose”.
Before lunch the CBI’s Deputy Director General, Josh Hardie set out the business case for embracing social purpose. “90% of the public want businesses to speak out on social issues that matter to them. That makes it a business imperative,” said Hardie, who also touched on the importance of high quality communication. “A lack of trust in business often stems from bad communication. Mistrust fills the void when people don’t know what a business does. There’s a huge responsibility for PR pros in today’s world”.
Captivating presentations from the likes of the BBC’s Royal Correspondant, Jonny Dymond and Ofcom’s Director of Market Intelligence, Ian Macrae, followed before a fitting finale featuring Iceland’s Managing Director, Richard Walker.
Walker was given a standing ovation upon arrival having battled through train delays and traffic to make the conference. He was quick to impress on the audience the ability of every individual to create a better world.
“We’re all focused on Brexit but we’re sleepwalking into an environmental crisis. From deforestation to plastics and palm oil,” said Walker. “As businesses invested in those debates, we can find solutions and alternatives that make a difference to our world.”
“If you do the right thing and listen to others’ views, people will support you,” added Walker.
Iceland Food Group’s ‘purpose before profit’ approach is resonating with the public. Walker claimed Iceland’s recently banned Christmas advert, highlighting the environmental impact raising palm oil products, has been viewed more than 65m times, making it the most watched Christmas advert of all time.
Sarah Hall Chart.PR, FCIPR, CIPR President said:
I’d like to thank all our attendees, sponsors and the CIPR team for delivering a truly superb National Conference. I’d particularly like to thank our sensational speakers for their inspiring presentations and Professor Anne Gregory for expertly chairing the event. As PR professionals, we have a tremendous opportunity to shape the way our organisations operate in society. This conference showcased the value we can offer in helping businesses find their why and define their how, to deliver long-term benefits for all.