The landscape of our profession is changing, driven by sweeping societal changes. As communicators we observe it, we participate in it and we contribute to it. I will be on my way to Brussels tomorrow to attend this year’s European Communications Summit. The theme of this year’s Summit is ‘Anticipation & Disruption’. Quite a theme and right up my alley. I look forward to participating, particularly to be leading a ‘peer-to-peer’ session on ‘Purpose driven communications’.

Organisations no longer own our brands, the community does. Do we, as citizens, have the confidence to use our collective power to better effect? To reference my dear friend and colleague Robert Phillips (Trust me, PR is dead) should we not be focusing on groundbreaking ideas rooted in citizen truths?

In this context, I wonder, are we looking at communications and the changes it is facing solely through the lenses of our function, the way we have been educated and grown in it, or are we indeed part of something larger? Do we conduct our function apart from the bigger questions facing us today or do we contribute to find solutions? What is our responsibility and accountability? What is our purpose?

As I prepare my points for the ‘Purpose driven communications’ session, my thoughts go back to a Reuters blog of last week: “humans will be extinct in 100 years because the planet will be uninhabitable – over crowded, denuded resources and climate change”. On Monday, a Stanford researcher warned that the sixth global mass extinction has started. Yet, I observe many initiatives and people paving the way towards a better world.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 22.18.54This is the challenge. We know communications professionals acknowledge they are accountable to multiple stakeholders, but will they start to include the planet as their ultimate stakeholder? Do they see the world the way I do? Do they acknowledge the communications function has a critical role to play in shaping our world? How can we harness our collective energy and make sure we define an agenda that works – to define the purpose of communications, and to give it its rightful place, with purpose.

Driven by a desire to reach that better world I made a conscious choice to leave the corporate communications business world, to contribute with my skills and experience as part of civil society. It is ‘only natural’ for me to put out the invitation to contribute to the larger questions facing humanity. My corporate peers, however, might feel it is not up to them to address this as part of their work. It might not be in their job description. They might believe they are accountable to their actual boss, the leader of a particular company.

If that is so, what are we doing about the evolution of our function in the context of larger societal questions? Should we be doing something?

The world will continue to evolve. We can observe different behaviours in society today. We have witnessed traditional sectoral boundaries start to blur. We see corporations starting to behave like social movements, NGOs becoming ‘corporate like’ marketing machines, and governments wondering about their long term, sustainable impact. As communications professionals we have both a chance and a choice to influence this or to stand by only as witnesses.

I believe as communicators we actively shape the stories that we live by. What would the world look like if we stood by purpose driven communications, and translate that into a stronger ‘code of conduct’ that we would all abide by?

I took my place on the Board of the EACD, because I passionately believe in the communications function and its power to make a difference. It depends on what kind of difference we want to make, which brings me back to the question regarding responsibility and accountability, and finding/defining our purpose.
I am eager to find out what my peers think about this and whether we can define an agenda for moving forward. Do share your thoughts with me, via comments or in private, and I will share the outcomes of the session with you soon.

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