Hearing any high-ranking executive talk about vision, purpose, brand values and their connection to business success always gets my heart racing. I’ve spent most of the last decade espousing the importance of building the brand assets that lead to an increase in company valuations and profits.
But when that person is a woman connected to one of the most powerful media families in the world, taking her family to task over their lack of integrity when it comes to corporate success, well, I, for one, perk up and listen.
At the Edinburgh Television Festival last week, during her MacTaggart keynote speech, Elisabeth Murdoch didn’t shy away from taking anyone and everyone to task who has not yet realized the power of corporate responsibility and good works, including the festival organizers.
As only the fourth woman in almost 30 years of the festival's existence to address attendees as the keynote, Murdoch did not let this go unmentioned. I couldn’t help but think that there was an underlying message in her jab – one that implied that women have had an awareness and dedication to corporate compassion that, until now, like the speaker herself, has gone unnoticed in the broader corporate landscape.
Murdoch then went on to chastise her brother, James, and indirectly, her father, Rupert, for their slavish devotion to profits – the very profits that the junior Mr. Murdoch exclaimed in 2009 during his MacTaggart address were the “the only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence.“
In her speech, Ms. Murdoch sang a tune that was sweet music to my ears. It began with the fact that every company needs “a rigorous set of values based on an explicit statement of purpose.” She went on to say that “profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster” and “that the lack of a moral language” could be equally as calamitous.
Vision, mission and values – core equities that provide a moral underpinning for any company and a guiding light for their employees – are critical components to corporate success. This is a message that brand-builders like myself consistently emphasize. Before a company decides who, what, where, when and how, they need to know WHY! In this day where sexier topics dominate the conversation, it is refreshing to hear how important and foundational these elements are.
Murdoch closed her speech by saying, “Tell great stories, inspire audiences and contribute to a sense of community.”
A lofty goal for any corporate leader, and an even loftier one for someone whose name is synonymous with quite the opposite, at the moment. I imagine she hopes and believes that these are the very outcomes that are possible when organizations embrace the power of corporate responsibility.
I think she’s right.
Susan Cantor, Principal and COO of Thinktopia, a New York-based global strategic brand innovation firm, has worked with major brands, including Levi’s, Wrigley, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, American Express, and PayPal. Before that, she was President and CEO of the New York office of Lowe Worldwide, representing firms including General Motors and Unilever. She lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters.
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