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Q&A: PR Vet, Profit with Purpose Author Teneshia Warner

Teneshia Jackson-Warner built a long and successful career within the PR/marketing industry. After working with Russell Simmons on social change campaigns as general manager at RUSH Communications and creating a new role for herself as founder/CEO of Egami Consulting Group, she’s ready to make some changes to the usual business model. In fact, she recently published a book, titled Profit with Purpose: A Marketer’s Guide to Delivering Purpose-Driven Campaigns to Multicultural Audiences, in which she lays out paths to creating meaningful work that goes beyond the usual “corporate social responsibility” projects.

We recently had the good fortune to speak with Ms. Jackson-Warner about the challenges facing PR firms that have dedicated themselves to creating truly “purpose-driven” campaigns.

Are challenges greater for firms that create campaigns specifically targeted to multicultural audiences?

In my opinion, the steps needed to develop a winning general market campaign involve many of the same steps used to devise a winning multicultural plan…they all begin at the same starting point of exploring customer/consumer need. The approach may vary between general market and multicultural because it is key that the idea resonates as culturally relevant among diverse audiences for multicultural plans. But this does not necessarily mean it’s more challenging … brand has to start with understanding the target consumer.

What’s the biggest key to convincing your audience that your campaign has real meaning?

If the brand’s campaign is grounded in purpose, I don’t think they have to convince the target that it has meaning, because the idea/or campaign will authentically resonate as just that. For example, Secret deodorant’s “Mean Stinks” campaign did not require the brand to convince its audience that the work was meaningful–all they had to do was tell the story and it resonated accordingly. Secret created Mean Stinks, an interactive Facebook community that provided a safe place where girls have access to experts, tips, tools and resources for coping with bullies, or even to identify any bullying tendencies in themselves.  Since the program was featured in Advertising Age last year, it has resonated meaningfully. Why? The campaign is actively serving its consumers and the world.

How do you define “the business of serving?”

Historically, a marketing mindset equaled marketing to people; we get them to do what we want, which is buy products and/or services, versus a “serving mindset which is grounded in understanding how your product and/or service enhances the lives of your customers and the world. How does it make their lives better? How does it uniquely serve them in a way that no other product can? When “serving” is at the forefront through the entire life-cycle of the product —including development, marketing etc. – then we will have improved products, services and campaigns that not only better the consumer but also better serve our world.

How can ambitious PR professionals turn their work into a service?

Young professionals should connect the dots between their day-to-day work and how their work and/or skill set ultimately is serving others.  So I would have them ponder, “how does my current work impact others? By my pitching this story to media, what is possible for our client and what is possible for the end customer”? In some cases, the consumer becomes aware of a product or service that will enhance their lives because you (the young professional) have told the story/pitched to press to ensure that consumers became aware. In some cases consumers may become aware of a campaign or a sweepstakes contest that will change their lives – this may be an idea that you (the young professional) created in a brainstorm…Professionals who are consciously aware of their work’s meaning and purpose are not only ambitious, their careers evolve and expand because ultimately they have made the connection between their profession, personal purpose and how it serves others.

You created the Purpose Awards to celebrate work that delivers value to the public. Could you give some examples?

The inaugural Purpose Awards was created to celebrate brands, organizations and individuals who have boldly declared purpose as a core part of their business initiatives and lives. All the honorees are an inspiration to others and demonstrate the power of incorporating purpose into our business initiatives and daily lives. We are delighted to provide a platform that highlights their purpose-driven work. Some examples of the award recipients include:

  • The Giant’s Honor – Saluting brands that are using their platform and reach to inspire and ignite higher living. Winner: Procter & Gamble’s: My Black Is Beautiful Campaign
  • The Commander Honor – Saluting small business owners who are making a significant difference in society by expanding their purpose in a dynamic way. Winner: Kathryn Finney, Founder of TBF Group
  • The Luminary Honor – Saluting individuals who are influencing culture with their own independent voice and personal brand. Winner: Celebrity Chef Roblé and Stylist Phillip Bloch
  • The Champion Honor – Saluting non-profits and those who rally them by masterfully leveraging their platform and voice in the name of social change and human advancement. Winner: Beverly Bond and Black Girls Rock!
  • The Avant-Garde Honor – Saluting a marketing campaign that delivers purpose inspired solutions which impact multicultural communities. Winner: Disney’s Dreamers Academy

Do you believe that big-name brands and the firms that represent them recognize this shift from “sales” to “service?”

Absolutely. I think Fortune 100/500 brands will continue to place a priority on “serving” versus “selling.” In the future, we will see more of an emphasis on purpose-inspired work all around…The ultimate driver of this will remain consumer/customer expectations.  Over 85 percent of multicultural audiences now expect brands to have a presence within their communities and tackle issues that matter most to them. While today’s consumers understand that companies are in the business of making profits, the expectation is for them to do so in a purposeful way.

PR Pros: What do we think of Teneshia’s vision of firms serving the public interest and inspiring social change? Do we agree about the industry’s shift from “selling” to “serving?”

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