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PR Observations: WeWork's corporate purpose "to elevate the world’s consciousness" teeters on the edge of nothingness

The answer? "Adam Neumann"

Your question: "Name a man who never let truth get in the way of a good investor pitch, and nailed the art of a company purpose that made one stare so deep into the very heart of nothingness that it teetered on the edge of genius:

“The We Company‘s guiding mission will be to elevate the world’s consciousness.”

The response of the investment community: "Yes Adam, that sounds fabulous, take my money, wait, what?"

And now Neumann has sauntered off into the sunset with a cheeky billion or two in his skyrocket, and WeWork has rewritten its mission a couple of times to absolutely zero effect as it dives headlong into the abyss.

Here’s the thing: no-one cares about: your company purpose, or your mission statement, or your pillars, and they’re meaningless anyway.

Okay, so maybe not completely meaningless, but purpose on its own isn’t worth the corporate website it’s hosted on. And certainly not the millions of consultancy fees wasted on it.

You know the sort I mean:

Mega Wodge PLC: we enrich the planet, creating sustainable opportunity for financial growth

The point is, the above have purpose, undeniably, but what’s the point of the purpose without positive impact, or as my good friend and messaging guru Dan Ilett puts it: ‘contribution’?

From a comms perspective, we shoehorn in purpose statements wherever we can to try and give them substance, to do something with them, as if we’re desperately trying to add mass to a photon. But physics says it won’t work.

Contribution. Impact. Actual meaningful *stuff*. These are the things that move the dial on reputation. And what that means is when you’re invited to contribute (poor pun intended) to your company’s purpose statement, push back and say no. Say you won’t do it unless there are meaningful outcomes attached to it.

Because a window is only really a window if there’s something to see on the other side.

This PR Observations column was written by David Quainton, head of communications at the digital consultancy Emergn.

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