Why you must stand for something

In a world where it seems that every other word uttered by a marketing consultant is ‘purpose’ it is easy to forget what purpose means. For some businesses it genuinely is making the world a better place through rocket science or brain surgery. But not for everyone.

By Richard Stone

Purpose in technical PR and marketing

For some companies, purpose could just be about the part of your industry that you play in, and that really means something to you. It then becomes a question of how you express that idea and own it.

Consider the world of industrial automation. Its fair to say that five of the biggest companies in that sector are SIEMENs, ABB, Emerson, Rockwell and Schneider. Now, let’s look at what they stand for, based on the things they say on the home pages of their websites:

  • SIEMENS: The message that comes across most strongly to me is ‘combining the real and digital worlds’.
  • ABB: Pretty sure this is something along the lines of ‘We succeed by creating superior value’, which is a bit on the ethereal side.
  • EmersonThe companies strapline is ‘Consider it solved’, so I’m going to say it positions itself as a problem solver.
  • Rockwell: Making the world more productive and sustainable, from what I can see.
  • Schneider Electric: I think it’s supposed to be ‘energy and automation for efficiency and sustainability’ but what I get from the home page is basically, ‘we sell things out of catalogues’. Having worked as a consultant for Schneider in the past, I know there is a lot more to the company than that.  

A reasonable caveat is that my off-the-cuff analysis of each businesses’ messaging, based only on its homepage, isn’t necessarily a good description of what they intend their communications to be founded on.

Furthermore, this post isn’t about criticising these five brilliant global, mega-businesses. I just want to illustrate that, although we all know we need purpose in our marketing, it isn’t easy to differentiate yourself with that purpose in mind and then communicate it well, irrespective of your resources.

Why doesn’t it always go right?

Maybe these companies are too big for a single overarching message? Maybe, they cover too many products in too many regions to boil it all down to one thing? Maybe too many cooks spoil the broth?

Or maybe some of these businesses just don’t communicate their real vision, sharing a watered-down version instead? If you spoke to someone at ABB, I doubt their elevator pitch for the business would be that they create value, for instance.

Playing devil’s advocate, I’m reasonably certain that there are at least semi-good reasons for diluting the message in each case.

But a couple of those businesses have achieved the objective. All of them are really about reducing energy consumption and increasing productivity using industrial automation. With that in mind, I quite like Emerson and SIEMENs’ messaging because each of them tries to own something specific in that mix – digitalisation and problem solving respectively.

For most businesses, I think that is what purpose and positioning is all about — owning part of your industry by clearly saying what you think you are the best in the business at doing.

If you can do that and you are brave enough to follow it through, you are halfway to public relations success.

Incidentally, at Stone Junction we do technical, digital, international PR and marketing and the position we seek to own is that we change minds. Which is, conveniently, also our strapline. It might not be brain science or rocket surgery, but we believe in it, we believe in what we do and we believe in its value.

About the author

Richard Stone
Richard Stone - CHART.PR, MCIPR

Stone Junction is managed by Richard Stone, a chartered member of the CIPR whose previous experience includes campaigns for Arup, AIT Plc, CIENA, Parker Hannifin, Schneider Electric, SIG, SKF, Roche and WorldCom.

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