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17 Aug 2016

When Brands Put PR Over Purpose

by Lizzie Benton 0

I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing more painful than watching a brand’s PR efforts fail miserably in front of the entire world, wincing as one critical comment after another begins to pop-up like a snowball of negative PR.

If you’re a regular visitor to LinkedIn you’ll probably be aware of the sponsored post recently shared by Natwest, admirably promoting the fact that they’re proud to be part of Norwich Pride.

But what should have been a big thumbs-up from businesses and customers alike on the social network, has in fact turned into somewhat of a public tomato throwing competition?


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Facing a massive backlash for their charitable efforts, it is yet another embarrassing example of charity for the purpose of PR.

While at Datify we fully advocate diversity and work directly with brands who put diversity at the core of their business, this act has unfortunately only come across as a smoke and mirrors PR stunt to gain favour with a diminishing audience.

Criticised in the press as being the “the most hated bank on the high street”, I can certainly vouch for their terrible customer service.

Rude staff with a serious superiority complex, and a ‘helpful’ slogan that falls far from the reality of their services, it appears I’m not the only one with a bee in my bonnet for the way Natwest have been parading around as though they put their customer at the heart of their business.

But before you start thinking that this post is just personal, let’s take a moment to really think about Natwest and their social purpose; have they ever campaigned for LGBT rights before, or are they just jumping on a bandwagon that has been gaining steam since 2014?

I think we all know the answer.

Again, this is a standard case of supporting a cause to gain some national press coverage.  A rookie PR mistake if you don’t have an authentic reason to be involved, and one that is so transparent it begs you to think what on earth they were thinking?

When a business or brand supports a cause, it can dramatically help to raise awareness of an issue, but this needs to be made part of everything they do.

‘Social Purpose’ is the buzzword that’s doing the rounds at the moment, but it’s the ingredient that Natwest have been missing.

Social purpose, or corporate responsibility as it’s traditionally known, is becoming imperative to a brand’s engagement with their audience; because as a society we are all becoming more aware of how these brands impact the world and enrich our lives, and we all want them to do some form of good.

Because let’s face it, if we all support and invest in a brand that does good, we all do good together!

87% of global consumers believe businesses should place equal weight on societal issues and business issues – Eldman research.


As a business, if you can’t nurture your social purpose into all aspects of your business, then even a bold PR stunt will falter.

Before hitting that sponsor button Natwest should have taken a look at the brands who can really show them how to do purpose;

Dove doesn’t just sell beauty products that make our skin super soft; they use their brand to help improve self-esteem within women of all ages, shapes and sizes.

Starbucks have an ingrained commitment to fight global hunger and make this clear in many of their marketing campaigns and corporate initiatives.

A perfect case study of how social purpose can impact a brand is Nike.

After revelations of child labour and sweatshops, consumers around the world began protesting outside of Nike stores.

But since the boycotts and public condemnation, CEO Phil Knight turned the brand around and became the first transparent sports brand – making the source of their materials public knowledge.

Since then Nike has advocated empowerment to everyday people, rooting this within all of their marketing efforts.

Unfortunately, it appears that Natwest has still got a lot of learning to do before they regain the trust of their customers.

If brands cannot harness their social purpose and make a difference they will quickly loose favour with consumers and begin a rather a slow and painful demise.

As much as I love PR, it should never come before purpose.


Lizzie Benton

Content Marketing Manager at Datify