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There’s no ‘I’ in purpose

By Peter Gilheany

16 April 2020
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As I sit at my bespoke home-working space – or “kitchen table”, as it’s more commonly known – I’m chasing a client for late payment of an invoice, one that predates the current troubles we are all facing.

This will be an all too familiar feeling to many working for an agency, particularly if you’re at the SME end of the sector.

You’ve delivered great work to burnish the reputation of a client, to help them deliver something positive, and then their tardiness and sometimes outright resistance to paying for that work in a timely and responsible manner reveals their true colours.

It got me thinking about values and purpose, and what a challenge COVID-19 is presenting to businesses that have committed to walking the talk in those two areas.

Hearteningly, many are passing with flying colours, even if the cartoon villains that lead Wetherspoons, Topshop and Sports Direct are hoovering up much of the attention.

However, it is really important for that commitment to living their values and doubling down on their purpose in this time of real crisis to be mirrored in how they are treating other stakeholders like their employees and suppliers.

And, of course, the same goes for all of us running agencies.

Patience, empathy and flexibility should be the watchwords for how we help employees suddenly cut off from colleagues and even friends and family, how we respond to clients who have just seen their revenue drop to near zero and need to renegotiate fees and contracts, how we support the thousands of cleaners no longer needed to clean empty offices.

And in our urgency to respond to freelancers and small suppliers who desperately need their invoices paid to avoid blinking out of existence.

We are part of a mutually supportive ecosystem, where collectively we are only as strong as our weakest element.

A successful outcome for an agency, once this crisis has abated, is not that it has survived; it is that its community of clients, employees and suppliers have survived alongside and perhaps even because of it.

That would be something to be proud of.

As published in PR Week