By ICO Impact Group
We’ve seen a massive shift towards values-based leadership over the last several years, particularly within the ranks of established corporate leadership teams.
But what role do values and operationalizing the creation of shared value play for the emerging entrepreneur, for whom it can be a matter of business life-or-death if funds aren’t quickly raised and partners don’t come alongside to support their urgent growth? Is there a role for social impact as an entrepreneur or ICO leader?
At the Women in Media LA 2018 event, hosted by World Forum Disrupt on July 26, 2018, leaders from across the spectrum of publishing, media, and communications helped consider the shifting business landscape. They shared stories of experience and influence, and talked about what it means to strategically operate in a world being continuously re-shaped and re-formed by high-profile movements including #MeToo and #blacklivesmatter.
How should CEO’s and Founders engage in conversations that are so vital and critical, yet at the same time, can be perceived as difficult, political, or even polarizing?
“We’ve seen increasing demand for social impact advice over the last 3 to 5 years, in particular, from both established brands and emerging companies. They’re seeing it’s no longer a separation. Social impact and impact storytelling lie at the heart of modern business strategy,” said Laura Plato, COO of Causecastand President of its recently launched +IMPACT Media Division, a team made up of influencers, social strategists, and filmmakers who work at the intersection of celebrity, technology, and nonprofit causes. Plato also serves as EVP for ICO Impact Group’s client AKoin, where she’s supporting a team of global partners ramping up a new cryptocurrency project designed to fuel youth entrepreneurship in Africa and the world. “AKoin -- and the way the founding partners there are galvanizing an entire group of entrepreneurs and ICOs around the ecosystem -- this is a great example of how people are awake to the fact that it’s time to do more than just go through the motions. It’s time to make movements.”
Still, while much has been written about the expectations Millennial and Gen Z consumers place on the brands they do business with, some leaders and companies remain reluctant to embrace social causes. And such reluctance can come at a real cost to a brand’s ability to grow and engage.
“The fear that advertisers and brands have of embracing irreverent, political content is holding them back from younger audiences who actually expect the content creators that they trust to have opinions and stances on a political and or social issues,” said Ana Kasparian, Host of The Young Turks. “We have to do whatever we can to encourage these brands to embrace diversified, irreverent content because they essentially will shield themselves from new people who would be interested in their products because they are afraid to try something different.”
So, do busy leaders really need to keep their values and often deeply personal desire for social change top of mind when movements can be made around and outside them? As social media movements continue to prove a juggernaut in the world of digital content, it can be tempting to simply sit to the side as a leader and wait it out.
Again, this reluctance to engage can lead to missed opportunities. Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Chief Digital Officer at CAA – GBG, and Founder of Braintrust, points out: “Every single brand has a responsibility to be part of a conversation that affects this country because brands control the money and the advertising. They control the narratives that people see. I think it is the responsibility for brands to figure out what their social impact story and mission.”
And for leaders and entrepreneurs who do keep social impact more top of mind or have built into the core of the work they’re doing, it’s also often a matter of a bit of persistence and courage.
“You will earn a moment when people are ready to listen to you,” said Mina Seetharaman, SVP Global Managing Director, Marketing Solutions at The Economist Group. “Be ready to make the most of that moment.”
Photo: ICO Impact Group