A Commitment to Purpose—for All: ColorComm 2019

WE Communications Blog: CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin

8/1/2019
— Melissa Waggener Zorkin, Global CEO 

“Never say you need to do anything,” On Purpose Movement® founder Jovian Zayne told the audience at her “Living on Purpose” talk at ColorComm Miami last week. Instead, Zayne said, “Be committed to your goal—including purpose.”

In other words: Without commitment, purpose is an illusion—a flimsy one, at that. But what does a commitment to purpose really look like, in real life, every day?   

Start at the Start

This was the question at the heart of this year’s ColorComm Conference—and it’s just one more reason I was so committed to being there and be fully present the entire conference. This was the second time I’ve spoken at the conference, an extraordinary gathering of extraordinary women (and some extraordinary men, too!) whose purpose is to champion opportunities, growth, and development for women of color in the communications industry. (I’m honored to serve on the organization’s board.)

This year, ColorComm’s eighth, was the largest gathering ever, and the energy reminded me of a marathon and rocket launch combined. In an era of hurried, virtual interaction, ColorComm focuses on real community, real face-to-face debate, and real connection. It was a celebration of dream-making, change-making, and barrier-smashing, and the WE team thoroughly enjoyed our entire time with the ColorComm community.

In session after session, talk after talk, the main message I heard from the stage was an echo of what I heard in the hallways between the sessions and in conversation over drinks and dinner and dancing: The key to purpose is to know yourself—or, as I always say, to start at the start. To start at the start is to tell your whole story; explain your values, what you stand for, and why you do what you do. In other words, starting at the start is what it means to know, and share, your own bold purpose. 

We All Hold the Power of Purpose

One of the key takeaways from WE’s recent Quartz research study, Leading with Purpose in an Age Defined by It, is something I saw over and over again last week at ColorComm: It’s not just CEOs who hold the power of purpose. On the contrary, everyone can lead with purpose, and anyone can have a hand in shaping a brand’s mission. And that’s good because it makes being purposeful not only scalable, but diverse and inclusive of all.

What does this democratization of purpose look like on the ground? During the Up & AWAY session, a WE-presented conversation with Jennifer Rubio, co-founder of AWAY, about leading and building a purpose company, we asked attendees to share what purpose means to them. Here are some of my favorite responses:   

  • Pull out a chair at tables I was told I would never sit at. Be that familiar face in the crowds [where] I could never find one. Provide the answers to the questions I was too afraid to ask. Christina Carmichael

  • To be and do better than the day before. To give back my time and talents to those who are underserved. To be selfish so I can be selfless. Monica Kirkland

  • To be and give the love I want to receiveYunice

  • To use my skills and resources AS a communicator to amplify and center the stories and experiences of youth who are living in the margins. Dinean Robinson

Driving Purposeful Action

Our Quartz research shows that now more than ever, the public expects brands, companies, and organizations to take a stand—and to back that up with substantive action. What’s more, we found that purpose—and purposeful action—can be a brand’s lifesaver, especially when times get tough.

This, too, is something I heard over and over again at ColorComm: the importance of commitment to bedrock beliefs that serve as a moral compass, especially in the face of adversity. And, again, that commitment need not—should not—be limited to the C-suite. A commitment to purpose that lifts us all, together: THAT, ultimately, is what makes the world a better place.  

 

Read the report from WE and Quartz Insights on purpose »