(This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Carol Cone and is reposted here with permission. Read the original post here.)

The virtual town hall hosted by media intelligence and data analysis specialist Zignal Labs on May 13 did not disappoint. With a focus on how companies large and small are using purpose to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, the session featured a top-shelf panel. A global audience of nearly 200 heard from purpose pioneer Carol Cone, JPMorgan Chase’s, Stephen O’Halloran and AB InBev’s, Pablo Jimenez-Zorrilla.

Wasting no time, Jennifer Granston, Zignal Labs Chief Customer Officer and the moderator for the town kicked off with impressive insights gleaned from more than 1 billion articles over the past few weeks. Of these, ~3.3 million mentioned purpose. Importantly, indications are that, although we are still in the midst of the crisis, focus is shifting from the virus to response and purpose topics.

Carol then set the stage, defining purpose as “an organization’s aspirational reason for being beyond profits, grounded in humanity.” She explained how it is important for companies to clearly formulate their purpose; however, purpose is not about promoting yourself. First, you need to figure out what you stand for. Then, when you have concrete, authentic actions you can humbly communicate what you are doing.

While purpose has become increasingly prominent as a key driver among many brands, the recently released B2B Purpose Paradox Report, developed in collaboration between Carol Cone ON PURPOSE, ANA, and Harris Poll showed that there remains a significant gap between businesses who have a stated purpose (86%) and those who have actually embedded purpose in their business (24%).  Carol elaborated, “Purpose must be more than words on the wall. It must be activated.  When purpose is thoughtful, authentic and embedded in a company’s actions, it becomes a navigation system. When a company has purpose as its north star, it can make more agile decisions.”

Pablo described how AB InBev’s globally activated purpose of “bringing people together for a better world” has served as a guide as the company reacted to COVID.  Before the crisis, the company was setting ambitious environmental goals and inspiring consumers to take similar action.

“But, what,” asked Pablo, “does it mean to bring people together during social distancing?”  The answer came from employees throughout the world. Empowered by their purpose, Brazilian plant managers determined it was possible to use brewing equipment to produce much-needed hand-sanitizer. They then shared this knowledge throughout the company. In a matter of days, plants in 27 countries were doing the same. Pablo explained, “Purpose has made our culture shine in terms of ownership, innovation and agility.  Purpose enabled us to quickly move from ideation to execution and then replication.”

As we move into the “next normal”, Pablo sees AB InBev using its global network and resources to be a role in being an engine of economic recovery.

Steve shared how JPMorgan has shaped its purpose in the aftermath of the 2007/08 financial crisis with a focus on employees, customers, neighborhoods and job skills.  But, despite a long-lasting recovery, they realized not everyone was benefitting. This challenge has now been exacerbated by COVID. As the largest bank in the US, the company sees its purpose as bringing more economic opportunity to more people and ensuring that it is inclusive.

As the Bank responds to COVID, they are doing so in real-time. But, Steve explained, understanding stakeholder needs is key. To do this, daily they are tracking data and incorporating input from employees about the challenges they face in communities around the country. JPMorgan’s mantra is to listen to the people on the ground, have relationships with them and work together to solve the problems.

For the long-term Steve advises, “You need to know what you are good at.  You have to walk the talk.  It takes time, discipline and consistency. And, if you don’t get it right the first time you always have to be willing to adapt.”

In closing, each participant offered some additional insight:

Carol: “Purpose unlocks tremendous energy and collaboration.  The more crisp and real the purpose, the more effective it is going to be.”

Pablo: “Being a better business, eventually results in having a better business”

Steve: “No matter the size of your company – be disciplined and know what you are good at. If you can stick to the principles that have guided your company you will be successful.”

Lastly, in the spirit of embracing the next normal, Carol announced that her organization and Points of Light is creating a “people helping people movement” to ensure the daily support and collaboration we are currently experiencing becomes part of the next normal. It is open to any company that wishes to participate. To learn more contact Carol Cone.

Listen to a replay of the town hall.