DUBAI — Combining creative communications with purpose can drive real change within business and society, according to speakers at the second Holmes Report IN2Summit in the Middle East this week.

In a session led by Hill + Knowlton Strategies EMEA managing director Lucy Harvey, Noha Hefny – a senior consultant to UN Women, co-founder of social impact agency Lit-Creative and former regional director of communications and social responsibility at PepsiCo – said: “I’ve always been an advocate of creativity for change, as I’ve seen how creativity can not only create change, it can change the world.”

Also on the panel was Lizzy Johnson, VP of communications and marketing at Abu Dhabi-based live events company Flash Entertainment and a former global brand director at Diageo. She said: “As marketers and comms experts we have great influence to make change through word of mouth, and we need to use brands to make change.

“We have to deliver bottom line returns to shareholders, but we can use creativity to really make a difference.”

Hefny said the transformation of communications from a “press release push function” to a more integrated model had made a huge difference to how creativity could align with purpose for greater impact.

She said: “We can leverage big data and insights from different parts of the company and be more strategic about justifying the purpose ideas we’re putting on the table. They need to be relevant, and they need to have real sustainable impact after the campaign.”

Hefny added: “If you really want to effect change you need the right mindset and culture, because it influences how you approach creativity, how strategic campaigns become, and how much investment goes into them. CSR can be a difficult case to make and it needs to be advocated for at senior management level, to show that performance and purpose go hand in hand, and it drives business results and profit.”

Both panellists said that bravery, from clients and agencies, was a critical factor in effecting change via creative comms. “I was brought in to create change, and I’m working with agency partners who themselves need to step-change,” said Johnson. “I’ve always been brave and I want my teams to be brave; agencies need to be hand-in-hand with clients, because change is scary.”

And Hefny concluded: “As individuals, companies and agencies we have extremely powerful tools to create a difference and disrupt the status quo. It’s about thinking about the legacy you’re going to leave behind in the world.”