Procurement profession ‘must do itself justice’ to attract new talent

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
6 October 2014

Procurement must do a better job of developing its brand to encourage people to join the profession.

That was the message from branding guru Rita Clifton speaking at the CIPS Annual Conference last week.

Clifton, past president of the Market Research Society and former chair of Interbrand, told delegates: “People need to be motivated, they need to be inspired when you are trying to win them into a profession. You have to show them how it’s going to benefit them, that they can have great jobs and great careers, and find interesting things to do.

“My opinion about procurement it is essentially strategic at its best. It is riveting, it is fascinating and it needs to do justice to itself. And I have to say that if you just do a search on Google images for procurement that’s not currently the impression that you give. It does not look particularly delicious or inviting."

Clifton said many think of branding as being about a logo or packaging, but it is the substance beneath that really makes it work. She outlined the three characteristics of great brands, which are:

• How clear are you about what you stand for? How are you different or better versus the competition?

• How does that show up in everything you do? It is pointless, says Clifton, “pretending you are a smiley, customer-focused organisation on the outside, if you are an axe-murdering culture on the inside.”

• Leadership. “Who is in charge of your profession? Who is symbolising the best values of your profession?” she added. Referring to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ zeal for his organisation to be customer-focused, she said: “What vibes are you giving off about your profession? What’s your vision?”

She was also scathing about the lack of UK brands rated among the world’s best. “We should hang our heads in shame, we only have four brands out of the top 100. We have got world-leading creative industries. They employ millions of people, and create millions of pounds for the UK economy, yet we are creating brands for other people, not our own companies.

“We’ve elevated self-deprecation to self-flagellation.”

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