A new survey from PR company Shine and the London Business School has found that less than half of marketing and comms directors believe their campaigns are well integrated (Comms Directors want more integration, survey reveals, PR Week, 25.07.12). The study also revealed that four out of five said the issue is among their main concerns.
This is not surprising, but it is a little depressing and concerning that many brands are taking so long to align and integrate their comms when savvy and connected consumers, customers and stakeholders have done so almost intuitively. For them, media is media is media.
To mark the inaugural BrandMAX event, Echo Research - the reputation practice of Ebiquity - quizzed marketing and corporate affairs teams about where they believe responsibility lies for setting, implementing and measuring marcomms activities.
We found http://bit.ly/MnmWBh that explaining to the board how brand and reputation affects business performance is important to more than 8 out of 10 respondents. However, responsibility is still often split and siloed between the functions, which at times appear to actively work against one another despite batting for the same team.
We also found that earned media coverage - in social and traditional media - has led nearly half of companies to change their marcomms activity in some way. The same proportion could readily name examples of message misalignment between paid and earned comms, from BP to Innocent, Cadbury's and Tesco to Toyota. As a result, nearly half our sample believed that better alignment between marketing and comms would benefit their business directly.
Social and online media have driven the transparency agenda (a good thing). They've wrested brand management from the hands of brand managers (an interesting transition, but on balance positive in driving brand-customer dialogue). And they've generated an exponential leap in data volumes (an opportunity, but a threat unless you use well thought-out analytics to make sense of it).
Businesses and the comms teams are not short of data. Far from it. But many are drowning in it.
They're data rich and insight poor like never before.
Comms is increasingly everyone's business - marketing, corporate comms, HR, customer service, operations, the C-suite. Those brands that will thrive in the era of Big Data will be those who get a proper handle on the alignment or otherwise of the totality of their communications, across paid, owned and earned media. This is exactly what we do for an increasing number of our clients.
Are promises made in outgoing, controlled messaging seen to be kept in inbound, mediated communications? To ensure that they are, brand custodians need to plan, execute and measure the outputs, outtakes and outcomes of their comms in a properly integrated fashion.
In the first of Ebiquity's 3 sessions on 'brand optimisation' at BrandMAX, the discussion was about Reputation, more specifically about how social media means that there is an increasing need for Marketing and Corporate Affairs to better align their efforts and activities.
Our panel represented Marketing (Nigel Gilbert, Virgin Media), Corporate Affairs (Dominic Fry, M&S) and brand (Khaled Ismail, Tetrapak) representing both the B2B and B2C sectors. The session chair was Matthew Gwyther, editor of Management Today.
'We boobed' said the ad that M&S ran just 48 hours after the story broke that they were charging shoppers more for larger bra sizes. Dominic described how Marketing and Corporate Affairs worked swiftly and cohesively to minimise the negative impact on the brand's reputation following the story gaining traction in social media and subsequently mainstream media. They engaged the social media groups that were formed, reduced prices, apologised and turned what may have lost them market share into a share gain. "Reputation protection is a key focus for us," he said.
Nigel Gilbert described the relationship between Marketing and Corporate Affairs at Virgin Media as 'unusually close'. He said that the immediacy of the media business necessitates such closeness.
Describing his time at Lloyds Banking Group, he said he witnessed how they went from trusted High Street name to a 'pariah' during the banking crisis in 2008. It was he said a 'salutary lesson' in how to move from 'neutral to negative' in one bound. He went on to describe how 'trust is the key to reputation' and how the name change to Virgin (from NTL:Telewest) improved perceptions of by 30%. "This says a lot about the Virgin brand," he said.
He was very complimentary when asked about Sky in the context of News International and the phone hacking scandal. He knows that the scandal did have a negative impact on the Sky brand because Virgin constantly monitor Virgin and their competitors reputations and social media sentiment.
Khaled described how Tetra Pak go to great lengths to ensure that all areas of their business are aligned and that their staff do things 'the Tetra Pak way'.
He agreed with Nigel that the trust of all stakeholders is the single most important thing, "If the Nestle, Coke or Danone consumer loses trust, we can all go home." He described reputation as the 'cushion' that means stakeholders give you the benefit of the doubt in a crisis.
The panel were asked about the role of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) in building reputation. Khaled talked about how Tetra Pak had been active in the area for a while but now consumers were demanding that they 'turn up the volume' on it. Dominic was frank about Marks & Spencer's challenge to generate an emotional response from consumers on its 'Plan A' initiative for them to make a commercial gain.
They were asked whether the inevitable cost-cutting drives many businesses are facing, might threaten initiatives that businesses put in place to build and protect reputation. 'Potentially' was the reply. Dominic talked how he manages this threat at an executive level and how risk audits help inform such decisions.
The session was hosted by Sandra Macleod of Echo Research, Ebiquity's Reputation & PR arm.