At Echo Research we are in the business of helping our clients understand the media landscape in which their brand appears and how best to interact with this media. Up until recently this was a relatively straightforward exercise, as we were largely dealing with established media sources whose reporting characteristics and target audiences were well known.
The advent of social media has added new colour and texture to this landscape. Where we were once surveying a level ground of almost predictable media channel behaviour, we are now facing a rocky terrain of communication uncertainty, ever-changing consumer engagement and a new breed of opinion leaders who can make or break reputation in minutes.
This outlook leaves many a communication team and brand manager with a dilemma: how to understand social media and make it work for their brand to achieve the most meaningful returns and levels of engagement. Crucial to understanding this landscape and how to engage with it is the need for social media measurement.
Understand why you are using social media channels: What is your business hoping to achieve through posting on these various channels? Define the outcomes you expect to see. Are they greater brand recognition? Rising follower numbers? A chance to grow customer base? Or are you doing it because you want to keep pace with your competitors? Without knowing 'why', you won't be able to develop the 'how' and the measurement of the 'what'.
Know the difference between social platforms: Not all social platforms are built equal. The scope for brands to promote themselves and the behaviour of fans are different on Facebook than they are on Twitter. As such, do not treat all fans and followers as equal. Target different fan demographics and the platforms they choose with different, tailored messages. Fans are individuals - hit them with messages and campaigns that are individual to them.
The KPI: develop a set of indicators that are in line with your business goals. Take time to think about point 1 so your approach to measurement is built around what you are hoping to achieve.
Measurement madness: just because something can be measured, doesn't mean you should. Start small with a concise number of KPIs that provide relevant and actionable measures for your business. More measurement produces more data. Bigger data produces headaches when it comes to extracting insight and intelligence.
Match KPIs with platforms: build metrics specific to each network. You cannot compare a fan with a follower, a like with a share, so don't try. Consider point 2 in order to determine useable KPIs on the platforms of choice.
Numbers game: fans and followers are more than simple subscriber numbers. Sure, you can measure a certain amount of success by rising numbers of fans and followers. However, to determine the value of these you need to understand who they are, their motives and intents. Are they passive subscribers or brand advocates? How do you interact with them and nurture their potential to be brand ambassadors? Never place too much value on follower numbers at the expense of sentiment and support.
Collect. Interpret. Learn: evaluate your measurement results and learn from them. Re-assess your KPIs and the social platforms you are operating in. Measurement is an ongoing and evolving process so continue to question 'why', 'how' and 'what'.
It's undoubtedly the summer of comic book and Sci Fi this year, traditionally a niche genre but with a summer line-up that includes Gravity, Elysium, Star Trek, Thor, Man of Steel, Oblivion, Enders Game, After Earth, Pacific Rim, R.I.P.D, The World's End, Riddick, there's a definite theme Hollywood is banking on this year.
Of course breaking from tradition always brings a certain amount of risk with it but in the modern consumer age it's safe to say that for the entertainment industry as a whole, the stakes and risks are higher than ever.
The cost of movie making and producing TV series has reached record levels. The huge investments needed to make and promote entertainment material, coupled with the blurring lines between TV/DVD and on demand internet services have lead to a many a sleepless night for those in the entertainment industry.
Marketing campaigns are more advanced than ever, going out across multiple platforms but there are other factors that affect the success of a new offering aside from how well it's publicised.
It's a question of Influence
Once the marketing and advertising was done, a successful TV show, band, play or film used to rely on media/critic reviews and simple word of mouth to promote themselves. To a certain extent, mediocre or badly received products could still find success because of how slowly this information passed.
The world today is dominated by social media. The benefits it provides for viral marketing are well known but the risks and problems it creates influencing the opinion of entertainment consumers are just beginning to be understood.
With so many viewpoints available, consumers are slowly moving away from the mainstream media outlets to guide them in choosing what entertainment to spend their money on as seen by the falling readerships of mainstream newspapers, falling TV viewership and the rise of so many blogs, websites and YouTube channels reviewing and commenting on film, TV and music.
Sentiment can, and in many cases is, now be led by bloggers and tweeters. Anyone with access to the internet can now be a potential critic, influencing the opinions of their small or large circles, who then in turn pass their opinion on to their circles, the ripple effect.
Of course this isn't revolutionary, most successful brands in the entertainment industry use services to collect this data to gain insights, warn them of potential issues that could threaten a new release's success but increasingly the question is becoming, 'What to do with the data?'
Many services provide big data, large clumps of volumetric stats such tweets, Facebook likes & numbers of fans or followers but this large data is increasingly leaving marketing less informed than when they started.
Not all social media data is pertinent. Sure, volume is always a great indicator but in the social media world you need the analysis agency to also understand the value of insight. Facebook likes for instance can be a questionable currency of measuring marketing success. Sometimes campaigns with a one off prize can get a brand huge numbers of Facebook likes at it will seem like job done. But measuring the volume of social media traffic aimed at your brand is only half the story.
A complete service agency needs to have the expertise to evaluate the full ecosystem of communications that come together to effect a brands reputation: Press releases, financial results, advertising, CEO statements, company messages, corporate CSR policy, what mainstream media is writing about the brand behind the release. Every one of these factors and more affects what is being said organically in blogs and forums as well as on Twitter and a brand's Facebook Page.
Focusing on just the sanitised social media space a brand creates for itself will not give an accurate or full story of how that brand is perceived or help to understand how each factor effects.
More than numbers
Insight, direction, answers. This is what marketers, Comms and PR professionals are looking for from media analysis, not just figures.
An entertainment brand and its offerings are affected by so many reputational factors that having a complete picture to make effective decisions means drilling down through the large data, finding the key influencers, identifying the issues that really matter, using human intelligence and experience to interpret the numbers and use them as supporting evidence for conclusions and recommendations.
Keen in the minds of consumer social marketers is getting measurable ROI on any campaign, promotion or initiative launched within the user generated space. The quick and easy approach to quantifying ROI is to try and put a value on the number of fans or followers a brand achieves at any given time. A notional value per fan multiplied by the number of fans achieved can result in a pretty solid ROI measurement.
But is this enough of a measure of the true value of a brand's fanbase, or perhaps more importantly, a measure of the true quality of each and every fan?
Attributing value to fans was a topic that came up for discussion at last week's #smlondon gathering hosted by Adobe's head of social strategy Jeremy Waite. During his chat about how social brands connect with their fanbase, he shared a slide which referred to an enlightening study by Syncapse which, through an 'Empirical Review', charted the Value of a Facebook Fan in 2010. Through a rigorous approach to valuating a Facebook fan, Syncapse could then enable consumer marketers and brand managers to better plan, execute and measure their return on Facebook investment, they said.
All good stuff. But in my mind there's a couple of points we can raise here: first this approach has solely looked at Facebook and clearly there are other impactful routes for social brand managers to use in targeting the consumer market. And second it assumes that by attributing all fans a value you have a sensible measure of success at any given point in time.
I'm no consumer marketer or brand manager so will not look further at routes to market. But coming from a background of content evaluation, I wanted to explore the idea of measuring success. I was intrigued by this approach and began to question whether putting a monetary value on a brand's social platform fanbase was a full enough reflection of fan or follower engagement.
It's not all about the numbers
Both consumer brands and consumers alike get satisfaction from seeing a growing number of followers and their expressions of appreciation (likes, shares, links-to and retweets). And given that a value can be attributed to all these fans and followers, rising numbers of supporters must mean that things are going in the right direction?
It is one thing to have fan and follower numbers rising, and assume that with this rise comes a rise in fan value. But it is something else to identify within those numbers the people who really count for a brand. Marketers can quite happily establish a monetary value per fan, but I was keen to look a little closer at the fans themselves: their affinities and loyalties. Who are a the advocates and loyalists, people who in my opinion hold huge inherent value to any brand that can't be easily measured by dollar signs alone? To separate the advocates from the generic fans and followers, we need to be clear on who an advocate is and what extended value they can bring to a brand.
Bottom line is an advocate is someone who stands out as wanting to repeatedly engage with a brand and others on behalf of that brand. Advocates are loyal, satisfied brand endorsers and customers. Brands will be short-sighted if they overlook these in the quest for more follower numbers. Numbers represent audience, but they are not necessarily followers who can bring about action or change regarding a brand.
The inherent value in advocates goes beyond propensity to spend on a brand; it goes towards driving and maintaining a consumer community engaged with the offerings of that brand. We know that brand advocates are 83% more likely to share content about your brand than standard fans (source: BzzAgent). We also know that 92% of consumers trust brand advocates (source: Nielsen). That's some real added value if brand advocates are identified correctly and nurtured by marketers and brand managers.
While Syncapse's approach holds some merit in measuring ROI, I believe that there are other factors in play that go beyond the attribution of a cash value to a fan, and these factors should also be considered when trying to put value on a fanbase volume.
Only 3 months in and already it has been one of the most tumultuous and topsy-turvy years for one of the biggest of the entertainment industries.
I'm talking of course, about gaming. Not the gaming as in Pacman, quarters and nerds, but gaming as in Call of Duty, billion dollar global brands and a industry overtaking the movie industry in revenue.
Yes, in this modern world, gaming is something to be taken seriously as an entertainment medium and as a business . The coverage we've seen coming from the industry event known as the Game Developers Conference (GDC ) is testament to that.
I think it's fair to say that gaming has had a few high profile issues so far this year. Two rather large releases (that shall remain nameless) have been met with less than rapturous acclaim from journalists and by the consumers themselves, gamers.
As a direct result of these two, very different releases, as different as say...... two simulated alien colonial cities **knowing wink from author**, the reputational damage to the publisher and developers behind them has been palpable. Armed with a righteous sense of indignity, an often tenuous grip of the English language and a host of platforms to vent their frustrations on, the sharp end of the gaming community has been very vocal indeed.
At GDC the legacy of these high profile incidents drove some of its major themes. The three big themes we saw coming out of GDC all predicted a future direction of the gaming industry and in fact all the talk of future & change was a strong theme in itself.
The year of next-gen...? Certainly
The year of indie..? Could well be
The year of mobile gaming...? This writer is still not convinced on that one.
When we monitored the online chatter around GDC this year, we saw the usual patterns of low engagement in the build up to the event, big peaks during the event and a gradual tail off of chatter post event. This is nothing surprising or out of the ordinary, that's what any PR or marketing exec would have predicted.
The interesting thing that did emerge from our look at the buzz was the difference in coverage from the two big competing hardware brands over the course of GDC, Playstation and Xbox (omitting Nintendo as their latest console is already out)
It should be noted that not every mention is specifically about the hardware but even so, Sony have announced their PS4 system but Microsoft have kept quiet as yet but almost certainly have a successor to the all conquering Xbox 360 and the smart money is on them unveiling it at their press event on April the 26th.
That tactic looks to have paid off as Xbox brand coverage wiped the floor in volume of mentions over Playstation brand coverage. Whether its games, hardware, rumours or expectant chatter from gamers, a large proportion of the online buzz seems to be about Microsoft's new system and this is some achievement given Microsoft's recent gaming reputational issues with Windows 8 and tight lipped silence so far, on the next generation.
Whatever this year holds for the gaming world, next gen consoles, the fall of the big publishers, the rise of the indie publishers, microtransactions, always online DRM, mobile gaming, scalable engines, destructible scenery, yearly sequels, android consoles or even VR, that the influence of consumer sentiment expressed through social media, forums and comment tails is now a bigger driving force for gamers' buying habits than a games marketing campaign.
Publishers now have a reputation defined by many influences, some out of their control. A CEO's statements about monetization now has a significant effect on a publisher's brand reputation and this brand reputation, based on how a publisher's business actions are interpreted by press and gamers are becoming as much as a driver for game buying choices as review scores.
In a year where the industry is looking to its future, often its focus due to the nature of the beast, it's this writer's opinion that game publishers should be looking at how their brands are truly seen now so that the bright next future actually materialises.
The dominant theme of the second, conference day of the World Federation of Advertisers annual Global Marketer Week in Brussels was purpose. Purpose. The role that brands play in people's lives beyond the purely functional; the role of brands in society; their responsibility for giving something back; how brands enable positive change; what brands stand for; what their higher sense of purpose is in the world.
Time and again, different presenters showed how brands with a purpose - a raison d'être beyond pure profit and market domination - are better able to start and sustain meaningful conversations with customers, consumers and stakeholders. In each case, this isn't about corporate philanthropy of its own sake; it's about doing well by doing good, whether the purpose delivers social, environmental or economic benefits.
Kimberly Kadlec, CMO of Johnson & Johnson, set the bar high by showcasing an inspiring range of real life stories that deftly demonstrated the purpose that J&J has written into the heart of its brands' DNA, and the way that it has embraced real-life storytelling to make each individual purpose come to life. She showed how social and digital technology - exemplified in J&J's YouTube platforms and health channels - have transformed how the company reaches, builds and sustains patient communities. And she revealed how the company has evolved and rewritten the classic 4 Ps of marketing, from Product, Place, Price and Promotion, to become Purpose, Presence, Proximity and Partnership.
The theme of purpose was picked up by Manuel Patricio, CMO of AB InBev, and by Marc de Swaan Arons, Executive Chairman of Effective brands, stepping in at the last moment for Antonio Lucio, the global CMO of VISA. They both talked a lot of hard commercial sense about purpose, as did representatives of both the WFA and Edelman, reporting back on two recent studies. The WFA had polled its own membership about purpose, and was sharing findings from 149 members worldwide. And Edelman presented the findings from its most recent "good purpose" study, the fifth consecutive, annual study, which interviews 500 consumers in each of 16 markets worldwide, in both developed and developing economies.
Some highlights of these parallel studies included:
The day was rounded out by one of the most impactful marketers of his generation - Andy Fennell, global CMO of Diageo. He talked of Diageo being in the aspiration game, whether they're selling a bottle at $5 or $150,000 (the 60 bottles of 1952 vintage Scotch blended to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee), Diageo is inviting consumers to buy a product that is more expensive than it needs to be for purely functional effects.
Fennell moved talk of purpose on to focus on "endeavour", and revealed that the company always gets its brand managers to ask and answer the killer question "Why does my brand exist?" By stripping brand purpose back to bare bones, by relentlessly focusing on the role the brand plays in the lives of its consumers, Diageo - like some of its cutting-edge peers - is helping brands to consolidate their social utility, in addition to their functional and emotional utility.
|Titbit of the day: the inimitable, irrepressible Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, Rory Sutherland, was without doubt the star turn of the conference, engaging and lifting the room of 300 senior, post-lunch marketers with a canter through behavioural economics. The classic "Plink, plink fizz" line for Alka Seltzer - suggesting that users plinked two tablets into their tumbler of water rather than the usual observed behaviour of one - saw a sustained sales uplift of 65%.|
Ebiquity is the Effectiveness Partner of the WFA and sponsored the WFA's 60th anniversary dinner on Wednesday 6 March 2013 in Brussels.
A swift response, a heartfelt apology and news updates are key to averting a PR disaster, as BP and other advertisers have found.
For every well-planned ad campaign, there is also a PR disaster potentially waiting to undermine it. Most recently, Tesco has had to issue apologies about the presence of horsemeat in its burgers to reassure customers. When a crisis hits that's as big as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it demands an all-hands-to-the-pump approach to marketing and years of attempting to rebuild reputation. Welcome to BP's world in April 2010. Immediately after the disaster, as you might expect, ads appeared in the press to inform consumers and show efforts to clean up. But, more interestingly, the $93 million the oil giant spent during 2011, and every US above-the-line ad since, have been almost entirely designed to refuel goodwill towards the company
Primarily, they have highlighted the brand's desire to rebuild local communities and provided updates on the clean-up work. YouTube was a key medium, with the BP channel showcasing the company's work to boost tourism and help locals get their lives back together. So was BP's Olympic Games sponsorship, designed to convey that the company is both responsibly aware and global. The "fuelling the future" campaign and its emphasis on finding alternative energy solutions was integral to this. However, a launch ad showing Jessica Ennis running along a beach was judged by some to have got off on the wrong foot. Sponsorship of the Cultural Olympiad and Paralympic activity have been activated below the line with events, competitions and workshops, some of which have attempted specifically to engage a teenage audience, while others aimed to regain trust in the UK and champion the company's British roots. Print, out-of-home and online ads celebrated athletes' and workers' contribution to the Games with BP's inclusive "here's to the home team" campaign.
Any fleet-of-foot responsiveness came in the form of ads congratulating athletic ambassadors on their success and informing consumers of how many journeys were offset during the Games. Now the brand is expected to draw a line under the oil disaster with a return next month to ads that showcase the contribution BP makes to society. Other brands have had less environmentally catastrophic disasters to deal with and have reacted in a variety of ways. Starbucks and Barclays tried to apologise in open letters after accusations of UK tax avoidance and Libor-rigging respectively - but still were taunted in social media. Domino's Pizza used the need to counteract a YouTube film - in which employees abused customers' food - as an opportunity to revamp areas of its business and apologise. The PR disaster was the catalyst for "pizza turnaround". This was a campaign that began with the chief executive apologising on YouTube and - via a massive social media drive, online delivery tracking and iPhone apps, plus taste tests, TV ads and more - resulted in a reputation that is arguably stronger than ever.
But perhaps some of the clearest examples of how to make the best of a social media gaffe come from KitchenAid and the American Red Cross. Speed of response and consistent apologies from the head of the company managed to pull KitchenAid back from the brink of social opprobrium after one of its corporate Tweets made a joke about Barack Obama's grandmother dying. And humour did it for the American Red Cross when an employee accidentally posted a personal message on the charity's official Twitter feed about "getting slizzerd". The employee and the brand deflated the situation with swift apologies and tongue in-cheek posts. Even Dogfish Head beer - the apparent cause of any "getting slizzerd" - got in on the act with a fundraising Tweet for the charity.
Strategic Opinion Trevor Hardy, Founder, The Assembly More truth, less marketing may be the right approach in the current climate, as the world of business and governments shift from one crisis to the next. A case in point is Starbucks in the UK and what could have been a taxing disaster for the business as many action groups,politicians and media announced their intent to boycott the brand. But Starbucks' approach was immediate and frank; not wrapped up in spin or excuses. It wrote open letters to customers, laid bare the real state of its finances in digital and social channels, and spoke in front of politicians. It was honest, in plain English, about where one could see questionable tax behaviour; it put a convincing case forward and encouraged debate. The power of the response across channels was that it was fast, unpolished and, like some of the best marketing, felt very little like marketing. Sometimes, the truth hurts; but, in Starbucks' case, the truth helped.
This article was first published in print and online at: campaignlive.co.uk
This week, the Facebook-owned photo service Instagram announced that it would be changing its EULA (End User Licence Agreement) to allow itself to sell user photos without notifying the photos' original uploaders. This comes only a month after Facebook Vice-President of Global Marketing Solutions, Carolyn Everson, said: "Eventually we'll figure out a way to monetise Instagram".
As usual Twitter users were the most vocal and least appreciative with their comments.
(taken from a sample of replies to a Tweet by USA TODAY)
The word monetisation seems to be a tad overused in relation to internet stories these days but when you dissect the mechanics bringing you services such as Facebook, Twitter and Google's free tools, it becomes rather like answer to life, the universe and everything in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: we already know the answer (and it's not 42!) but we now need to know the question.
Take Facebook as an example. To run a global site like Facebook is a huge and costly enterprise. If you were thinking of doing this yourself to the same scale, first of all you would need server farms to host the thing. One in each area you want to deliver the service to. Global company? You're going to need a few of those.
Each server farm is a huge futuristic facility with industrial cooling and millions of pounds worth of server equipment that constantly needs monitoring, repairing and replacing. To do this you can't just rely on local IT support from the yellow pages either, you are going to need a lot of very highly trained professionals, the kind that are quite rare and never come cheap.
On top of these you will need all the staff, offices and organisation that any large corporation would need as well as a development team taken from the top mathematicians and programmers the world has to offer. Again, these don't come cheap.
You begin to realise that revenue made just from advertising may not stretch far enough to cover the vast costs involved in running a service on this scale and start to understand why 'monetisation' is so important to the people tasked with making these enterprises profitable.
I know this is unlikely to garner any sympathy for a sector which has made massive profits over the last few years while everyone else has been tightening their belts, but it does raise another point: how well are these organisations handling their communications to a user base who behave at times like a herd that will only graze on the greenest grass and happily follow each other to pastures new?
Back to our example, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have gone to great lengths to tell the story of the boy with an idea who fought the establishment and changed the world. Something that rouses the underdog-supporting, rebellious streak that exists in all of us but demands no more allegiance than simply creating a Facebook account to feel like part of the movement.
But communications like the aforementioned overuse of the word 'monetisation' by the Vice-President of Global Marketing Solutions can pop the bubble of the story that the social media use to sell themselves, be it bringing people together, providing a creative outlet for everyone or championing freedom of speech. Badly timed communications can remind everyone they are infact another multi-billion dollar corporation.
As with all other forms of business, understanding, coordinating and evaluating communications is key to success and when your user base is willing to mass-migrate in an instant, great care must be taken to establish, understand and protect any online service's brand reputation.
Because however these services choose to raise their revenue, retaining their user base is vital to their continued success. Instagram & Facebook are savvy enough operators to realise this and so they quickly reversed their decision to change their policies and put an immediate halt to the user migration that had started. Time will tell if there is any lasting reputational damage or loss of trust.
by Tom Mattey. Twitter: @graphical_tom
I spent a long time trying to work out how to use my volunteer day that Echo very kindly give us each year. Eventually I decided to contact my daughter's school and see if they had any events coming up.
As it turns out there is a very active 'Friends of the school' group that have a full calendar of fundraising events throughout the year. As luck would have it FOSM (Friends of St Michaels) were preparing for an art gallery event and needed volunteers.
As a working mum I don't get the chance to meet many of the teachers or other parents so a key benefit would be to really get to know these people and show an active interest in my child's education. The money raised from the art gallery evening would go right back into the school to fund new equipment which would directly benefit my daughter who is currently in Reception class.
The idea behind the evening was that each child had completed a work of art (each year group had a theme to follow), they were then displayed for the parents to have a look at and hopefully buy for £5 each. There were other money raising things on offer too such as a tombola and raffle.
I arrived at 9am and got straight onto sorting items for the tombola. The children had a mufti (non uniform) day and had to pay for the pleasure by sending in an bottle of something or chocolates. We had to divide the spirits and chocolate up and then arrange it into two tombola's each as parents would be arriving at different times depending on the year group of their child so we needed to make sure there would be prizes left for the second wave of parents.
We tried to conduct quality controlling on the chocolates but were not allowed
Once all items were sorted we then had to apply the winning tickets to items on the table and fold the counterpart and non winning tickets up. We then moved on to decorating the rooms and setting up the art gallery boards.
A small section of the room
After the children had finished their lunch we started preparing the display boards and hanging the art in the main hall. Year R (Reception) had turned hand prints into animals, Year 1 had done under the sea and Year 2 had done street silhouettes. Once the room was ready the children were led through a class at a time to proudly see their art exhibited.
My daughter's art work
Last week, I was invited to be an animator at the International Association of Business Communicators' (IABC) Christmas Communications Emporium.
"An animator, you say? You were making cartoons, then?"
Not quite. Five friends of the IABC - each of us with something very different to say about different aspects of communication - led tables of ten or so IABC members in animated discussions for 20-minute sessions. Time was called, the members swapped tables, and the process was repeated. And then again. And one more time. 75 people doing an innovative and dynamic form of speed-dating, en masse.
"Does internal communications still exist?" mused the table led by our (geographical) host Rob Briggs from the Royal Bank of Canada ? How do you build and grow online communities, asked internet start-up angel Greg Jackson? What makes for brilliant events, quizzed David Paul from Event Extra ?
And me? I asked what comms professionals can do to get beyond the situation a lot of us find ourselves in today, "too much data, too little insight". There were plenty of suggestions, and perhaps even a consensus: focus on what matters and express that in a way that is received credibly in the C-suite.
The idea was the brainchild of Stephen Welch, President of the IABC's UK Chapter, our (spiritual) host for the evening, a Director at the Hay Group and a one-time, long-former Echoista himself. Great debate had across all the tables, fantastic to meet such a high calibre of communicators from such a diversity of communications backgrounds - agency and in-house, public and private sector, generalist and specialist. Not to mention the fab film-maker, an area from which more "traditional" communicators could learn a lot.
It turned out not to be too early to be in a Christmasy frame of mind, and if you ever have the chance to eat and drink fantastic nibbles in the RBC's riverside, river-level bar, snap it up.
For those who couldn't make it, here's a great and very short video memory of a most enjoyable evening.
Earlier this week, I attended a PR Week conference on reputation management strategy. A chance to take the temperature of client and agency thinking on measurement of corporate and brand reputation; a chance to network with peers, rivals, clients and prospects; and, a chance to reflect on best practice. And perhaps - above all - a chance to think, to reflect on the dominant themes shaping industry understanding of how best to assess the impact of earned media and stakeholder opinion.
Practitioners, both agencies and client side, are all now well aware of the ways in which social media has changed brand and reputation management for good. Brand custodians now see only partial control as the new normal, and new paradigms and orthodoxies are really starting to take shape. And while many have built and are proud to showcase new methodologies of reputation measurement, what surprised me was that so many are still making up their minds about what they should be measuring, how and why.
And that focus is the nub of continued confusion, I think. If you're focused on the outputs of comms and the impact of these outputs on reputation, you're only ever going to scratch the surface. What matter are outcomes. It's not so much what's been produced - from retweets and likes to good old-fashioned column inches - it's what those outputs have done to change attitudes, behaviours, beliefs and advocacy. And it's only by linking communications measurement to business objectives and outcomes that we can know if there was any point doing what we set out to do.
The conference got off to a blistering start, with Conrad Bird from the Prime Minister's Office giving a compelling case history of the six-department GREAT Britain campaign. Just ten months old, riding on the coattails of the Olympics and triumphant in its recent "BOND IS GREAT Britain" activation around Skyfall, the campaign has already grown UK plc by a claimed quarter of a billion pounds on a ten-country investment of just tens of millions.
We learnt lots from Sky, Shell and Arcelor Mittal. I found Arcelor Mittal's Ian Louden's definition of reputation particularly appealing: Reputation + Aspiration = Brand, where Reputation is what people remember about us based on what we've done historically, Aspiration is our future promise, and so Brand is the whole concept of who we are, of what we stand for.
The savage independence of Stephen Jolly, Director of External Affairs and Communications from Cambridge University, was a blast of fresh air after lunch. In the same session, we also learnt that Mumsnet now makes as much as 25% of its revenue from insight alone, conducted directly with among its membership.
The day was rounded out by two barnstorming performances. First up was Alex Pearmain, the head of social media at O2 with whom I shared a platform earlier this year to launch the #smcustomer research we at Echo had conducted with Fishburn Hedges. Alex's storytelling about the dynamics and lessons learned from adopting a tongue-in-cheek yet respectful tone of voice during O2's mass outage last year are getting richer and more rounded. Alex will be missed when he moves on from O2 in the near future, but O2's loss is very definitely Brands2Life - and its clients' - gain.
The keynote to close the day came from PwC's Head of Reputation and Policy, Richard Sexton. He skilfully pulled together a number of key strands about earning and maintaining trust. He boiled it down to having more authentic conversations with the people and stakeholders who matter.
Delivering on your promises.
Doing the right thing.
In the age of social media more than ever, you can't demand to be trusted. You have to earn it.
Jeremy Cowles"7 Tips for Social Media Measurement"
Kirsten Fernie"The big picture - Media evaluation for the entertainment industry has evolved"
Jeremy Cowles"Value in volume: dimensions of ROI for social media marketers"
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