Relevance is the New Reputation … Reflections on the Future

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, April 26 -27, the National Summit on Strategic Communications, will convene at the Hilton Crystal City in Arlington, VA.  The two-day event will explore the increasing digital interconnection of people and its impact on innovation, growth, and purpose.

One of the day 1 sessions (April 26) features a panel discussion on the importance of Relevance for today’s organizations and how it’s becoming the new Reputation in today’s social/digital world.

Below are some initial thoughts from the panelists on this most intriguing subject:

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Chris Preuss, Senior Vice President, Communications and Marketing, Delphi

Living within the somewhat finite universe of the B2B realm, the need for relevance is no less important than in the consumer space. For Delphi Automotive, our ability to maintain top-of-mind presence in what is an intensely competitive and cost sensitive market, is critical to our success.  Complicating the situation is Delphi’s long history of being an off-shoot of General Motors in 1997, and having endured a very public and painful restructuring during the period of 2005-2006.  Even with reasonably informed customers, Delphi suffered from an image of being a one customer entity with little global reach. The good news is that the building blocks of solid reputation – consistently delivering above expectations and doing what you say – has elevated the company greatly over the past several years. In other words, I don’t think there are shortcuts to gaining the kind of relevance that makes a reputation transactional.

Another interesting point to relevance is the need for our brand and our reputation to resonate for the purpose of recruiting. We are now spending almost as much intellectual and execution energy on attracting young engineering and software talent, as we are attracting customers. The need to understand who we are communicating with and where they are consuming their information has never been more important. And to be honest, this is not a great muscle in many B2B organizations. Most of our analytic and marketing automation capabilities have been targeted to a very narrow customer market – now we are having to act much more like a consumer brand to find the talent.  The good news is the environment to effectively and efficiently communicate with broad reach has never been better. Developing the story and content that will engage them is an evolving journey.

Carol Cone

Carol Cone, ON PURPOSE Collaborative

We live in a world where more people care. Public demands – for transparency, for trust, for sharing, for inspiration – have never been greater.  People expect brands and organizations to stand for something meaningful, and want to know more about how products are sourced and made, what businesses do to minimize their impact, and how they make a positive difference.  More than just hearing nice stories, people want to feel and be a part of purpose-driven change.

No longer just consumers, we are now citizens who want more. More sharing. More caring. More meaning. More understanding about why brands and organizations exist, what they stand for, how they engage employees, people and communities, and how they play a positive role in the world.

We’ve believed this for decades, and pioneered the idea and breakthrough programs that brought purpose to life. In the beginning it was “if” an organization existed beyond profits. Now it is about the “how,” with the power of purpose proven across every metric: revenues, productivity, innovation, employee retention, consumer loyalty, and community support.

Bringing purpose into the core of your business is the single most important action you can take. We call it the evolution of purpose. It’s a process. It takes vision, patience, and organizational champions.

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Rob Clark, Vice President, Global Communication, Medtronic

A 2014 study showed the following:

Every minute…

  • Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content.
  • Twitter users tweet nearly 300,000 times.
  • Instagram users post nearly 220,000 new photos.
  • YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content.
  • Apple users download nearly 50,000 apps.
  • Email users send over 200 million messages.

With all of this content flying around, how can a company or institution break through?  How can we meaningfully engage with customers, partners and employees through this noise?  This is the challenge for communicators and marketers around the world – being relevant with our message and growing brand equity in a time of a data and information explosion.

The answer is routed in what we have known for years – we have to fundamentally understand our customers and employees and never have we had more data and insights by which to determine this.  In a digital world, virtually all things can be tracked, monitored, and assessed for insights on what is relevant to our stakeholders.

At Medtronic, we have been tackling the following areas to better identify, understand, and engage with our stakeholders in the hopes of meeting their needs and advancing our reputation and preference in the marketplace.

  • First, infrastructure.  Legacy systems and siloed approaches are coming down.  We recently began implementing a single, global platform for digital and social media that provides a common content, distribution and analytics platform globally.
  • Second, content.  We’ve reassessed our content and how we deliver it.  Technical, bland content goes nowhere.  Though hard for a technology company in a complex, regulated industry, we are striving to develop content that is simple and interesting — crafted through better insights and delivered through compelling stories.
  • Third, data and analytics.   The good news – we have never had more data and information on our stakeholders than now.   The bad news – we are generally bad at aggregating, analyzing and turning into this information into action and relevance.  We are seeking to better track data longitudinally and then close the loop to better craft our content and programs.
  • Fourth, and probably the toughest…culture.   Large companies are not set inherently positioned to win in a digital world.  Historically, IT, HR, Marketing and Communications have operated independently with different roles in customer and employee engagement.  To the stakeholder – the employee or customer – that typically creates a complexity, blandness and lack of timeliness that makes the company increasingly irrelevant.   Bringing those constituencies together to examine and engage our stakeholders more horizontally in a digital world requires a new conversation and a new connectedness.

In the end, this work cannot be divorced from our core purpose – delivering great products and services that meets our customer’s needs.  Actions ultimately speak louder than words.  And, when these actions are paired with meaningful content, the company’s purpose and reputation will find its way through the clutter and be deemed meaningful and relevant.

Looking forward to seeing you there next Tuesday, April 26 at the Strategic Communications Conference in Arlington, VA for what will be an incredible discussion on the future of our work and efficacy! Register using code C786W2O for a discount on the conference.

 

Gary Grates
Gary Grates
Principal