As technology continues to upend business models, market segments and competitive balance, one important element continues to evolve.  That of the Corporate Brand.

The distinct value proposition and personality defining an organization providing direction and meaning as well as identity to its workforce, customers, and the marketplace in general. Over the last decade, the Corporate Brand has become more significant in the eyes of customer efficacy and employee equity as social/digital tools and channels provide a continuous stream of conversations. These discussions have raised the Corporate Brand to a new level of interest and prominence. As such, there is a new level of coherence for marketing and communications ensuring the organization is Relevant in today’s world.

To accomplish this, several questions , must be addressed:

  1. What is our narrative?
  2. How does it resonate with key stakeholders and influencers?
  3. Where should we adjust?
  4. How are we engaged with stakeholders?
  5. How does our content reach stakeholders?
  6. When we generate news does it tie to a larger story?
  7. Do our investments, revenue projections, product, valuation, leadership rhetoric reflect our brand?
  8. Do our employees believe in our vision and mission?

Making the Corporate brand vibrant. Today, a corporate brand must breakthrough and connect with employees, customers, partners, influencers, and the market that goes beyond stability and legitimacy.  A key aspect is storytelling.  Relating the corporate brand in terms of interest, meaning, aspiration, and themes attracts attention and humanizes the business.

Changing the communications and marketing approach. It is essential that how the company conveys itself must reflect the environment in which we now live.  As such, it’s important to move away from the “tell” model and move to the “discover” approach.  This puts the audience in control and the brand in listening mode. From a PESO standpoint, executing a holistic game plan regarding media and stakeholder outreach ensures all touch points are addressed.

It’s about an emotional connection. Social and digital can have a major impact on making an emotional connection. To maximize, corporate brands can develop each stakeholder community producing relevant content to motivate action.

Defining purpose at the corporate level. For corporate brands to establish and sustain relevance, major decisions must reflect how stakeholder’s are thinking regarding competitive context. This influences investments, policies, and governance aligning the business in a manner that is understood by stakeholders.

Rethinking value. What do people truly value about your organization?  Product portfolio?  Pricing?  Service?  Reliability? Innovation? Relevance continually pushes organizations to assess what’s important as a means to keep the business honest.

2019 will be the year of the Corporate Brand.  It will also be the year of Relevance. It all comes down to behavior driven by analysis.  Getting it right propels the company forward providing people with a reason to be part of something bigger than themselves.

When that happens everyone wins!


If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page. 

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W2O’s Corporate Relevance Index Provides a Roadmap for how to break-through in an era of accelerating change and instant interaction  

If you were to ask a marketer or a communicator today to define their role you might likely hear one or all of the following responses:

My job is to protect the reputation of the company.

The primary function of marketing and communications is to build the brand

It is very important that we focus marketing and communications on generating sales

It’s all digital.  So, we must conflate several roles when it comes to translating data into insight to better connect with customers 

Obviously, there are several variations within each of those statements, but if we were to simplify it even further the traditional role of marketing and communications is to protect the reputation of the company, build the brand and grow the business. This has been the case the case for decades, even as the number of channels they use in order to do those three things has proliferated at an incredible rate of speed.

But that was yesterday.  In 2019, the world is officially digital.  Customers and employees direct the relationship. As such, reputation, while important, is no longer the measure of organizational sustainability.

One of the reasons is that channels have grown exponentially. It is not hyperbole to say that digital media (in all formats) has fundamentally changed how we reach our customers. Not only that, it has fundamentally disrupted business model after business model. In the last 15 years, 52% of companies listed on the S&P 500 have disappeared. It is predicted that, by 2027, 75% of those companies currently listed will also disappear. One would imagine the companies that have disappeared had marketers and communicators focusing on protecting reputation, building the business and the brand, right?

So, if that’s the case, why are they no longer in business?

It’s our perspective that in a social/digital world companies that are not connecting or engaging with customers, consumers, employees meaning they lost relevance with the people who could shape the brand and move the business. As digital consumers, which is almost all of us these days, we know we are constantly bombarded with content from all sorts of companies. Keeping track of it all is next to impossible, unless what those companies are delivering to you is relevant to your interests. The companies that maintain a high level of relevance with their key stakeholders are constantly mindful of closing the gap between what they want to say and what their stakeholders want to hear.

This might sound like a self-evident concept, but if everyone was doing it far fewer companies on the S&P 500 would have disappeared over the last decade plus. Understanding that companies were struggling to maintain and grow relevance with their stakeholders, we launched the W2O Corporate Relevance Framework in late 2017. The analytically driven framework is meant to address the following questions, with an eye toward providing an action plan based on insights:

  • Do we understand our audiences?
  • Does our positioning resonate with all of our key stakeholders? How?
  • Is the potential value of our business meaningful to media, employees, investors?
  • How relevant are we compared to direct competitors, a few aspirational comparators and hundreds of other companies?
  • Are people searching for information on our business?
  • Are people engaging with our content online?
  • How are employees rating us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Do people support the CEO?
  • How are financial analysts rating us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are policy-makers talking about us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are influencers, buyer segments, the healthcare ecosystem, talking about us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are we ahead of the curve on new thinking?

The analyses run based on this framework over the last twelve months has revealed several patterns in the data that are helping companies align their internal and external communications and marketing priorities. The leaders in Relevance exhibit traits that you’d expect, including strong employee culture, alignment with external messaging and stakeholder expectations and highly visible to those stakeholders who have yet to engage. These traits are oftentimes not known by clients and have provided a great blueprint to organize future marketing and communications programs.

Just as digital is constantly evolving resulting in new expectations and demands, the definition of Relevance must change.  The Corporate Relevance Framework is continually generating interesting lessons, including the need to continually evolve the framework in order to make sure it is providing organizations with the most relevant and useful insights. Over the latter half of 2019 several enhancements have been made to the framework. They include:

  • Adding 100 health care companies, including 60 Fortune500 companies, to the index. These companies represent a range of pharmaceutical, biotech, medical technology, retail insurance and facilities organizations. While many of our health care clients are interested in how they stack up against large technology and consumer companies, having the ability to compare against peer organizations provides an extra layer of competitive insight.
  • Creation of a number of topic-specific analyses that allow us to dive deeply into the issues facing almost every health care company today. Those specific topical cuts include:
    • Value
    • Access
    • Diversity and Inclusion
    • Future of Healthcare
    • Future of Pharmacy Healthcare
    • Innovation
    • Privacy and Security
    • Corporate Social Responsibility
    • Sustainability
  • Custom analyses of audiences that may be unique to a particular business. These include databases for policymakers, IT decision makers and various buyer segments.
  • At the root of the Relevance Framework is content. Content is most certainly king, even in this case. If an organization is distributing content that doesn’t align to stakeholder interests, there is a high likelihood that they will become irrelevant. With that in mind, we have built an AI-based content analysis engine of media content, employee reviews, investor analyst reports. This engine gives us a window into not only how the content aligns to stakeholder expectations, but what are the characteristics about the content that makes it successful.
  • Incorporating signals from market research outside of digital inputs to capture difficult to reach audience segments.

To date, below are some of the common characteristics of highly relevant companies:

  • The most relevant health care companies focus on health care professionals, patients and advocacy groups alike. One audience does not drive relevance rather it’s a more integrated approach.
  • Content that is aimed at specific target audiences and is available on multiple platforms can drive relevance.
  • Two-way conversations between the brand and the audience drive interest and inform thinking.
  • The size of the organization isn’t directly correlated with relevance. It’s about connectivity.
  • Employees can have an outsized impact on relevance especially since advocacy and outreach expand an organization’s reach and import.
  • Companies that tend to sit in the middle of the pack from a relevance standpoint demonstrate strength either with internal OR external stakeholders, not both.
  • The most misinterpreted topic adversely affecting relevance is around corporate purpose.

Corporate Relevance is the new Reputation in a digital age.  It is the means by which employees, customers, media, and influencers engage and discover each other for the betterment of a larger world. Relevance keeps companies honest and open in a time of skepticism and uncertainty generating interest and appeal.

Knowing your organization’s relevance position provides a blueprint of reality allowing you to leverage the opportunities presented by a digital and social reality.  The W2O Relevance Index and Model is the means to stimulate the potential in every organization to grasp what’s important quicker and ascertain the opportunities more clearly.

Chuck, Alan, and Gary 

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A somewhat clear-eyed view of what’s next for Communicators, Marketers

What is it about a new year that people need to project their opinions and perspectives? I have no idea.

But here goes…2019 will be a year of:

Incredible acceleration for the stratification of employee roles and the redefinition of organizational purpose and definition resulting in a reconstitution of vision, values, and efficacy.

Digital has already broken barriers and removed silos. For employees this means dealing with much more ambiguity and exhibiting new levels of confidence as they traverse across the enterprise. As such roles and titles will take on different meaning and scaling will move from the corporation to the individual. Communications will move from broadcast to discussion fueled by employee interactions and influenced by strategic decisions in the C-Suite and the marketplace.

As industries and segments evolve, brands and organizations will continue to evaluate their real value proposition and with that the overall design of their model. For example, will traditional product development organizations now find it prudent to become distribution houses as innovation gets dispersed among a wider ecosystem? Will automobile manufacturers shun hundreds of years of investment and technology in gas powered drivetrains for electric and autonomous vehicle production?

Doing so will require a complete redefinition of the character and value of the business.

Asking the right question and the most important question a CEO can ask about communications and marketing is: How active are my employee and customers?

In a digital and social environment, people have the means and the interest to get involved in myriad areas including the company and brand(s). Being active with networks and communities both in sharing company information as well as gathering audience insights is a new and incredibly powerful skill that keeps organizations vibrant and relevant. CEOs then need to determine if the culture, technology and management model is geared for this dynamic.

Focusing on the right things. The essential skill for success is Judgement. We live a data enriched world. Translating data and analytics into insight and then determining the approach and decision is where your value resides. In 2019, judgement will be a key determinant in career success.

Designing the business and brand around Relevance. In a digital reality, Relevance is the new Reputation. If you are not relevant you don’t exist. Relevance becomes the blending of corporate goals and assets with stakeholder beliefs, interests, and expectations including macro social goals. Done right, stakeholders engage in meaningful relationships and discussions with the organization keeping the relationship real.

Social Stories both inside and outside the organization. Short, produced by employees and customers, social stories are believable and informative. They reflect true experiences and offer tips and lessons to the user. These are not promotional in nature but informative and interesting.

A new hybrid Corporate Communications Capability. A melding of critical areas with aspects of Marketing, HR, and even Technology this function will transcend the entire business enveloping the areas where employees and customers are impacted. A mix of competencies that allow for a flexible execution of services and capabilities across the company.

A New Management Model that turns managers into facilitators.  The significant change is how managers make problems employee solutions. Instead of spending time addressing challenges their role is engaging employees in the solution. Titles and scope of responsibility will be redrawn to bring more people into the decision-making apparatus. Employees who are consensus builders, innovators, free thinkers, change catalysts, communicators, and planners.

Health. From a personal standpoint to an organizational one, the radical reengineering of medicine and health focused on a long and healthy life will overwhelm lifestyles and organizational missions. Companies are already making health a priority among the workforce to ensure continuity and productivity but the approach will begin to get even more acute. Communicators, marketers, and leaders will all play a significant role in this transformation.

Corporate ResponsibilityThe evolution of Corporate Responsibility is fast becoming a critical agenda item for many CEOs and BODs. Governance is more about the sustainable care and respect for environmental, social, and welfare of the community, market, and planet. This is not an altruistic endeavor but rather essential to recruiting and retaining talent in a global reality. Being a forceful voice at the table is an expected behavior for today’s communications leader.

Catalytic Culture. 2019 is the year we will experience a more kinetic corporate culture where people not only integrate and work across lines and boundaries and learning to adjust to different talent needs. The effort results in people who are catalysts in getting things done and bringing different thinking and skills together. Communications in a digital oriented environment must reflect real time accessibility of information, content, and feedback.

Discover vs. Sell. We have been saying for some time that in a social/digital world, people need to discover vs. being sold. In 2019, this base philosophy will be universally adopted by marketers and communicators alike.

The start of a new year is always an exhilarating time. Regardless of the typical prognostications, four things are important to ensuring you make the most of it:

  • Exhibit Common Sense
  • Utilize Insight
  • Listen Intently
  • Act Quickly

Here’s a to Healthy, Happy New Year!


If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page. Want to chat? Drop us a line

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in Four Easy Steps

A byproduct of today’s hectic world is the overwhelming amount of information we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Much of it envelops us like mist and bounces off us like rain drops while a few break through and capture our attention and interest. As communications and marketing professionals, the challenge extends deeper as we must make sense of what is relevant and therefore, meaningful to our important stakeholders.

But how do we see through this haze and uncover what matters?

It starts with real-time data and analytics. What information is prevalent within specific audience groups? How is information being shared or amplified across social networks? Is certain information facilitating collaboration? Is there a style or format that is more effective in gaining attention?

Data and the ensuing insights it fosters provides the answers to these questions and many more. It allows for a clearer view of the environment and a more confident approach to building relationships. Further data is used to evaluate the competition and the changing views of your constituents.

Next is a new narrative from which stories emanate reflecting the relevance necessary in the audience. It defines the tone that characterizes your organization. For example, being more provocative in your content is actually noticed more.

And then a digital model that encompasses communications and marketing techniques that results in a seamless journey for customers through platforms, channels, and media is designed.  The model promotes your organization while connecting your audience via content that resonates and metrics that gauge performance.  It is built against strategic goals and sustainable objectives for the business. The opportunity is to provide value to the marketplace in its terms.  Most importantly, a digital communications and marketing strategy is designed as a discover vs. sell profile meaning it cause people to uncover what is relevant not be told.

The fourth and final piece is mindset.How are you approaching the situation? Are you using data in your decision-making? Do you grasp relevance as viewed by your audiences? Do you follow customers along the journey to the brand? How do you experience the relationship with your brand or organization? Where is value being assimilated in the market? What techniques are being leveraged to encapsulate the values and purpose of your organization.  Are you tracking behavior to discern shifts and nuances?

It’s all about optimization. Ensuring the organization and brand is elevated across the digital spectrum delivering customized content and maintaining integrity throughout the relationship.

The fog of today’s business ecosystem is strong enough to blind attempts to find and connect with customers and consumers.  Turning your bright lights on – generating more content – will only mitigate your depth of vision. Rather, employing data and turning it into actionable insight via a new narrative and a digital approach will keep you closer to the ground guiding your path in a more confident and clear manner.


If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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It goes without saying that today’s Boards have an incredible responsibility as it relates to corporate governance. In a digital world, governance takes on a whole new meaning. The result is that directors, management, and shareholders must be cognizant and capable of handling the onslaught of scrutiny and opinions by employees, investors, regulators, and influencers that now traverse the social landscape.  Further, Boards must ensure a climate of integrity, dignity, and ethics from which to lead and manage the organization.

But the most interesting shift in terms of Board responsibilities has to do with Reputation. Long understood to be at the core of Board value, maintaining or strengthening corporate reputation in a digital age is no longer a reactive exercise.  Rather, Relevance is now the single most important oversight responsibility. It is quite frankly the strongest asset an organization possesses. Relevance can influence valuation, recruitment, retention, interest, and foster innovation. Relevance magnifies engagement among key stakeholders. It can also highlight a deep divide between a company’s position and a marketplace’s expectations.

As Boards grapple with this growing complexity fueled by technology and shifting circles of power, two critical questions must be addressed:

  1. Are We Relevant? As cited above, Boards need to be aware of the organization’s relevance among key stakeholders in order to gauge strategies, drive investments, monitor leadership performance,  and determine risk. Unlike the view past Boards had of reputation, relevance is much more fluid and agile either accelerating momentum or choking off growth.
  2. What Is Our Narrative? Now more than ever, companies need to have an organizing story or narrative that captures the essence of the business at a certain point in time. Boards need to be grasp the clarity and simplicity of the corporate narrative so it becomes a natural frame of reference for their work.

Navigating an organization in a connected world in which convergence of knowledge, data, technology, and communication are intertwined completely changes the relationships inherent in our social and business paradigm. For Boards in particular the pressure to balance often competing priorities can be daunting. Not dealing with the two questions posed here only intensifies the demands placed on directors as well as the scrutiny shone on the organization.

Getting your narrative right and comprehending Relevance can result in organizational resilience or the ability to tackle head-on the challenges that confront a business. With this mind, Boards can go a long way to guiding the agenda in the context of a changing environment and focus their energies on increasing value for the enterprise.

It’s certainly a new day for Boards in shaping how organizations succeed in a global environment and assimilating the resulting effects in a proactive manner.

Doing so will ensure its work remains fresh and unfettered.


If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Healthcare pages.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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There seems to be an unwritten rule in change management as it relates to communications. That is, communications is a tactical element and the only audience that needs to change are the employees. Why is that noteworthy?  For want of a better term, because it’s lazy thinking driven by management consulting firms and the expediency necessary to moving an organization forward. However, the difference maker in change is and remains communications…strategic communications. Moving people to believe in what’s next and reinforcing new behaviors through relevant information and a process that encourages dialogue, discussion, and debate that fosters learning and collaboration.

To effectively transform an organization in a digital realm, one must recalibrate your entire mindset. It starts with how the business needs to redesign itself to succeed. It reflects different structural forms to place people in a better place to satisfy customers. How the business needs to pivot in the face of competitive shifts. How the business needs to keep ahead of the customer connecting in multiple places.  How the business absorbs technology and analytics. How the business ideates and innovates. It then shifts to the behaviors and multidimensional techniques people need to drive the business in new and better ways.  It then moves to a whole new conversation internally revolving around different topics ranging from financial and performance measures to insights from the marketplace and opinions of colleagues.

The most important assumption, though, that needs to be overturned involves redirecting change communications to leaders. This is a major difference with change efforts to date. Leaders must truly grasp the multi-dimensional demands on the business during change. They must initiate a new discussion inside. They must gather information and interpret it for their respective staffs. They must establish new decision-making mechanisms and spatial distribution of interactions inn their groups.

Communicating to leaders initially as the change initiative unfolds results in:

  1. Mitigating Ambiguity, Complexity – The key is making sense of the situation in way people can grasp and learn
  2. Organize Around Customers, Marketplace – Shift the view to external and reinforce values
  3. Expand Communications Beyond PowerPoints & E-Mail – Establish a holistic leadership model that combines multiple communications techniques
  4. Strengthen Interdependence – Breakdown bureaucracy at the senior levels and encourage teamwork and sharing
  5. Increase Voice Internally – Multiple voices vs one expand conversation providing interesting points of view and garnering more interest
  6. Shape Perceptions – Reframing situations and offering an array of perspectives including examples tell their own story to people

Further, if your change effort including communications is focused on employees solely there will be an immediate pushback as the workforce realizes nothing will actually change if their leadership is not being held accountable. This includes endless presentations about the future and cryptic messages about job loss and performance. The resulting take-aways include fear, uncertainty, and doubt leading to paralysis.

Organizations are now reconstituting this troubled approach and targeting leaders upfront to be the beacons of change for the organization and the models of behavior for the workforce.  For communicators, this means taking our efforts a step further to being more sensitive to the dynamics of the workplace and the symbiotic relationship between employees and the organization.

To find change with employees, you first must initiate change with leadership. It’s the only way people believe the effort is actually important!


If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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Ah, the ubiquitous crisis. In today’s digital, all-access world, a damaging video, negative tweet, verbal misstep or computer network breech can leave a company reeling, causing stock prices to plummet, a mass exodus of customers and employees, major regulatory fines…the list goes on. While unfortunate, every one of us in the business world will be hit with a crisis at some point. It’s inevitable.

Whether the crisis is massive or minuscule, it’s important to be as prepared as possible, hunker down, respond quickly, transparently and effectively, and go about rebuilding your reputation… perhaps even for the better. A critical component  of a crisis response plan  is having data at your fingertips that can help you develop a fact-based plan of action. By tracking various forms of conversation occurring online and on social media platforms, you can glean important insights into customer and company sentiment, which will undoubtedly help inform your crisis plan. 

Today, I am excited to sit down with Steven Cutbirth, an analytics and engagement Senior Account Manager at W2O  to learn about the value of data analytics and social listening in helping mitigate and/or manage crises.

Steven, you have been using data analytics and social listening as a platform in mitigating several crises for our healthcare clients. Can you explain the role that analytics specifically plays in managing a crisis situation?

Analytics represent the “secret sauce” in effectively managing a crisis, helping guide a company’s response strategy with precision. In my experience, clients who invest upfront in an analytical approach to measurement and monitoring are the ones who truly understand their audience during a crisis. My team recently helped counsel a client through an unforeseen crisis situation that escalated quickly, generating viral social sharing and national media coverage within hours. We acted quickly to prepare a real-time solution by conducting social and media analyses to determine how the coverage was trending, which themes were becoming most apparent, and how the situation was being positioned. These analytics-driven insights proved that the crisis was sidestepping our client and ultimately trending downward. Having this data in hand proved invaluable in guiding the client to engage in a measured response. We simply couldn’t have done this without data analytics.

How does data gleaned from online analytics help inform a proactive crisis plan before one hits?

Potential crises can often be identified through predictive analytics, the process of utilizing previous patterns to predict potential future outcomes. Understanding potential outcomes can alert us to issues we don’t yet know about. The use of AI-based early-detection tools can automatically uncover unexpected shifts in previous patterns and immediately bring these to our attention as a potential cause for concern – in essence catching a crisis before it becomes one.

There are literally millions of negative social mentions made about brands each and every day. How does social listening and analytics help cut through the proverbial clutter and identify a crisis in the making?

I look at this as a three-part approach:

  1. You must be actively monitoring online conversations about your brand on a regular basis. That way you will know when there are significant upticks in conversation around a specific topic or unexpected marginal shifts that may hint at an upcoming crisis.
  2. Benchmarking is crucial. It’s more than just identifying negative mentions on your social channels. You must have a keen understanding of overall engagement metrics for each of your social media platforms. Regularly analyzing these engagement metrics on a recurring basis will make it far easier to spot when something is not quite right.
  3. Know and regularly engage with brand and industry online influencers, as they often serve as the bellwethers who will alert you to trends that may affect your brand. Develop an active monitoring program to ensure you are in-the-know about industry- or brand-specific topics they are actively discussing.

Want to learn more about W2O’s analytics-driven approach to crisis communications? We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a note.

The key to effective engagement in a social/digital reality is relevance. Relevance manifests itself in content, consistency, cadence, channel, and commitment.  It turns brands into publishers, consumers into partners, and employees into advocates.

Relevant content breaks through the clutter and grabs attention.  It provides a pathway to and from the organization allowing for real conversations to take place and a deeper sense of comprehension regarding the brand, the organization, the customer, and the policies inherent in the enterprise.  Relevant content teaches and learns. It’s all about allowing people to discover who you are, what you stand for, how you think, and why you are important to them.

Note the word “discover.” It means content that allows people to find you on their terms vs. shouting at them in yours.

So why do brands find it so difficult to create stories that illuminate meaning?

Below are key areas where brands fall short:

  1. Content Must be Alluring – People must be attracted to the story because it’s attractive.
  2. Content Must be Meaningful – Information needs to be significant in terms of what it means to a customer or employee.  Most brand content lacks a material core to capture interest.   It’s mostly promotional in nature.
  3. Content Must be Engaging – One-way information is a dead end.  In today’s social world, customer and brand must be in continuous harmony exchanging perspectives and sharing information related to understanding each other better.  Content that provides immersive and experiential experiences.
  4. Content Must be Accessible – If you can’t find it, it doesn’t exist.  Content needs to be on all platforms at all times and frequently updated and addressed.
  5. Content Must be Connected – One-off content is quickly dismissed, and forgotten.  Brands that link content to convey a fuller story – broadening the narrative – create and sustain interest while.
  6. Content Must be Channel Specific – One size fits all doesn’t work.   Content needs to be directed to each specific platform based on audience preferences.
  7. Content Must be Diverse – Visual, Video, Static, Audio, Blog Posts and Case Studies, News, Interviews, White Papers, Webinars, etc.  Each of these methods and types of content reflect a specific need and purpose in engaging stakeholders and learning more about them.
  8. Content must be Personal – When brands grasp their customer’s lives, they speak with them in a conversational manner, sensing wants and needs and addressing issues in a respectful, timely way.

Insight Breeds Precision

Given the above, the overarching reason brands struggle with relevant content is that relevance can’t be defined inside the organization.  Relevance is defined by the market – customers, consumers, prospects, influencers, media – based on behaviors and actions.   Brands utilize analytics to uncover insights that inform and influence programming and messaging in addition to product development, policy formation, and operational excellence.

In turn, insights translate into action based on more precise data and knowledge resulting in an optimal spend and use of resources from a marketing and communications standpoint.

Rethinking content in a time of short attention spans, information overload, skepticism, and choice can be a daunting task.  Brands, though, have an incredible opportunity to completely upend decades of one-way communications and see their products and services through a new lens.  One that reflects a digital world and a customer base with a variety of touch points to the brand and an expectation for a more personalized relationship on-demand.

Content then must serve a greater role in the entire marketing and communications mix defining the customer experience in new and different ways.

It begins with first letting go and accepting customers (and employees) own your brand.  It then moves to employing analytics to identify behaviors and actions providing insights that mirror lifestyles for use in content and programming.

So, how is your content working for your stakeholders?


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It’s no secret that news travels at the speed of a millisecond in today’s social/digital reality, yet for many companies, response time to mobilize around an issue often seems to be stuck in a different era. The key is accelerating responsiveness while ensuring thorough contingency analysis and planning, thanks in part to the availability of real-time analytics.  At W2O we’ve taken an in-depth look at how to make companies more agile improving their judgment and mitigating problems before they blossom.

How do we do this? We conduct a proprietary, real-time simulation process we call Inception, to pressure-test clients around preparedness. It’s an interactive workshop in which teams confront and respond to a crisis situation that emerges in a social/digital world.  In the debrief following the session, strengths and weaknesses in operational decision-making processes, intelligence-gathering, analytics, content development, and use of communication channels are identified, as are best practices.

Additionally, we follow a playbook. The playbook for an efficient and effective issues process in a digital world includes the following elements:

  • Effective triage increases decision-making. Some issues are urgent and important; others more of nuisance. If there’s a complicated, multi-person process for figuring out which is which—or conversely no process at all—company responses will be slow, muddled, and inefficient. Triage is a good solution. Just as hospital emergency departments employ triage professionals, corporations should have people trained to evaluate crises, make quick decisions, and rally resources rapidly when the situation warrants. Does yours? Are there clearly established internal signals that let him or her clarify within the organization that one issue is a “red ball” while others can be allowed to quiet down on their own?
  • A tight response team ensures you to stay agile. It’s hard to be nimble when you’re too large.  What’s the minimum team size needed to get results fast? Often you can get 90% of what you need from a small team; waiting for the missing 10% can immobilize you. Plan in advance who’s to be on the core team, put their contact information on speed-dial, and ensure they can be reached 24/7. (Equally important: knowing who’s not on this team. Rapid response sometimes requires sidestepping or tactfully saying no to some people who want to be involved but aren’t critical to the decision or immediately available to weigh in.)
  • Calibrate responses based on the platform and expectation; pre-authorize experts. Response time is directed by platform ad channel. Each has its own cadence, frequency, and expectation.  As such, knowing who in your organization has the experience and judgment to respond to key parts of the issue? Ideally, that go-to person should be pre-identified and pre-authorized by the C-suite to speak on the issue, independently providing reassurance while a more complete strategy gets formulated. Interim responses calm panic and let key audiences know you’re aware of the situation and working on solutions.
  • Address the short-term; deal with the long-term. At W2O, we recommend immediate response ideas with a more strategic long-term outlook built into the plan. It’s easier to put issues in perspective when you have initial solutions at hand with the ability to pivot to a longer-term approach; without these starter ideas, the issue can hover longer than it should.
  • Let data and realtime analytics provide the pathway. In times past, you needed to field a research study to gauge the impact of a situation and response to it. Today, you can use near-instantaneous real-time analytics to course-correct and fine-tune your efforts quickly before, during and immediately after a crisis hits. More importantly, if you are doing predictive analytics regularly, mapping potential issues that you can plan for (understanding that there are some you won’t see coming) you can actually spot an issue bubbling up in the earliest of instances and nip it before it hits The New York Times.
  • Respect the news highway. Information is power.  In a fast-paced, ever-changing media and influence environment it is critical that everyone involved in a crisis is educated on how news and opinion forms and flows.  That goes for traditional earned media most of which is also on-line today making sharing and syndication quicker and easier than ever before; the influence on social media posts by anyone with influence, media or not media, and how that can create a firestorm, often without context, within hours all the way up to the national evening news; to paid syndication of earned media and how that amplifies messaging in ways never seen in the past; to the importance of having active social channels and information on all the key influencers who follow and are engaged with your organization, to get into the discussion quickly in the same places where a crisis could be taking flight.    A little education will go a long way for most companies in this area.
  • Value speed over perfection. Issues often swirl out of control due to a lack of responsiveness that is the byproduct of being perfect. Getting your point-of-view out there quickly and updating based on new information is the difference between reputational damage and reputational gain.

Being aware and trained early on is the best remedy for mitigating an issue.  Some companies believe that a social media flare-up won’t affect them, some know it but don’t know how to prepare or get ahead of it with speed, but those who have experienced one know just how much damage can quickly occur.

Issues management and crisis preparedness in a digital age has taken on new meaning causing organizations to deal with the situation in an agile manner often upending traditional corporate protocols and processes.

Those that adopt and adapt quickly will emerge unscathed.  Those that don’t will deal with the consequences.

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