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