We at W2O are so excited for our upcoming lab session at Chicago Ideas Week, on building corporate relevance, on Thursday, October 17.  We have two special guests joining our lab, Kelly Jansen, Director of Corporate Communications and Content Strategy at Horizon Therapeutics, and Suzanne Barston, Director of Digital Communications and Corporate Storytelling at Walgreens. You won’t want to miss hearing these  incredibly smart leaders share their expertise!

In preparation for the event, I talked to my colleague Chuck Hemann, Head of Digital Analytics at W2O, to delve into what makes the topic of corporate Relevance so fascinating.

Anita: I’m going to ask a super meta question. Why is W2O’s Relevance model relevant in today’s world?

Chuck: Simply put, in a social and digital age, if you are not relevant you don’t exist! More than two years ago, as we studied the legacy models that were being utilized to understand a company’s reputation, we saw a few fundamental flaws. First, those models provided little guidance to corporate communications functions that were looking to optimize their programs based on the reputation data they were getting back. Senior executives were interested in tracking progress, but these models did little to provide a roadmap for improvement. Second, and almost as important, the legacy models for reputation did little to incorporate the new social and digital reality. In the world of a 24/7 news cycle and the near endless movement of content from channel-to-channel, a company’s reputation can be altered in the blink of an eye. To not properly account for social and digital in a model attempting to gauge reputation seemed like a miss. Lastly, the newest legacy reputation model was created in 2007, and most hadn’t been altered in several years. While perpetual changes to a reputation model does not make sense, we know that new channels and new ways of impacting reputation pop up at all times. W2O’s Relevance model provides a roadmap for corporate communicators to impact their company’s reputation. It incorporates a digital and social reality appropriately and is flexible enough to adapt to the ever-changing times we live in as communicators and marketers.

Anita: What have you and the W2O team learned as you’ve rolled out Relevance to clients over the past couple years?

Chuck: It’s all about engagement. We have uncovered several fascinating revelations over the last two+ years – in examining the Relevance rankings of both the Fortune 100 and the top 100 healthcare companies worldwide. First, those companies that score highly in our Relevance model do so because they have a clear message and take a stand on issues of importance to their stakeholders. Nobody likes wishy-washy communications. Second, the most relevant companies have built a strong content engine that helps them consistently get their message out. Importantly, in times of crisis these companies do not shut down their content machine. Quite the contrary, they most often continue with the same message(s) before the crisis occurred. Third, and perhaps surprisingly, is the impact search visibility has on Relevance. The companies that are the most visible in search also tend to be the most relevant. They make a concerted effort to ensure their content is found, whether or not it was directly targeted at their core audiences. Lastly, the most relevant companies take a balanced approach to their communications – meaning they put similar levels of effort into employee advocacy as they do to advocacy with other stakeholder groups.

Anita: Can Relevance be used only with companies or can brands or franchises also benefit?

Chuck: The short answer is yes – Relevance can be used for companies, brands or franchises. How the Relevance model gets used in a franchise or brand context likely depends on the age-old chestnut “Are you a house of brands or a branded house?” Either way, though, we can develop an approach to evaluate the Relevance of your company, brand or franchise.

Anita: Many companies or brands may be interested in Relevance. Are there specific inflection points that are a good moment in time to bring the W2O team in to talk about Relevance?

Chuck: Organizations and brands find themselves daily with challenges and opportunities to connect with key stakeholders. As such, while there is no best time to engage, we find companies often find the Relevance framework to be optimal during annual/semi-annual planning cycles. Its best application is helping plan your corporate communications activities moving forward. There are other inflection points, though, where a Relevance analysis would make sense. Broadly speaking, if your company has been through an event in the recent past, it would be good to run a Relevance analysis. What kind of event? Any sort of crisis, M&A activity, executive leadership change, change in the product portfolio, presence of activist investors, etc. There are a lot of applications for the Relevance framework!

Anita: How is the concept of Relevance continuing to evolve? How are you all continuing to keep it relevant (see what I did there!)?

Chuck: Relevance is always a moving target given the dynamics of business and technology. Without giving away our secret sauce, we’re looking at several things to make sure our Relevance framework continues to be actionable for our clients. They include the addition of executive thought leadership scores (we see strong impact on Relevance with active executives who carry the company’s vision externally through digital and social channels), deeper linguistic analysis to understand messaging impact, and various CSR data sources, among other things. Watch this space for further updates!


We’re so looking forward to our Chicago Ideas Week session so we can share more details about W2O’s thinking around Relevance.

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