As new digital capabilities offer users an overabundance of information and the average attention span of an online user declines to only 8 seconds, the window of opportunity to capture the attention of stakeholders narrows. This smaller window of engagement with a corporate brand makes press releases and other traditional forms of corporate communication less powerful, if not virtually obsolete. Add to this disruption the growing desire of stakeholders to receive an overarching brand narrative that clearly states the values and future of the brand. If brand communicators align all functional groups on their communications efforts and measurement practices, they can defend their brand against erosion and avoid losing the stakeholder audience.
Use Communications to Prioritize all Stakeholders, Not Just Investors
Smart brands put all stakeholders on a pedestal. The stakeholder becomes the focal point of their communications efforts, whether they are the consumer, employee, or investor. These stakeholders increasingly expect companies to emphatically and authentically broadcast their values, goals, and identity, and not simply maintain a reputation of being a “pusher of products and services.” This turns corporate communications plans into stakeholder engagement programs. And with the loyalty of all stakeholders in play, every department must be involved in communicating corporate values and goals.
The elevated stakeholder has also redefined the CCO role. A recent Page study on the CCO as a transformation leader found that the expansion of corporate engagement beyond the investor has resulted in an evolution of the CCO duties into brand definition and stewardship. While leadership of brand efforts used to be solely owned by the CMO, 66% of the CCOs in the Page study reported formal responsibilities related to their corporate brand. Just as digital tools give stakeholders the power to be more vocal about their preferences and more reactionary when wielding their investment power, digital tools can also drive stakeholder-centric communications strategies that amplify stakeholder voices and establish the core company values and ambitions that dictate the direction of the company. Data-based tools and communication techniques are there to help CCOs meet the new brand-related obligations of their job and better understand and engage with stakeholders as individuals by proving that the brand cares about what the stakeholder cares about.
Confronting Your Attribution Gap
Decades of solely prioritizing investors has many departments playing communications catch up to ensure that all stakeholders are feeling valued and prioritized. Along with establishing a brand vision and identity, companies need to share results and KPIs to give stakeholders clarity on success and future goals. This is where the new digital world allows brand communicators to work with enhanced audience data that allows communication teams to better measure impact and follow the behaviors and actions of stakeholders. However, this unprecedented amount of data brings with it the “attribution gap” and the internal misalignment that comes with new systems and processes. Corporate communication teams follow digital engagement results while human resource teams measure success through metrics like cost per hire. CSR teams look at NGO partnerships and diversity rates while investor relations teams look at stock price growth. The list goes on.
This infographic shows how organizational fragmentation occurs when corporate communications measures success through digital engagement, while other groups measure success in different terms. But a strong corporate communications alignment effort can address this attribution gap and align business objectives and measurable goals across each functional group. A connected approach to corporate communication allows communications teams to look beyond digital engagement and align on KPIs across the board.
Brand Alignment to Drive Stakeholder Engagement
Once the corporate communications team aligns with functional teams on KPIs, companies can identify the key business objectives (identity, reach, engagement, conversion) to holistically drive business actions. To do this successfully might mean completely reinventing the brand in order to connect a corporate narrative to each functional pillar. From HR to IR, brand value communication must be cohesive and aligned to clearly portray what your brand stands for and avoid brand erosion.
An example of this is Rolls-Royce’s efforts to attract and recruit a new wave of highly-skilled data and digital specialists while lowering the cost and time to hire. As a legacy brand they were burdened with an outdated brand perception and a communications strategy that challenged their ability to attract this new wave talent. Rolls Royce reanalyzed its processes in order to attract the kind of innovators they were looking to hire. The first step was to shift the brand’s identity to challenge the public perception that Rolls-Royce was not a digitally focused, data-driven company. By pushing tone of voice, messaging, and visual language with data and digital as the core focus, the car brand better aligned the motivations and interests of the target talent group with the objectives of Rolls-Royce’s digital team.
The next step was figuring out a direct way to engage with this new talent audience that didn’t necessarily consider Rolls-Royce a potential employer. ‘Race Your Code’, an omni-channel campaign that challenged potential applicants to test coding in a real-life robot race, was the focal point of redefining Rolls-Royce’s employer value proposition specifically for data and digital candidates. The competition amassed over 971,000 total impressions, 5,000 likes, comments, shares and retweets on social, and 200 race applicants from over 25 countries, including many digital and engineering specialists.
By aligning its functional teams (human resources and digital) and business objectives (identity, reach, engagement and conversion), Rolls-Royce engaged with a broad audience of stakeholders and communicated the direction of the brand as it ventures through today’s digital-focused world.
Rebuilding a communications strategy across business units might seem daunting for companies not open to changing for the future, but companies that embrace the change through broadcasting brand values, aligning communications with functional teams’ KPIs, and engaging with stakeholders across digital platforms, will amass the necessary trust, investment, and support to drive their brands forward.