The business of communications is changing in so many ways, and especially in the area of reputation.
For many years people tracked reputation in what appeared to be very proactive ways, but the methods actually were quite crude. People would poll to get an N of 100 people and ask them what they thought of a company. Or, they would look at sentiment and media and say it was red, green or yellow; it was improving or not improving.
Looking back, this work really wasn’t telling us a whole lot. Now with available technology, we look at every attribute of a company. We can see exactly which products matter, which pipeline products matter, which campaigns matter, which people matter, what cities matter, what legislators, advocates, payers, matter. In other words, we answer the question, “How do they all matter?”
When you look at data about reputation in aggregate, you can see what is relevant to building a company’s reputation, and quite frankly, what is irrelevant and not worth the time to build reputation.
So we like to say that relevance is the new reputation. Here are 10 ways that the business of corporate reputation is changing.
1. Each industry generally talks to itself.
Every industry generally talks to itself, in a number of ways. Everyone says that they’re “innovative” and “cutting edge,” and that they care about customers. Everyone says the same things! If you take 10 companies in the same industry and match them up with the language they use, it’s pretty much the same.
Another thing companies do — particularly in technical industries, healthcare or engineering companies — is create almost a language to themselves. They speak in terms that are too complex. They use too many acronyms. They speak at a level that the average person can’t quite decipher exactly what it is that is relevant in everything that they’re saying. When you speak like that repeatedly, you desensitize people to your story, and they just go away. We have too many options in today’s world. If you’re not making it easy for me to relate to you, I am not going to invest the time to relate to you; plain and simple.
2. Influencers of reputation versus corporate news have low overlap.
Second, influencers of reputation often are quite different than the people who cover a company, particularly a publicly-traded company. So when we do analyses we see that there’s a very low overlap with the people who cover a company from a financial standpoint and people who actually perform and impact your reputation related to innovation, your pipeline, management strength or many attributes people care about.
People who care about reputation take time to identify who actually is good at what they do. If you are good, people are going to tell their friends and the rest of the world about you. They are the influencers.
3. Polling metrics only tap short-term memory and are deeply flawed.
Polling is changing. Polling looks at short-term memory and subconscious behavior. Short-term memories are fairly minimized. It’s the way we get by with all of the information that we have to process and store. But if we look at how we act, how we behave, we are responding to all kinds of information that our brains can’t store and our subconscious behavior actually comes alive.
4. Subconscious behavior metrics show actual learning behavior.
So, if you’re polling and asking people questions, tapping short-term memory and looking at what they’re doing online with their subconscious behavior, putting the two together is powerful. That leads to better campaign metrics. It leads to better predictive planning. It can predict what sales are likely to do. So when you hear people talk about predictive analytics, this is basically tapping into what our brain is doing in different ways at different times.
5. Your second sales force is waiting for you (the 9%).
I like to say that if I had a group of a thousand people waiting outside who are willing to work for free, and do whatever I say, and they can’t wait to get all of my content so that they can share it as widely as they can — then where are they? How do I work with them?
They are the 9% in the 1/9/90 model.
Anywhere in the world, less than 1% of a market creates content. These are people who are journalists, they’re bloggers, they’re people who create original content. They get the story going. The 9% are people who share content. They care enough about the story that they’ll retweet it, repost it, add a comment, resend it. They want to make sure that their communities hear about it. The other 90% of us just listen or “lurk and learn.”
Every brand has people who are extremely loyal to it; people who really want to tell your story. Most brands have no idea who they are, and they definitely don’t share information with them on a regular basis, completely missing the opportunity to create a virtual second sales force which ultimately impacts the relevance of the company and its reputation.
6. Strategic paid is more successful than traditional paid.
The sixth observation is that strategic paid is more successful than traditional paid. In the past with corporate advertising campaigns people would take a couple of million dollars or more and use it against a limited number of media outlets to supposedly reach the people who are watching or listening to a particular program. Now we know this advertising doesn’t reach a lot of people. It never really made that much impact. Now we can achieve greater impact with a much smaller amount of money.
Imagine spending $300,000 to reach people and meet the press but now you’re going to spend $10,000 and reach more people, that are more targeted, on Facebook. This is where we have a complete change in how we get your story out to the right people.
7. People want the full story to be curated for them in channel of their choice.
People want the full story. Think about it. If we get one interesting piece of content from a news article, we’re suddenly curious and want to know more. We’ll search for more information, and then we will keep looking and reading other articles on that topic.
In today’s world, we can see what people are interested, and in many cases we know what they’re likely to be interested in when they hear about a topic that we care about. So now, using what are called content capsules, you can actually take the story for a brand, put it into one place and then embed it in any social channel.
So if you’re looking at a video about a company and you quickly identify what they care about, now you also can see the slide deck and the FAQs and two links to more information. You see five, six, seven, eight pieces of content related to that company all in one place, all embedded in a social channel. People love this because they don’t have to go anywhere else. You’re basically giving them the experience that they want — the full story.
So part of telling a great story to nurture and build corporate reputation is giving a relevant story, a relevant experience, not a piece of content one at a time.
8. Who you follow matters.
Our parents told us that we should hang out with the right kids, and not hang out with the bad kids. You experience the same kind of thing online. It’s not that there’s bad people to follow, but there are people who are really good to follow. They are respectful of what you do. They want to tell others, and they themselves are respected by the people you’re trying to reach. If you’re methodically reaching out to those people to follow them on LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter and other channels, you start to build a distribution model that matters to your brand.
What’s interesting is quantity does not matter, but quality does every time. So I would take 10,000 of the right people on Twitter following me versus a million any day of the week.
For those people who chase a lot of “likes” on Facebook, for example, they often create what we call ghost towns, where they have spent so much time and money to have one, two, three million likes — people who supposedly signed up for a community, but no one ever shows up — very few people comment. There’s not much content, and we basically have done ghost town.
9. Trends tell us how to evolve if we are listening to the right people.
In this day and age, if I care about a company I can identify the customers that matter; identify a representative group of those customers online, follow them and learn from them; and understand what content they care about, what channels they hang out in, what time of day they go online and what type of media they prefer. So when I communicate back to them, I’m aligning with the interest of my audience. So being relevant means you also know how to align with your audience in a way that is very important.
10. Partnering with customers to tell your story is the most powerful way to reach your audience.
If you think about it, I’m trying to reach you as you’re reading this column (or listening to a Podcast), but if I start sending you an email or some other form of communication everyday for a year, it starts to get tiring. But if I break that up and every couple of days I have another really cool person who does contact you with an update, it starts to be more interesting.
The same thing is true with our website and our corporate presence. Why don’t we get more customers to participate by doing a quick Q&A, a quick Podcast, or a quick video so that they can see who you they business with — on topics dear to their heart? These customers, in turn, will tell other people that they’re part of your initiative. So you’re basically going to bring their influencers into your world. Over time, you bring your customers’ influencer net worth into your world as well as just simply getting better content.
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Bob Pearson is President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies known for creating algorithms and their ability to evolve current models and create unique advantage for their clients worldwide. Bob has written two books based on key learning’s from the firm’s work with innovative companies and individuals, which are titled, Pre-Commerce, and now Storytizing; What’s next after advertising? Bob is @bobpearson1845. His full LinkedIn profile is here.