KEEPING COMMUNICATIONS ON TRACK
Real-time data about stakeholder perceptions is key to protecting a company’s reputation and measuring the true value and impact of corporate communications, argues Caliber CEO Shahar Silbershatz.
Hands up if you use media monitoring, social listening or periodic research to track your company’s reputation. Keep them up if you also struggle to convince colleagues there’s a link between commercial success and investing in communications activities.
Well, here’s the thing. By tracking stakeholder perceptions in real-time instead, you could be getting not only a clearer understanding of what people think of your company — and of potential reputational threats — but also up-to-the-minute data that demonstrates the ROI of your comms activities.
Despite their benefits, media monitoring, social listening and periodic research paint an incomplete picture of what stakeholders think. All three are of limited use to communicators looking to measure the value of their work.
Take media monitoring. Yes, it reveals what news outlets are saying about your company. But getting favorable coverage doesn’t guarantee you’ll reach key stakeholders or shape their views.
What’s more, media monitoring does “what it says on the tin”: it monitors what the media says, not what stakeholders think. And it shows whether the coverage was favourable — not whether it “moved the needle”.
Ditto with social listening. Using tools that monitor social media for mentions of keywords — such as the name of your company and its CEO — social listening can help you spot trends and keep tabs on conversations on social media. But it provides a skewed perception of what stakeholders think.
First, social listening reveals only what a minority of “active” users say. It doesn’t reveal what the majority of users think — that is, people who rarely, if ever, post content. Second, the most vocal or opinionated voices are unlikely to represent your target audience or reflect what all stakeholders think. That makes them much less relevant.
Periodic research – like annual surveys – may paint a more accurate picture of stakeholder perceptions. But given how long it takes to collect, process, and analyse meaningful data, when the results are finally available, the data may be out of date and the window for taking action may have passed or superseded by a new issue.
What’s more, given the typical timeframe in question – a year for an annual survey – it’s impossible to “unbake the cake” and show that investment in your communications activities had a measurable impact.
Which brings us to stakeholder perception tracking. Companies that monitor what stakeholders think in real time need not wait for the results of a periodic survey. They get up-to-the-minute data instead. Nor must they rely on the incomplete picture painted by media monitoring or social listening. The data comes directly from their target audience.
By tracking data in real-time, companies can also see how they’re perceived by stakeholders at any given moment. That means they can steer their communications accordingly — course-correcting to amplify positive news or to mitigate a crisis or negative reactions to their activity.
This nimbleness is especially critical for companies required to react to unforeseen external events — especially macro-events like wars or natural disasters. To inform their stance and gauge reactions to it, real-time data from target audiences is priceless.
Finally, access to such data is invaluable to communicators looking to prove the ROI of their work. Armed with real-time data, they can literally pinpoint the impact their activities are having – or have had – on what stakeholders think. Companies such as Airbus, Audi and AstraZeneca already take this more precise approach – and are increasingly agile in their corporate communications. Hands up if you’d like to join them.