Strategic, Digital & Agile: A Leap Forward in Corporate Communications

I recently took the time to comb through Roland Berger’s 24-page study, Roland Berger Focus, which detailed some of the latest approaches in marketing and larger trends guiding the corporate communications landscape. It’s worth the read.

Corporate Communications

As robust and comprehensive each chapter within the report is, based on our personal experience within the German marketplace working with an equally large number of communications departments, I would like to submit three builds to the initial findings…

Dare to quantify your value proposition:

The value proposition of a communications department can no longer be measured in terms of output alone. This is not a theoretical problem, it’s a fundamental one that manifests itself in the overall approach to how you measure impact.

Many communicators, unfortunately, won’t dare approach the direct value creation relationship to corporate comms. Mainly because those who have been stuck in this “reach corner” of the equation for years will find it too challenging to get internal stakeholders used to new KPIs that go beyond “circulation” or “views.” Keeping output levels high is an art form in-and-of-itself, but in times of fragmented attention spans and declining traditional media reach, communication budgets migrate where there are well-documented cause and effect models. Be brave enough of a communicator to articulate new, and sometimes uncomfortable, truths to management and install new metrics that can help showcase the broader impact of your work.

Know who, know what, know where:

It’s completely absurd to me that shrinking branches within shrinking industries are battling it out with their competitors for share of voice within a shrinking special-interest media market. Four press releases per working day in the German automotive industry—need I say more? Whether you want to point to C-suite inertia, outdated marketing protocols or reluctant corporate communicators as the root cause, modern communications professionals need to ditch these antiquated outreach models and embrace the new. We are now firmly in the test-and-learn phase of online communications where it’s all about how new channels, new tech and new creative approaches have the potential to open up new target groups, increase relevance and a provide a more detailed map of the customer journey.

Communicators, cooperating:

No, corporate communication is not a subordinate to marketing, nor is marketing to sales/business development. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be actively learning from, and communicating with, your colleagues and counterparts in different marketing disciplines. Roland Berger references a communicator’s “license to operate” within the report, which I love as an adapted term that means to foster mutual respect and cooperation across teams. Look for opportunities to pave two-way streets of cooperation. They increase efficiencies and limit redundancies.

The name of the game is to simultaneously increase efficiencies and effectiveness. As an example, why not shoot the making-of, the memes, the social channel clips, and the longer-form internal interviews when filming the larger campaign film?

No single discipline – regardless of its size – can own a modern campaign ecosystem because content must now be designed well beyond a given silo and in such a way that it covers the farthest reaches of the communication cosmos. Only once a true multi-disciplinary approach is in place can content production be steered through and optimized for paid, earned, shared, and owned media.

So, in a nutshell, something has to change in the way communications departments evaluate and measure success. Increasing efficiency and quality is great, but it’s simply not enough as long as communications is regarded as a value-add technique and not an integral one—symptoms will continue to be treated without identifying the entrepreneurial cause. My advice: work on your self-image, foster collaboration, stake out your claim and, at the same time, manage your internal stakeholders to understand that big ideas and new approaches are table stakes. In short, do what you do best for your client or brand… for yourselves.

Sabine is CEO of Ketchum Germany (Brandzeichen, Emanate and Ketchum Pleon) and on a mission to deliver data-based strategies and creative programs for the entire range of corporate and marketing communications functions. Sabine has 25+ years of professional experience in consulting brands and businesses of all sizes, from Fortune 500 and Dax 30 to midsized and owner-led enterprises as well as start-ups, in analytics, change communications, digital transformation, innovation, integrated communications, issues and crisis communications, media and message training, and strategic communications. She is often described as people-centric, inclusive, passionate, curious, eager for innovation and a lover of complicated stuff.