Marketers work at a breakneck pace today. With thousands of communication measurement tools and hundreds of data points to analyze, it can be hard just to find a starting point, let alone uncover any meaningful insights. If only someone could simplify the task!
We challenged our friend Mike Touhill, external communications manager at Novelis, to do just that.
With more than 15 years of communications experience, Mike knows a thing or two about what measurements to focus on – and what to avoid.
Mike Touhill: Measurement at Novelis is an important part of what we do. Being a business-to-business manufacturing supplier, the quality, consistency and efficiency of the products we deliver to customers is critical to our success and theirs. We put a lot of stock in measuring how we perform as a business. Marketing and communications that support our commercial sales team play an important role in how our internal stakeholders communicate.
We’re in the business of providing marketing and communications tools for our people and for talent, recruitment, and HR. Additionally, we monitor how we are seen in the marketplace across 10 countries in 24 facilities. Measuring to be sure we’re doing that effectively is really important to us. How we’re aligned, and the understanding our colleagues have of our business, strategy and company direction need to be very clear.
Since marketing and communications is often responsible for message and the dissemination channels we use, we need to always measure to make sure the strategy and the messages resonate. With sound metrics, the marketing and communications function can make better decisions on how to allocate resources, plan effectively, and maximize what we call ROCE – return on capital employed – in other words, how are we maximizing our people, the resources and the tools we’re giving them.
We’re actively trying to do that throughout the year to make sure we’re nimble enough to change when we need to. We also must be committed to tactics and strategies that resonate across our internal and external audiences.
The first one is measuring the effectiveness and the alignment of our communication messages. We’re trying to drive safety messages and customer-centric messages. Is the company speaking with one consistent voice? Are our external audiences receiving the same message when they talk to the sales, finance, or communications teams as when they’re talking to media or when they talk to investors and analysts?
We constantly evaluate the effectiveness of our messages from department to department, from site to site, from country to country. Are we consistent across the board in the message we’re portraying to the outside world? If not, then how can the marketing department fix that?
Secondly, are we consistently leading in share-of-voice within the industry? Is Novelis seen as an industry leader on issues that matter to prospects – whether it’s recycling and sustainability, manufacturing and efficiencies? Are we seen as an authoritative voice driving the conversation? When our executive team speaks during media opportunities or conferences, do we see that consistent, industry-leading voice driving the conversation within our marketplace? We look at that as another key measurement.
The third one we track closely is the value and frequency the communication function has with the executive leadership. That’s a sort of long way of saying, “is marketing and communication a truly strategic function that can inform, influence, and provide strategic counsel to executive leadership and then be relied on to execute marketing and communication tactics?” We believe the more marketing and communications is valued, the more we’re included, and the more we can do to drive strategy amongst our business.
Yes. First, given my PR background, the thing that sticks out to me, and always has, is impressions. Media impressions, social media impressions – I think it’s the word “impressions” that makes everyone a little uneasy. As an industry we’ve relied on this formula that tries to quantify how many people have read our articles, seen our message, watched our video – although thankfully this has improved now in the digital age where we can track clicks and more meaningful metrics.
But it’s still hard to get past how many impressions we’ve reached. Did those impressions reach the target audience that can then influence what we’re trying to do, whether it’s to change behavior or to raise awareness, which is a little bit of a broad term, but to also make an impact. It’s a question of “20 million people read or saw this,” and not having any sort of analytics to go with that versus understanding that “X percentage are probably really motivated to do something about it, or do something with this message.”
So, impressions is just a metric whose value is hard to substantiate. Frankly, a lot of clients and customers are beginning to question or at least to assign it less value. That’s probably a good thing and it speaks to the analytics and measurement tools we have now, particularly on the digital side, that are so much richer.
I’m glad to see the industry moving away from this red herring, or at least getting smarter about it. That will really help the measurement of PR and communication.
I have to go back to our first metric, the effectiveness of our messaging. We do a fair amount of marketing communications. We have a commercial sales team in the field in the automotive and beverage can industries that is on the ground with clients, selling new product innovations that our R&D team is coming up with. We’re providing our sales team with tools to better and more effectively communicate.
The effectiveness of that messaging is paramount for that team to do their job. We put a lot of stock in making sure the tools we’re giving our commercial teams are the best we have to offer. One way we do that is to ask them, “Is this going to work for you in the field? Will this resonate with your customers? Are these the types of things on the top of customers’ minds that they want to be talking about? If not, then guide us and provide us with feedback you’re getting.”
Of course, the feedback varies from customer to customer, or certainly from industry to industry. Some of our customers are very innovative and want to know about the next product innovation we’re coming out with. Other customers are more focused on the quality, delivery and efficiency of our product.
If we could do only one thing, it would be to focus all of our energy on ensuring everything coming out of marketing and communication is the best, exactly what our teams need and, ultimately, what our customers want.
We do something called focused feedback. It’s really just sitting down and asking for honest feedback about the product we’ve provided, the process we went through, and the way in which it was delivered. We then have a constructive face-to-face conversation, one-on-one or in a small group, to understand how we’re doing.
It takes a very strong culture or strong client-agency relationship to be able to sit down and say, “bare your soul to me about how we’re doing, what we’re doing, and I’m here to listen and to learn and want to do better or want to continue to do things that you find are most effective.” But it’s pretty cost-effective because all it takes is two people to have a candid discussion.
We ask our commercial sales teams this when we get together with them, and in some cases, we go to our customers with surveys, annually. We ask them about everything, from the quality of the product, to the way we interact, the service we provide, the way we communicate. These are sometimes hard conversations because we don’t get it right every time. I won’t call it brave – I think it’s just the right thing to do.
The fact that we’re willing to have a tough discussion or get critical feedback is probably the most frank and cost-effective way to figure out how you’re doing. I’m in the service business, and if my product is not meeting your needs, I need to know about it.
I know there’s a million cost-effective and sometimes free tools to measure clicks and reach. But for us, these intimate sessions with colleagues and customers about how we’re doing – asking the tough questions and getting real answers – is the most valuable.
We’re spending a lot of time right now on programs like Sharepoint. We’re using Google Analytics to determine, both internally and externally, if we’re seeing movement on the digital side as our customers want to receive that information more.
We’re having a third party do a professional audit of our LinkedIn page on the talent and recruitment side. How are we reaching those subsets of engineers, those niche audiences where we’re trying to geo-target for talent and recruitment? We’re using third parties to determine if we’re being efficient and effective with those tools because frankly, we aren’t sure that we are.
We scrubbed our website recently to do a higher-level SEO engagement by rewriting our copy to use the phrasing and the terminology that resonates not just within our industry, but also with jobseekers and millennials who are finding us on different vehicles be it Facebook, or LinkedIn, our own website or our blog.
Between Google Analytics, the SEO and the LinkedIn audit, we’re looking at how we’re doing and benchmarking to remedy areas where we’re not doing as good a job reaching certain audiences on the digital side.
Thank you, Mike for these insights on communications measurements that matter.
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