2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement Wrap-up: Business Value, Social Responsibility, and Integrated Communications Measurement

A photo from the 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement.

Welcome to the future of measurement. If there was one theme to emerge from the discussions during the recent 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement it was that whatever metrics emerge, they will be tied to revenue and business goals, and will bear little resemblance to the activity metrics of old. Let’s go through the Summit speakers one by one:

A photo from the 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement.

Sean Williams presents at the 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications

Sean Williams: Measure the Business Value of Organizational Structure

For starters, Sean Williams, vice president at True Digital Communications proposed a whole new discipline for measurement: organizational structure measurement.

“We take it as a given that integration of all communication functions is the most desirable state in an organization. Public relations, internal comms, and community relations are fairly typically aligned, but marketing, investor relations, government relations, and others not so much. So how should the department be structured?” Williams wondered.

“Ideally, the integrated comms department would mirror the organizational structure of the firm as a whole. But how would you measure the impact of the comms team structure on communication outcomes, and on the organization as a whole?” he asked.

In other words, if an organization reorganizes, is there a way to measure the business value of that reorganization—whether in increased profitability or efficiencies or cost savings? In an ideal world, Williams suggested, you could then optimize your organizational structure around what yields the highest return. Rather than around internal power structures or individual strengths and weaknesses.

The challenge, of course, would be attribution. Just how much of improved financial return could be attributable to the organization structure vs. the impact of each departmental effort? His research is in progress, so if you have any thoughts, send them to him at Sean Williams sdwilliams@truedigitalcom.com.

Mary Miller: Financial Returns from Improved Internal Comms

A photo from the 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement.

Mary S. Miller presents at the 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement.

Mary Miller presented a variety of integrated measurement dashboards she produced, for all of which internal communications (what she prefers to call “Performance Communications”) played a key role. Her message was that if management is clear about its goals and culture, and communicates effectively to employees, and measures results regularly to ensure that employees really understand and agree with the priorities, then financial returns will follow.

Her secret sauce is the Overall Scorecard, a tool that reminds managers and employees of the priorities and keeps tabs on company performance against those priorities. Her Scorecards are ubiquitous around her clients’ offices, and are continuous reminders of what the company goals are and the progress being made.

Ultimately, Miller suggested, when you put culture and employee communications on the same level with other key performance indicators, then both managers and employees see that they are critical to the business.

Mark Stouse: Finance Is Taking Over Measurement of Marketing and Comms

A photo from the 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement.

Mark Stouse presents at the 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement

And if by now anyone had any doubts that the future of measurement is rooted in financial performance, Mark Stouse put them to rest. He discussed his most recent research, showing that CEOs are increasingly turning to finance to oversee measurement of marketing and communication. “It’s not that CEOs don’t believe in marketing and communications, it’s just that their frustration with poor measurement practices is increasing the perception that their marketing and communications teams—and by extension their agency partners—are either unwilling or unable to prove the ROI of their investments. Prompting companies to evaluate new ways to break the impasse, including asking their finance teams to take the lead,” Stouse explained.

According to his research, 87 percent of executives indicated that determining marketing’s impact and ROI is now a major C-level or board discussion inside their companies. Yet 96 percent of respondents said they had no or low confidence that their marketing and PR teams had the willingness, capability, or capacity to do what is necessary to demonstrate their value. As a result, Stouse predicted that marketing budgets will fall again in 2019 after being cut more than 10 percent year-over-year between 2017 and 2018.

His recommendation is, of course, good metrics, developed by braiding together and correlating data from earned, owned, and paid media. Which is just what Proof, the company that he is founder and CEO of, does. Stouse also pointed out that good communications helps insulate corporate reputations from risk, which CEOs also perceive as a contribution to stock prince and the health of the financial bottom line.

Clark Dumont: The Power of Cultivating Corporate Culture and Social Responsibility

A photo from the 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement.

Clark Dumont presents at the 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement.

Echoing that theme, and reinforcing the value of communications to a business, was Clark Dumont, former chief of staff at MGM Resorts and head of communications at BAE systems and Anthem. Dumont shared his experience going through the approval process for the building of MGM National Harbor in Washington, DC. Dumont joined MGM in 2011 as vice president of communications and rose through the ranks to become chief of staff to the chairman of MGM. In the process he managed communications for a number of mergers and acquisitions as well as for the crisis around the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, which took place in the Mandalay Bay, one of MGM’s properties.

Through it all, Dumont used corporate culture and corporate commitment to employees and the community as the heart of his communications strategies.

So when MGM faced a tough competitive bid to build a casino in Maryland, he leveraged the firm’s commitment to corporate social responsibility to win over the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, the ultimate decider on the bid. After years of filings and plans, he had a one-hour presentation to win them over. The criteria for success, not surprisingly, were weighted towards basic requirements, with 60% of the decision based on company capabilities, financials, and the design and logistics of the proposed resort.

But a full 40% of the decision would be based on basic corporate social responsibility issues like:

  • Commitment to community
  • Ability to grow the local supply chain using veterans and other historically disadvantaged groups
  • Local workforce development
  • Sustainability
  • Diversity and inclusion

Not only did he win over the board, even the generally skeptical public was enthusiastic. MGM garnered comments like:

  • “They’ve moved here and gone out into the community and demonstrated what they intend to do. And I believe them at their word… This is definitely the right company. I fully support MGM at National Harbor.”
  • “I’m supporting MGM because of their established corporate culture of supplier diversity. MGM will not have to make up a policy of supplier diversity as they go along because it’s already woven into the fabric of their organization elsewhere.”

As a result of years of cultivating corporate culture and social responsibility, the resort hotel, spa, and casino was able to open its doors in December 2016.

Jessica Jones: Building an Integrated Communications Dashboard for the Military

A photo from the 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement.

Jessica Jones presents at the 2018 Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement.

Shortly after Jessica Jones became manager of public affairs coordination and planning at the Department of National Defence, Ottawa, she began a months-long process of developing an integrated communications dashboard for the organization. That’s public affairs activities across the entire Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. Adding to the excitement was that she had to bootstrap her way into strategy, get buy-in across a very large organization, and take a class so she could model the data herself. Not bad for an English major. Read the whole story in her interview with Editor Bill Paarlberg.

** Click here to read all our posts on integrated communications measurement. **

After the Presentations and Before the Lobster

The conference wrapped up with a discussion of measuring crisis and risk communications. All agreed this was an overlooked topic in a world where every company is only one angry passenger on Instagram away from a reputational crisis. Mark Stouse stressed the importance of looking at the bottom line, rather than just the media coverage, citing the article we wrote on the aftermath of the Colin Kaepernick/Nike kerfuffle.

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Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.