Showing posts with label ROC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ROC. Show all posts

Monday, February 16

Measuring Communication, Realization Part 1

Advertising is long overdue for a transition and Anheuser-Busch is one marketer that seems to be on the front end of the change. While a recent article in AdvertisingAge focuses mostly on how Anheuser-Busch is changing its compensation model, there is something else in the air.

"Every time you have another agency work on a brand, the brand gets reinvented a little bit. We want partner agencies really tied to the strategy of a brand." — Keith Levy, vice president of marketing, Anheuser-Busch

He might have used different terms, but what Levy said falls lock step with the need for communication (advertising, marketing, public relations, and social media) to reinforce intent. Contrary to some advertising agencies, it is not enough to differentiate the advertising. It takes hard work.

How do you realize intent in communication?

Once the intent of communication is understood, its ability to be effective is dependent on three critical considerations: the effectiveness of the value proposition (message), the suitability of delivery (suitability), and the ability to reach the intended public (reach).

Let's start with the message.

The concept of a unique selling proposition or unique selling point was first introduced in the early 1940s by Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company. His main concept was simple enough — drive home a central, research-based selling point that was powerful enough to convince customers to switch brands.

For the most part, it works. Head & Shoulders helps you get rid of dandruff. Olay gives you younger-looking skin. Red Bull gives you wings. And in all three cases, these messages come from the mission, market opportunities and product contrasts, and purpose of communication.

What happens when if they don't? They miss their opportunity to define what they do. For example, one of my favorite creative commercials missed communicating intent in 2000. The "Cat Herders" spot was memorable. But Electronic Data Systems (EDS), the client, not so much.

This challenge is not exclusive to advertising. We see it in public relations when people become focused on column inches over their public and publicity stunts go horribly wrong. We see it in social media when casual conversations lead to communication that the participants never intended and then overshadows everything else about them. Indeed, when a message lacks purpose, it's wasted communication.

On average, it takes 80 impressions before a message begins to stick (although I've seen figures that suggest it takes as many as 240 impressions in our communication cluttered world). And it takes 640 impressions to change an impression (given that it takes eight positive impressions that stick to undo one negative impression). Can you afford too many negatives?

Effective communication tends to reinforce the same consistent messages over and over again. That doesn't mean the message has to consist of the same words. But it does mean companies cannot afford to waste messages that do not include a value proposition. In other words, when that little flake is telling you something, an effective message leads you to one conclusion.

That's not to say that the value proposition concept doesn't have detractors. Some might argue that products are not all that unique (including me, unless we work harder to find real contrasts) so the value proposition only sells perception. After all, Head & Shoulders is no longer the only dandruff shampoo. And while that might be true, I might suggest where value propositions only erode over time because they were never meant to be permanent.

How can they? Messages do not just come from us. They are also delivered by what we say about others, what others say about us, and what our competitors or other stakeholders say about themselves in the market. If one message takes hold, then it requires adjustment at the strategic level not just the tactical.

Las Vegas recently provided an excellent example. The city's message conveys a party town atmosphere. It frequently takes an in-your-face attitude, even having a tuff or two with the NFL along the way. Recently, President Obama said Las Vegas is too lavish for business. Chicago immediately pushed the message that Chicago does not have such a stigma.

While I don't agree with the politics that created the situation, Las Vegas will still have to reconsider its message. Effective communication is never about control as much as it's about message management. When your value proposition becomes a negative, it needs to change. Of course, President Obama and Chicago might have to reconsider their messages too.

The bottom line, in terms of measuring communication, it that a strong message — one that breaks through the clutter while delivering a value proposition that reinforces intent — adds weight to the effectiveness of the communication. The right message is much more likely to deliver a better return on investment regardless of how it's delivered across various mediums.

How much better? When you think of Head & Shoulders, you might think of a dandruff solution. And when you think of EDS, you might think of herding cats. The message makes the difference.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

Monday, February 9

Measuring Communication, Intent Part 3 (ROC)

According to Julia Hyde, people expect a "real" company to have printed sales literature (even online companies). Specifically, she says, every company needs a brochure if you want people to "know you mean business."

She then goes on to define twelve steps needed to produce the most effective brochure possible. Some points are better than others, but one key question is missing. What is the intent of the brochure? Since Hyde only provides one answer — to be credible — it seems she never really asked the question.

Most people never ask that question. It's apparent because most brochures start and end the same way — the presentation of a formulaic template, starting with "about us," following with "products" or "services," and concluding with "clients" or maybe "contact" information. Right on. Most Web sites read the same way.

If you want the right outcomes, ask the right questions.

Don't misunderstand me. Brochures, sales collateral, and Web sites can all be extremely useful. However, the better question is "what is the intent of the brochure?" as opposed to "what size brochure?" In fact, in asking this, the company might even decide there is a better communication tactic or tool for the intent of the communication.

The same can be said about the basic news release. The better question is "what is the intent of releasing this news?" as opposed to "what can we get in the news this week?" Or online, the question might be "what is the intent of the Web site?" as opposed to "how many search terms can we capture?" or "how cool can we make it look?"

While all communication tactics might be useful to companies, defining the purpose of the communication or campaign needs to be tied to the outcomes you hope to achieve. And, at the same time, whatever tactics are decided upon must still meet the objectives of the company, its communication strategy, and reinforce its brand equity in the short term.

If there is no intent, then any outcomes are nothing but luck.

For example, I often wondered what the intent of Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice gimmick was before it was disabled by Facebook.

If it was to give away free burgers, then maybe it worked. If it was to generate "online buzz" about Burger King, then I suppose it worked (except for the 233,906 people de-friended.) If it was to demonstrate the company's philosophical differences with Facebook, there is no question it worked. But other than meaningless intent, did it sell more burgers?

Did the free burger campaign only capture Burger King fans that would have bought one anyway? Did all the buzz drive McDonald's diehards to Burger King instead or make someone who eats one Whopper a week buy two the next week? Do anti-social campaigns reinforce the Burger King brand?

And for that matter, do people want to eat angry burgers? Take a look at the logic, and then maybe you can tell me. Or better yet, tell them. It's clear there was no intent whatsoever.

Defining the purpose of communication helps make it measurable

If your intent is to engage customers, then maybe a brochure can wait. If you want to establish an expert position in a market, then maybe a mass blast to journalists on the set schedule of eight releases per month (or whatever) contradicts that goal. If you want to attract prospects toward a sales funnel, then simply owning top searches (YahooBuzz, yesterday: Stimulus Package, Obama, and Jessica Simpson) that attracts everybody doesn't make much sense. (It might even make some of them mad.)

On the contrary, most companies simply need to connect with people who are looking to purchase a product or service that they offer (eg., Southwest Airlines vs. major airlines). Some companies have to change people's behavior to get them to purchase their product over another (e.g., iPhone vs. smart phones). A few companies need to sway public opinion so potential customers ask questions that will eventually lead them to the company (e.g., Subway vs. burger chains).

Can a brochure do this? Can scads of news releases? Can online buzz?

Maybe it can and maybe it can't. Or, to answer Karen Somerville's question "do micro sites work effectively in raising brand awareness and allowing content to be spread virally?" with some questions ... does the micro site even convey Burger King's brand? I see a logo, but the brand? And what is the intent anyway? Is it supposed to motivate people to do something related to the objectives of the company?

Sure, the original angry onion commercial made sense in terms of product branding. It was a new spicy burger. Got it. Nice creative too.

The micro site, on the other hand, had a flawed intent. The intent was to go viral. And that basically means the intent was to make noise. Right on, but making noise and buying a burger are different. Unless, of course, someone is counting this post among earned column inches. (Don't laugh. Someone is counting column inches on this blog and others. I assure you.)

More often than not, the "why" you need to communicate and the "what" you communicate, will dictate the "how" you communicate. So if the intent is to introduce something new (which the micro site does not), then that intent is different than than the objectives of increasing sales or capturing market share (which is what Burger King really wants to do).

Or, going back to the original example, when the intent of communication is to engage customers, then a brochure might not be the most effective communication tactic. And, if you really do need a brochure, then you might consider what outcomes you expect it to achieve. (To educate prospects about your products or services is not an answer.)

Maybe. But if you want to know the truth, most people who accept formulaic template brochures do so for one of four reasons: to show to the real decision maker (which means they need it for their credibility and not yours), to compare you to your competition (because you didn't close the deal), to remind them to visit your Web site (because they already know they won't remember you), or because it's a polite way to conclude the conversation. If you hope it does more, you need a better intent.

Next week, we'll begin exploring intent realization. There are other considerations to ensure intent measures up.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

Monday, February 2

Measuring Communication: Intent, Part 2 (ROC)

Last week, we presented Measuring Communication: Intent, Part 1 as part of the exploration of the ROC abstract. While that post focused on the mission statement, it takes much more than a mission statement and its various counterparts (purpose, vision, core values) to establish clear communication objectives and define communication intent.

The reason is simple. While mission statements often present the qualities or characteristics of organizations, they do not necessarily define how that organization interacts with the world around it and tend to change at much slower pace than the needs of organization and the needs of communication. They are generally not the best verbatim message for an organization.

In other words, stating a mission statement might even be likened to saying one expresses empathy. It's not meant to be said. It's meant to be demonstrated. For this reason, other strategic planning processes must also be considered to effectively establish the objectives of communication. These methods help move beyond having a foundation and toward establishing guidelines for how this foundation wants to interact with the world around it.


SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture.

• Strengths Defines the attributes of an organization that are helpful.
• Weaknesses Defines the attributes of the organization that are harmful.
• Opportunities Considers external conditions where objectives can be expanded.
• Threats Considers external conditions that could damage the business.

SWOT Benefits: Introspective Analysis, Set Organizational Goals, Unique Selling Points, Short Term

While many references claim there is no point of origin, SWOT was primarily developed by Albert Humphrey, a business and management consultant who specialized in organizational management and cultural change, as part of a research project at Stanford University. It was originally referred to as SOFT.

At Procter & Gamble (P&G), for example, the organization had become complacent after a long period of market dominance. In fact, in the 1980s, it almost lost market dominance. Recognizing this, management realized that in order to retain market dominance, it needed to create a more "nimble organization and to increase the speed and quality of innovation. (Davila, Epstein, & Shelton, 2006)."

The result was the development of an aggressive play-to-win strategy that was encapsulated in its corporate moto “Touching Lives, Improving Life.” However, when you look at the full product line at P&G, you might notice there are many other product- and market-centric messages that reinforce its communication.


Core message systems, which we will refer to as CORE, is a message development process used to evaluate existing and potential internal and external communication in order to identify, determine, and develop specific key messages that will resonate in the marketplace. It has also proven useful in developing core values.

The core messaging process was originally developed by the Leadership Institute, a training organization for public policy leaders founded in 1979 by Morton C. Blackwell. We employ an evolved model at our company, and this only includes the initial evaluation portion of the process.

• Internal Sources. Captures organization stakeholder messages to internal and external publics.
• External Messages. Captures what other industry organizations are saying to external publics.
• Public Feedback. Captures communication from competitors, detractors, and customers about the organization.
• Stakeholder Response. Captures what the organizations stakeholders might say about competitors and detractors.

CORE Benefits: External Awareness, Consensus Building, Contrast Points, Consistent Messaging, Short to Mid Term

We've been involved in dozens of CORE sessions that range from candidates and small start-ups to major corporations and international organizations. Without revealing specific clients, some examples include: helping a national pool builder break away from price point modeling typical in the industry and shifting to a message of reliability; breaking a technology service provider away from industry stereotypes and establishing a culture of friendly professional service; assisting a nonprofit organization transform its "feel good" messaging into a return on investment message for the state it served.

Simply put, the CORE message analysis process rediscovers assets that already exist within the company and then prioritizes those assets based on the environment in which it operates. Done properly, the resulting messages communicate tangible contrasts (beyond unique selling points) between the company and various competitors.

Real Time Communication

While there are many methods, real time (RT) messaging, in this instance, pertains to messages that fall outside of normal communication parameters. With the possible exception of SWOT on occasion, short- and long-term communication do not generally include for specific situational events.

Since this section on real time communication (or immediate response) is a compilation of communication processes such as crisis communication, disaster response, social media, or other immediate conflicts as they occur, the following is only meant to provide a baseline evaluation.

• Situation Analysis. Evaluate the situation or event, with an emphasis on collecting all known facts.
• Determine Impacts. Determine the potential impact of these facts, including public perception.
• Synchronize Messages. Define and synchronize messages specific to the crisis or event taking place.
• Designate Spokespeople. Designate a spokesperson, recognizing that the messenger is part of the message.
• Collect Feedback And Adjust. Provide for mechanisms that collect immediate feedback and adjust communication.

RT Benefits: Event Specific, Consistent Message, Crisis Sensitive, Flexible, Immediate

There are dozens of examples that show how better real time communication could have benefited companies and organizations on this blog. In almost every case, the proper implementation of situational communication demonstrates why crisis outcomes and communication breakdown are seldom related to what organizations do, but rather how they respond to what occurred.

RT communication is also becoming more pervasive as companies adopt social media as a communication tool. Daily success often relies on how well the communicators can make minute-by-minute situational assessments.

Tying the mission statement to strategic planning methods.

Any or all of these strategic methods are influenced and can influence the ever-present communication offered by a mission statement. In some cases, depending on the outcome of these evaluations, they may even indicate when a mission statement has become outdated and requires refinement. However, in defining communication intent, what is most important to consider is that these strategic methods, together with the mission statement, define the objectives of the communication.

Next Monday, we will present how to define the tactical portion of intent, which begins by understanding the specific purpose of an individual communication component or campaign.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

Monday, January 26

Measuring Communication: Intent, Part 1 (ROC)

Many executives lose interest in them. Some communicators dismiss them. And a few people have called for their death.

Considering the backlash, we might even ask: What did the mission statement ever do to deserve such dissent and disinterest? Or maybe the question ought to be: What didn't it do? Or even better: What did we do to it?

What is a mission statement?

Simply defined, a mission statement and its various counterparts — purpose, vision, core values — provides a brief description of a company’s purpose and answers why the organization exists for the publics it strives to serve.

"We have chosen to specialise within the hospitality industry, by offering only experiences of exceptional quality." — Four Seasons

It also needs to be in the forefront of every communicator's mind, regardless whether the focus is advertising, internal communication, marketing, public relations, social media, etc. Why? Because if a company and its employees cannot consistently define why an organization exists, then one day it might not exist at all. Seriously? Seriously.

Best Buy: Our business strategy is to bring technology and consumers together in a retail environment that focuses on educating consumers on the features and benefits of technology and entertainment products, while maximizing overall profitability.

Circuit City: ? (One of the most looked for, but never found.)

Why don't some mission statements work?

Internet searches reveal hundreds of different reasons why mission statements don't work, ranging from underdefined and overcomplicated to underutilized and overreaching. Take your pick. But in reality, the only reason mission statements fail is the people behind them.

Either people placed too much effort into defining what a mission statement "should" do and not so much effort in what the company does do or they abandoned it all together in favor of the flavor du jour. As a result, some mission statements become overloaded with statements about diversity, empty marketing promises, and ego-driven prose. Others become dusty while the company moves on without them.

Do strong mission statements have common denominators?

Having been part of several strategic planning sessions for various companies since the early 1990s, it seems to me that "should" only consists of four letters when applied to a strategic planning process. It's a dirty word. However, despite various opinions and schools of thought, there are generally four common denominators that the strong mission statements share.

• It defines what the company does.
• It defines what the objectives are.
• It considers various publics.
• It differentiates the company.

"We will provide branded products and services of superior quality and value that improve the lives of the world's consumers, now and for generations to come." — Procter & Gamble

Why is a mission statement important to communication?

Regardless of how a communicator feels about the mission statement, it remains as part of the presentation for communication development, brand management, and measurement. Just as a mission statement and its various counterparts provide an underlying direction for the company, it provides direction for communication.

"To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you are an athlete." — Nike

It is also one of three components to consider in defining the intent of communication. As Philip Kotler once put it, the mission statement acts as an invisible hand that guides employees to work independently and yet collectively toward the same goals. It also provides a baseline of expectations that various publics will use to define their impression of the company.

While we could delve into the methods and differentiate product-oriented models vs. market-oriented models, the purpose of this post is simply to reestablish its importance in defining intent. After all, if an organization cannot communicate or reinforce why it exists, then it leaves its purpose open to interpretation and the risk of brand erosion or failure.

This doesn't mean the mission statement has to appear verbatim in all communication. Far from it. Since mission statements are measured by the experiences of customers, they can be reinforced in different forms across advertising, marketing, public relations, and social media.

For example, Four Seasons communication frequently reinforces exceptional experiences. Nike's "Just do it" campaign almost always captures inspiration. And Procter & Gamble, even though it markets multiple branded products, is still reinforced by "Touching lives, improving life" and "Everyday solutions" All three have public relations efforts that tend to follow suit. So do their community relations programs. And so does their internal communication.

In sum, the mission statement (or other definition of company purpose) is an ever-present part of communication, even as it is influenced by SWOT and other strategic planning methods (presented next week) or as specific communication tactics are developed to meet objectives. It is the presentation behind the presentation.

We help agencies, companies, organizations, and communities produce the most effective communication possible by composing powerful messages across all media. — Copywrite, Ink.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

Monday, January 19

Measuring Communication: ROI Meets ROC

There has been considerable time and effort invested by hundreds of people in attempting to demonstrate a return on investment for communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, and social media. It began as far back as, well, since someone first realized it might be measurable. In fact, any search on the subject will turn up any number of efforts, with some providing better explanations than others.

For my own part, I've been working, on and off, to refine a measurement formula for the better part of two years. My hypothesis is simple: the return on investment is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces.

I | O = ROI

However, since last year, there have been several people who have noted that ROI means something different to business. In finance, for example, ROI means the ratio of money gained or lost (realized or unrealized) on an investment relative to the amount of money invested. When considering that definition, it becomes reasonably clear that ROI might be the wrong term for communication measurement, especially because not all communication produces outcomes that yield direct returns.

While this doesn't change the hypothesis, it does place a greater emphasis on establishing the connection between direct and indirect results because if we narrow the definition to only recognize direct returns, the greater portion of any communication plan will be diminished and working professionals will continue to misidentify incidentals such as conversations outcomes. Instead, I propose the real measure of communication is exactly that — the return on communication or ROC.

[(B • I) (m+s • r)/d] / [O/(b + t + e)] = ROC

For the next several Mondays, I will be writing a series about the above formula as illustrated within a free 5-page abstract, Measure: I | O = ROC a.k.a. The ROC, which defines a revised formula for communication measurement across advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media. It has already been proven effective in measuring individual communication and ongoing campaigns.

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