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Reputation: 
with or 
without you 
An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 
Five principles for building and protecting your 
reputation in the “always-on” world
Contents Introduction 
Here in EMEA at MSLGROUP, we are fortunate to work with 
some of the region’s largest companies on complex and 
challenging business assignments. Our clients’ universe – 
along with ours as consultants – has changed significantly over 
the past few years. The dot-com era forced businesses to adapt 
to the disruptive commercial impact of the internet, and now 
companies are being forced to react to the equally disruptive 
communications impact of digital and social networks. 
Instead of occupying the commanding heights of 
communications alongside the media, companies are now 
swimming in a sea of new voices, each one posing a potential 
threat to reputation – and the bottom line. Add to that the rapid 
increase in the pace of communications and businesses are 
faced with an extremely high-risk environment. 
It is also a time of tremendous opportunity for companies 
courageous enough to grasp the nettle. 
Companies are waking up to the reality that the debates about 
their business and brand will happen with or without them, 
and so it’s in their interest to engage. 
With this report we set out to answer two basic questions: 
can organisations adapt to managing their reputations in this 
“always-on” world? And if so, how? 
It’s always good practice to step back, observe your 
surroundings, and adjust your approach. This study should 
help our clients to navigate the risks, seize the opportunities 
and advise their own boards and communications colleagues. 
We have certainly found it valuable. 
We are confident you’ll find insights in this report that will help 
you to navigate the “always-on” world and build the stronger 
reputation and relationships you’ll need to achieve your 
business goals. 
Sincerely, 
Anders Kempe 
President, EMEA 
MSLGROUP 
Anders Kempe 
President, EMEA 
MSLGROUP 
01 
Introduction 
02 
Survey Methodology/ 
Executive Summary 
04 
06 
10 
12 
14 Summary & recommendations 
Part 1: Increased scrutiny of 
communications at board level 
Part 2: Embracing and adapting 
to the “always-on” landscape 
Part 3: Changing teams/ 
changing culture 
Part 4: Empowering employees 
to become external advocates 
About MSLGROUP 
MSLGROUP builds and protects our clients’ brands, 
reputations and relationships by helping them to be more 
INFLUENTIAL in the big, non-stop conversation – both 
inside and outside their organisations. We help them to 
influence the right people at the right time, in the right 
way. It’s part art, part science. It takes continuous insight, 
ideas and action. It takes people, process, creativity and 
technology working together relentlessly. 
For more information on the full survey please contact 
andrew.macdougall@mslgroup.com 
An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 01
Survey Methodology Executive Summary 
Interviewed organisations 
Individuals from the following organisations were interviewed in markets across EMEA. 
3M Italy 
Alcatel-Lucent 
Algol Group 
APR Energy 
AstraZeneca 
BAE Systems 
Banque Populaire 
BASF 
Bech Bruun Law Firm 
British Land 
BUPA 
Carrefour 
Celesio 
Chr. Hansen 
Coloplast 
Commerzbank 
Continental AG 
Discovery 
Communications 
Djøf 
EY 
DNA Ltd 
Danish Broadcasting 
Corporation 
Egmont 
EMC 
Ericsson 
European Parliament 
Finnair 
Friskolornas riksförbund 
FTF 
GSK 
H&M 
Hartwall 
HJ Heinz 
IKEA Group 
INFARMA 
Investor 
KPN Telecom 
LähiTapiola 
LEGO 
Lundbeck 
Maggi 
Magneti Morelli 
McDonald’s 
Neste Oil 
Norges Pelsdyralslag 
Northland Resources 
Norwegian Bar Association 
NS, Dutch Railways 
OGEO FUND 
Pioneer Pekao Investment 
Management 
Praktikerjänst 
Raadhusgruppen 
Randstad Holding 
Renault 
Please note: A number of companies who participated in the study declined the opportunity to be named. 
RWE AG 
Rynkeby Food 
Sainsbury’s 
Saint Gobain 
Santander UK 
Siemans AG 
Spicerhaart 
Sportmaster 
Standard Chartered Bank 
Stroili Oro S.p.A. 
Suomen Terveystalo 
ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe 
UNIFY Italy 
Unilever 
Union Investment TFI 
UWV (Dutch Employee 
Insurance Agency) 
VR (State railways) 
ZF Friedrichshafen 
The free flow of digital information and the 
transparency brought about by social media 
have increased both the number and pace 
of conversations about brands and business. 
It’s a lot busier and faster out there. 
Companies are adapting to this “always-on” 
communications environment and the 
relentless threat to reputation – and the bottom 
line – that it represents. Bad news travels faster 
than ever, while good news is often drowned 
out in the news stream. 
As a result of this new “always-on” reality, 
communications is receiving more attention 
than ever at board level. 
This shifting communications landscape – 
and the heightened risk to reputation – has 
also necessitated a change in approach and 
a change in the structure and culture of 
communications teams. 
In sectors with significant regulatory 
restrictions or more conservative cultures 
(e.g. pharmaceuticals or banking), vigorous 
debates are being held about how to best 
navigate this new environment. 
Within companies, there is a flux in both 
structure and culture. Superb subject-matter 
expertise must now be married with expertise 
in the distribution of content across entirely 
new technologies and channels. More seasoned 
professionals haven’t yet fully embraced or 
understood the possibility of digital and social, 
while the “millennials” can’t picture their 
world without it. 
The “always-on” communications reality 
has placed a premium on content. In addition 
to regularly planned events and launches, 
companies now need high-quality, relevant 
content to sustain the ongoing conversations 
that are happening on digital and social 
channels. This has implications when 
planning communications campaigns. 
Companies are therefore looking internally 
to mine more content and are up-skilling and 
engaging their employees to become brand 
ambassadors, instead of relying solely on 
designated external communicators. But there 
exists significant uncertainty over how best 
to do this. 
In a world of more voices and more 
conversations, how should businesses harness 
the (often untapped) power of their own 
employees to better tell their story and build 
the company’s reputation? 
In a world drowning in content, how do 
companies produce content that is relevant, 
interesting and influential? 
In a world of endless conversation, how do 
you focus the discussion around your brand 
or business and drive sales? 
To gauge the views of senior communications managers at 
100 top organisations in EMEA, MSLGROUP developed a survey 
with a mixture of open and closed questions targeted to their 
experience in dealing with communications and reputational 
issues. The surveys were conducted across EMEA markets in 
person or over the phone between 13 January, 2014 and 24 June, 
2014. A full list of the companies interviewed appears below. 
Quantitative questions were analysed according to the data, 
with the descriptive supplement answers providing insight into 
the thinking behind the quantitative answers. The qualitative 
answers were in general clustered in order to ascertain any 
common themes across companies. 
When analysing responses, percentages are shown out of the 
total respondents for that question, as this is not always the full 
100 companies interviewed. 
Many interviews were conducted in local languages and have 
been translated into English for the purpose of evaluation. 
MSLGROUP would like to thank all of the companies who 
participated in the study. 
To receive a copy of the full survey please contact 
victoria.sugg@mslgroup.com 
02 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 03
Increased scrutiny 
of communications 
at board level 
“ 
There is an increased understanding of the 
role communications plays, both internally 
and externally, in building the reputation 
Reputation is quickly becoming a 
key indicator of business success. 
The majority of companies surveyed 
agreed with the statement that 
reputation can bring a positive or 
significantly positive impact on how 
well a company does business wise. 
Respondents also indicated that 
the reputational consequences of 
company errors or crises are now 
regarded as more severe, given the 
ability for bad news to spread quickly 
via new digital and social channels. 
Despite the risks social media 
presents to reputation, a significant 
majority (79%) of those surveyed 
view social media as a clear 
opportunity. Only 5% viewed social 
media as a clear threat. 
However, of the companies who view 
social media as an “opportunity”, 
23% explicitly added, without 
prompting, the caveat that this is 
only the case when social media 
channels are managed appropriately 
and with a certain degree of caution. 
The heightened reputational 
impact of social media is one of 
the reasons why a solid majority 
(70%) of respondents said more 
consideration is now being given to 
communications at board level. 
As a result of this increased scrutiny, 
several companies stressed that 
they intend to adapt the way they 
report on reputation. Some firms, 
for example, intend to move away 
from only analysing media coverage 
and establish more “sophisticated” 
tools such as RepTrack as a 
measurement instrument in order 
to capture the new breadth of 
conversations happening around 
their businesses. 
Board attention has also prompted 
companies to consider new ways 
to build their brand and reputation, 
although interestingly only a 
minority of respondents indicated 
that digital and social media would 
play a role in those efforts. 
70% 
of companies said more 
consideration is now being 
given to communications 
at board level 
86% 
of companies are thinking 
about different approaches 
to building their brand 
and reputation 
85% 
of companies agree or strongly 
agree that the reputational 
consequences of their mistakes 
have become more serious 
of the company. 
Kerry O’Callaghan 
VP, Global Brand Communications 
and Government Affairs, GSK 
Key Findings 
“ 
Reputation has always been serious. 
There is heightened focus on reputation 
and awareness nowadays due to the 
accessibility of information to consumers. 
Christine Diamente 
Head of Brand and Corporate Sustainability, 
Alcatel-Lucent 
The MSLGROUP take 
Digital and social channels have 
quickened the pace of conversation 
and have eliminated the barriers 
to debate. Companies and the 
“traditional” media no longer control 
or mediate the discussion. While 
not all online debate is necessarily 
important or impactful, companies 
must be vigilant and monitor the 
discussion and engage where 
appropriate to ensure any negative 
impact on reputation is caught early 
and addressed. 
The study shows that within the 
new “always-on” media landscape, 
reputation functions as an important 
business characteristic and plays 
an essential role in contributing to 
business performance. The new 
media landscape has also impacted 
how companies measure and 
evaluate reputation. We can see 
that companies are on their way to 
incorporating their social and digital 
media activities into their reporting 
metrics on reputation. From a 
reputation perspective, companies 
are beginning to treat feedback 
through social and digital channels 
as equivalent to feedback through 
more traditional instruments such 
as research or media coverage. 
The Business “Take Out” 
Design a robust online monitoring and analysis regime 
to engage in the conversations that are happening 
around your business or brand. 
Careful monitoring can help flag problems before 
they metastasize into business-disrupting crises, and 
accurate metrics from these reporting regimes can help 
inform board discussion on reputation and positioning. 
“ 
It’s extremely important that 
you don’t just move in your 
own little world, but are 
open and receptive to doing 
something else. 
Head of Communications and 
Government Affairs of a global 
technology company 
04 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 05
88% 
of companies produce more 
content than two years ago 
“We are still trying to find 
a balance between what 
we produce, at what cost, 
and what it is people 
want to hear about us. 
Head of Communications of 
a national beverage company 
Types of content companies 
are producing more of versus 
two years ago 
13% 
12% 
11% 
Videos 
Pictures & infographics 
Brand content/storytelling 
Blogs & thought leadership 
News & press content 
“ Writing and creating 
34% 
30% 
content tailored to each 
of our target audiences 
can be a challenge 
and typically requires 
a good bit of time and 
resources.We have a 
content producer on staff, 
supported by other team 
members who write and 
provide inputs, and this 
helps us maintain focus 
on our content marketing 
objectives and activities. 
Silvio Cavaceppi 
VP Marketing & Communications PR, 
Embracing and 
adapting to the 
“always-on” landscape 
“ 
I believe that the time of “shiny and polished 
brands” is over. Now it’s more about stories. 
It’s the little things that build the brand. 
You need to be able to tell interesting stories 
“ 
74% 
of companies have seen their 
approach to communications 
change fundamentally due to the 
rise of social and digital media 
74% 
have transitioned from broadcasting 
to engaging in ongoing dialogue with 
their key stakeholder audiences 
Key Findings APR Energy 
A majority of respondents indicated 
their approach to communications 
had fundamentally changed because 
of the rise of social media. Instead 
of broadcasting to their audiences 
via paid and owned channels, they 
are now increasingly engaging in 
conversations with stakeholders 
online. 
To monitor and respond to these 
conversations, a strong majority 
of companies have some form 
of social media listening or early 
warning systems in place to mitigate 
risk, or have processes in place to 
manage real-time interactions. 
The Rise of Content 
With the rise in the use of social 
media comes an increase in the 
need for content to populate social 
and digital channels. To build and 
defend reputation, companies are 
now generating richer – often highly 
visual – forms of content to sustain 
conversations across multiple 
channels. 
In the survey, 88% of companies 
indicated that they produce more 
content than they did two years ago. 
There is also a clear trend in what 
types of content are being created 
and shared on social channels, 
with companies being more likely 
to produce short, easily-digestible 
content for their social channels, 
rather than longer-form blogs and 
thought leadership pieces. 
about your services. 
Aku Varamäki 
Social Media Manager, Finnair 
If social media didn’t exist, you’d be 
trying to invent it. 
Alex Cole 
Director of Corporate Affairs, 
BUPA 
A Difficult Harvest 
Despite facing a pressing need, 
many companies are finding it 
difficult to find, collate and publish 
content. The factors that stand 
out from the survey as hampering 
content publishing are time and 
budget, as well as format and tone. 
“ 
We don’t find content too difficult to find. 
We’re a broad business and there are lots 
of people with interesting things to say. 
The challenge is often getting this content 
into good enough shape for publication. 
Tim Baxter 
Global Head of Communications & Corporate Affairs, 
Standard Chartered Bank 
06 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 07
Embracing and 
adapting to the 
“always-on” landscape 
There are all sorts of legal considerations. 
We are looking at how to use our digital and 
social channels in ways and areas of the 
business that aren’t bound by our regulatory 
requirements. 
Kerry O’Callaghan 
VP, Global Brand Communications and Government Affairs, 
GSK 
From broadcast 
to conversation 
Armed with content, companies 
indicated that they have now started 
using digital and social channels 
to deepen their engagement with 
stakeholders. 
However, the survey found that not 
all audiences respond equally well to 
digital and social engagement. While 
respondents indicated that the value of 
using social media was evident when 
dealing with employees, customers 
and the media, quite a few responded 
that its value was less apparent for 
other audiences, including analysts, 
investors and policymakers. 
There was also some conservatism 
within sectors, with highly regulated 
industries like pharmaceuticals 
and finance indicating they saw 
limited upside in engaging with their 
stakeholders over very public social 
media channels. 
“ 
“ 
We are not just senders of messages 
but we must now accept criticism and 
respond to our customers. 
Thierry Bouvard 
Head of Sector Editorial Programs and Sponsorship, 
Banque Populaire 
Do you find it difficult to find, 
collate and publish stories? 
58% 42% 
Yes 
No 
Do you encourage staff 
to take time to do this? 
74% 
26% 
Yes 
No 
“ 
We have a much closer relationship with 
compliance. Because we are a financial 
services company we need to be very 
careful with what we say on social media 
and that’s why, when it comes to financial 
products, we tend to use traditional media 
to communicate product information. 
Jonathan Akerman 
Senior Strategic Communications Manager, Santander UK 
The Business “Take Out” 
Marry deep subject matter expertise with technological 
savvy and then experiment with tone and approach 
across channels. 
Companies need both a deep subject matter expertise 
and an intimate familiarity with digital technology to 
succeed in the “always-on” environment. The new 
digital and social channels allow for flexibility 
in tone and approach, and companies should take 
calculated risks in how they communicate their 
business or brand in this new environment. While not 
every initiative will be perfectly on-brand, the approach 
will feel more genuine to consumers or partners. 
“ 
It’s about lighting 
beacons, not setting off 
fireworks. We’re trying 
to create communications 
initiatives that last longer. 
Tim Baxter 
Global Head of Communications 
& Corporate Affairs, Standard 
Chartered Bank 
1 http://mslgroup.com/insights/2014/curing-the- 
content-headache.aspx 
The MSLGROUP take 
As we all know, the rise of digital 
and social media has changed 
the way companies approach 
communication. In addition to more 
traditional communications events 
like product launches and quarterly 
or annual results, companies are also 
staging lower-threshold events in 
order to stay active in the 24-7 
news stream. 
Companies have taken a number of 
approaches to curing their content 
headache1, from hiring content 
marketing experts and ex-journalists, 
to engaging outside firms. Collating, 
qualifying, and sequencing content 
in a robust content calendar that 
supports corporate and brand 
narratives will remain a priority 
for the coming year. 
A number of respondents in highly 
regulated sectors like finance and 
healthcare cited their regulatory 
obligations and/or ability to move 
markets as reasons to limit their 
activity on these new channels. 
Other firms in these sectors cited an 
overall cultural conservatism toward 
external communication. 
For those who do participate actively 
in social media, the positive effect 
the “always-on” conversation has 
had on a company’s stakeholders’ 
ability to understand the company’s 
values is more pronounced for some 
stakeholder groups than others, 
notably less so for analysts, investors 
and policymakers. 
08 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 09
Changing teams/ 
changing culture 
“ 
The MSLGROUP take 
In order to fully utilise this 
comparatively new medium, 
companies are prioritising capability 
in social and digital media, as well 
as in content production. This has 
often meant bringing in younger staff 
who have grown up with digital and 
social media. 
With a majority of senior level 
communications staff having entered 
professional life well before the 
advent and rise of the new channels, 
there is a clear split in familiarity, 
perceived utility, and capability with 
digital and social media. These two 
poles will eventually converge. 
The Business “Take Out” 
Knock down internal silos and embrace the quicker 
pace of communications in an environment of increased 
transparency. 
All departments are now potentially outward facing. 
Mastering communications in the “always-on” 
environment will require a united front across external, 
internal, customer service and investor communications. 
Veterans can mentor new employees in substance, 
while younger employees can instruct more seasoned 
colleagues on the merits and particulars of the new 
communications channels. 
Key Findings 
The survey shows that companies 
are beginning to review the internal 
structure and make-up of their 
communications teams in response 
to the change in communications 
output (i.e. more content across 
more channels) and reputation 
management. While some 
communications teams are growing, 
the majority of companies surveyed 
are not putting their emphasis on 
increasing the size of their teams. 
Several companies highlighted 
the need for hiring focused on 
content generation and not simply 
social media expertise. Others are 
concentrating on attracting channel 
and technology specialists and 
experts. For these companies, the 
focus is ensuring that the team has 
the right capabilities. In some cases, 
this means hiring younger staff who 
are more comfortable with social 
and digital media, in other cases 
this aspect of communications is 
outsourced. 
“ 
While some companies have not yet 
changed their teams or activities, 
most see the opportunities and 
benefits of doing so and are either 
in the planning phase for change, 
or lack the manpower and expertise 
to move ahead with changes at the 
present time. 
Personnel aside, the survey 
finds that companies are coming 
across a number of cultural and 
organisational barriers when trying 
to adapt to the needs of the new 
media landscape and meeting 
the demands of the always-on 
conversation. 
A number of companies indicated 
that their IT systems were lagging 
behind and that they simply 
didn’t have the mobile technology 
necessary to continuously engage 
with the new channels. Some 
respondents didn’t feel they had 
significant enough buy-in from 
senior management to proceed with 
staffing changes to cover off the new 
channels. 
“ 
I do not advocate a 
separate social media 
department or division. 
In future, all communicators 
will have to be more 
“savvy” and have a good 
understanding of the 
various communications 
channels. 
Marc Binder 
Group Communications Director, 
Celesio AG 
“ 
The pressure for change 
came from… different 
directions: in addition 
to communications, 
HR noticed that young 
employees had new 
expectations. 
Heli Järvenpää 
Communications Manager, 
Algol 
It is also clear from the survey that 
companies need to invest in talent 
from a resource perspective as well 
as from a capabilities perspective. 
To that end, we see most companies 
adapting their teams or appointing 
external agencies to handle the bulk 
of social and digital communications 
in tandem with their internal teams. 
The company’s mind-set is fundamentally 
changing. I have a team that used to own 
their own channels and operate in silos – 
people now have to think differently. 
Tim Baxter 
Global Head of Communications and Corporate Affairs, 
Standard Chartered Bank 
Traditional communications are performed 
by many employees in our organisation, 
but few through social media. I think we 
will need to have a change in culture to 
empower communication in social media 
as well. 
External Communications Manager 
for a global pharmaceutical company 
Respondents were asked 
to rank from 1-6 the greatest 
cultural or organisational 
barriers they experienced 
in meeting the demands of 
the always-on conversation 
01 Capability 
(staff) 
02 Resource 
(staff) 
03 Culture 
(organisational) 
04 Technology 
(equipment) 
05 Leadership 
(by a CEO) 
06 Risk Management 
10 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 11
“ 
All LEGO employees 
communicating with 
consumers via social 
platforms require an 
internal Social Media 
Driver’s Licence. 
Preben Møller 
Brand Director (EU), LEGO 
“ 
Letting employees who 
are not members of 
the communications 
team participate in the 
company’s external 
communications leads 
to loss of control over 
the content. 
Head of Marketing and PR for 
a multinational clothing retailer 
Empowering 
employees to become 
external advocates 
“ 
Internal and external communication are 
continually merging because, either privately 
or (at work), employees are able to send 
what they feel, think, and say in the company 
around the world. 
Head of Communications and Government Affairs 
of a global technology company 
“ 
What has completely changed is the 
circle of communicators. This not only 
includes the people in my communications 
department, who are communicating with 
a broad coverage and were hired to do 
that, but also everyone in the company, 
who today are able to communicate with 
this wide reach and do so, as well, both 
privately and at work. 
Head of Communications and Government Affairs 
of a global technology company 
Key Findings 
To the question of whether it was 
good in theory to empower people 
outside of the communications 
teams to communicate, companies 
were fairly supportive. 
The survey found that 77% of 
companies think empowering 
individuals outside the 
communications team to 
communicate externally is a good 
thing. One quarter consider it a 
bad thing or express resistance 
when it comes to encouraging their 
employees to communicate about 
the company externally. 
That said, companies are still 
hesitant to grant their employees 
a licence to comment on social 
channels in an official capacity: 
75% 
Limit external communications 
using social media to certain 
authorised people 
Is empowering individuals 
outside the communications 
team to communicate externally 
a good or bad thing? 9% 
Embrace contribution from 
others, although contributions 
could be vetted or employees 
trained first 
7% 
Allow all employees to 
communicate externally about the 
company without any measure 
of guidelines or oversight 
Most companies underline that 
there must be clear guidelines and 
restrictions on how employees can 
communicate about the company 
they work for. 
A number of companies pointed out 
the importance of educating not just 
the core communications team, but 
also the wider network of employees. 
This can be in the form of formal 
training, or through company social 
media guidelines. 
“ 
I think that engaging 
employees – experts in 
their fields – in external 
communications (also 
in social media) may be 
profitable and poses a 
great value in building 
a brand’s position and 
reputation. 
Head of External Communication 
and Public Relations of a 
multinational retailer 
57% 
23% 
20% 
Good 
Bad 
Overall good but with restrictions 
The MSLGROUP take 
Employees are now increasingly 
aware, interested and involved in the 
internal and external discussions 
happening around their brands 
or businesses thanks to digital 
and social channels. A company’s 
successes or failures can reach 
employees quickly and without 
context. 
Among the respondents there is 
an understanding that employees 
must have a role if companies 
are to sustain and engage in the 
conversations happening in digital 
and social media. Whether in the 
generation of content for the new 
channels, or as external advocates, 
employees are increasingly 
demanding a role in their company’s 
communications. 
While the majority of respondents 
support their employees’ external 
communication in theory, in practice 
there is uncertainty over how to best 
engage and utilise their talents. 
A majority of the respondents cited 
the need for clear social media 
guidelines. Others cited specific 
training courses their employees 
must complete before being 
allowed to contribute on digital 
or social channels. 
“ 
The process is really 
complex and still 
immature. Empowering 
people outside of the 
communications team to 
communicate externally 
through social media 
needs a serious and 
severe evaluation. 
Paolo Armano 
Digital Marketing Manager, 
Magneti Morelli 
The Business “Take Out” 
Share knowledge and positioning with all employees 
and match it with training before they can earn their 
passport to engage publicly, if not officially. 
12 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 13
Summary & 
Recommendations 
The broad agreement among communications managers that digital and 
social media have the power to both positively and negatively impact corporate 
reputation goes hand-in-hand with the rising attention being given to corporate 
communications at board level. 
The new 24-7 “always-on” landscape is an opportunity for communications 
directors to build their brand and corporate reputations and to redefine their 
value in the eyes of their superiors through more data-driven reporting. 
However, it will be a challenge to fulfill the expectations of the C-suite if 
communications capabilities are not properly resourced and managed. 
Along with overcoming in-house cultural conservatism and an external lack 
of receptiveness to digital and social content amongst some stakeholder 
audiences, communications managers must knit the newer skills of often much 
younger employees with the experience of more senior members of their teams. 
In a communications environment that is moving faster than ever, through more 
channels than ever, to more audiences than ever, devising appropriate advisory 
and permissions procedures will be crucial. 
So, how will communicators be able to use this opportunity most effectively? 
Monitor, 
respond and 
measure 
Conversations about your brand 
or business are happening all around 
you, whether you want them to 
happen or not. The chatter might be 
meaningless, or it might be signaling 
an unmet need or an issue that has 
yet to surface. 
Companies should set up social media 
listening programmes to get a better 
understanding of the conversations 
happening about their brands and 
businesses. The analysis of that 
listening should be used to develop 
risk mitigation plans to neutralise 
potential issues, and to inform positive 
white space opportunities for brands 
to expand their reach. 
All efforts should be measured 
carefully to adjust approaches 
if necessary, and then be reported 
back to senior management 
to give them a fuller picture of 
corporate communications and 
business successes. 
Start a content 
engine to sustain 
conversations 
Creating enough content to populate 
digital and social channels is 
hard work. It must be planned for, 
resourced, and executed properly. 
It’s not solely a question of volume 
– people are looking for high-quality 
content that’s relevant to them. 
Creating and fuelling a content engine 
to sustain conversations across digital 
and social channels requires both 
creativity and process. It requires art 
and science to identify both what 
to say, who to say it to, and how to 
say it. It must reinforce the brand or 
business’ purpose and narrative. 
Convene an editorial group comprised 
of representatives from multiple units 
of the business – including HR and 
internal communications, customer 
service, investor relations, external 
communications & media relations, 
and marketing – and populate a six-month 
editorial calendar. 
Overcome cultural 
conservatism and 
engage 
Digital and social media aren’t 
going away anytime soon. To repeat: 
conversations about your brand or 
business are happening all around 
you, whether you want them to 
happen or not. Burying your head in 
the sand will only expose your behind. 
While regulatory requirements 
might prevent some forms of 
communications, there are still 
avenues of expression that should 
be pursued. Misinformation must 
be countered by fact and legitimate 
customer enquiries must be serviced. 
Use data to help make the case 
internally – one of the benefits of these 
new channels is that responses can be 
tracked and measured with specificity. 
Demonstrate the benefit of engaging 
and help avoid the damage when a 
rumour is allowed to spread across 
the internet. 
Improve internal 
and external 
transparency 
The old adage is truer than ever: if you 
don’t want to see it on the front page of 
the newspaper, you shouldn’t be doing 
it. Given the increased transparency 
wrought by the new channels, a 
company’s internal behaviour must 
absolutely match its desired public 
perception. This requires a change 
in culture at all levels, and not simply 
a new CSR programme to put in the 
shop window. 
Companies should embrace 
transparency instead of fighting 
disclosure. Bad news will find a way 
out of your organisation – with a 
click of a button millions of pages of 
information can now be disseminated 
around the world. Be honest and 
accountable and you’ll have less to fear. 
To help with this process, bring your 
employees onboard and communicate 
with them regularly. Don’t let them be 
rattled by rumour or bad news. Give 
them the facts and trust them to use 
them to full advantage. 
Make your 
employees active 
communicators 
With more voices starting more 
conversations about your brand 
or business without your control or 
approval, you’ll be needing more 
advocates for your cause. Why not 
start with the people who work 
so hard for you? 
Upskill them to participate in these 
new channels and arm them with 
information and stories they can 
share. Set a clear framework and 
monitor their efforts and ask them 
to self-regulate too. With the right skills 
and stories they’ll be a passionate and 
committed advocate for your cause. 
After all, who knows your company 
better than the people who run it? 
Here are a few principles 
and recommendations from 
MSLGROUP: 
14 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 15
WWW.MSLGROUP.COM

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MSLGROUP Reputation: with or without you

  • 1. Reputation: with or without you An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey Five principles for building and protecting your reputation in the “always-on” world
  • 2. Contents Introduction Here in EMEA at MSLGROUP, we are fortunate to work with some of the region’s largest companies on complex and challenging business assignments. Our clients’ universe – along with ours as consultants – has changed significantly over the past few years. The dot-com era forced businesses to adapt to the disruptive commercial impact of the internet, and now companies are being forced to react to the equally disruptive communications impact of digital and social networks. Instead of occupying the commanding heights of communications alongside the media, companies are now swimming in a sea of new voices, each one posing a potential threat to reputation – and the bottom line. Add to that the rapid increase in the pace of communications and businesses are faced with an extremely high-risk environment. It is also a time of tremendous opportunity for companies courageous enough to grasp the nettle. Companies are waking up to the reality that the debates about their business and brand will happen with or without them, and so it’s in their interest to engage. With this report we set out to answer two basic questions: can organisations adapt to managing their reputations in this “always-on” world? And if so, how? It’s always good practice to step back, observe your surroundings, and adjust your approach. This study should help our clients to navigate the risks, seize the opportunities and advise their own boards and communications colleagues. We have certainly found it valuable. We are confident you’ll find insights in this report that will help you to navigate the “always-on” world and build the stronger reputation and relationships you’ll need to achieve your business goals. Sincerely, Anders Kempe President, EMEA MSLGROUP Anders Kempe President, EMEA MSLGROUP 01 Introduction 02 Survey Methodology/ Executive Summary 04 06 10 12 14 Summary & recommendations Part 1: Increased scrutiny of communications at board level Part 2: Embracing and adapting to the “always-on” landscape Part 3: Changing teams/ changing culture Part 4: Empowering employees to become external advocates About MSLGROUP MSLGROUP builds and protects our clients’ brands, reputations and relationships by helping them to be more INFLUENTIAL in the big, non-stop conversation – both inside and outside their organisations. We help them to influence the right people at the right time, in the right way. It’s part art, part science. It takes continuous insight, ideas and action. It takes people, process, creativity and technology working together relentlessly. For more information on the full survey please contact andrew.macdougall@mslgroup.com An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 01
  • 3. Survey Methodology Executive Summary Interviewed organisations Individuals from the following organisations were interviewed in markets across EMEA. 3M Italy Alcatel-Lucent Algol Group APR Energy AstraZeneca BAE Systems Banque Populaire BASF Bech Bruun Law Firm British Land BUPA Carrefour Celesio Chr. Hansen Coloplast Commerzbank Continental AG Discovery Communications Djøf EY DNA Ltd Danish Broadcasting Corporation Egmont EMC Ericsson European Parliament Finnair Friskolornas riksförbund FTF GSK H&M Hartwall HJ Heinz IKEA Group INFARMA Investor KPN Telecom LähiTapiola LEGO Lundbeck Maggi Magneti Morelli McDonald’s Neste Oil Norges Pelsdyralslag Northland Resources Norwegian Bar Association NS, Dutch Railways OGEO FUND Pioneer Pekao Investment Management Praktikerjänst Raadhusgruppen Randstad Holding Renault Please note: A number of companies who participated in the study declined the opportunity to be named. RWE AG Rynkeby Food Sainsbury’s Saint Gobain Santander UK Siemans AG Spicerhaart Sportmaster Standard Chartered Bank Stroili Oro S.p.A. Suomen Terveystalo ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe UNIFY Italy Unilever Union Investment TFI UWV (Dutch Employee Insurance Agency) VR (State railways) ZF Friedrichshafen The free flow of digital information and the transparency brought about by social media have increased both the number and pace of conversations about brands and business. It’s a lot busier and faster out there. Companies are adapting to this “always-on” communications environment and the relentless threat to reputation – and the bottom line – that it represents. Bad news travels faster than ever, while good news is often drowned out in the news stream. As a result of this new “always-on” reality, communications is receiving more attention than ever at board level. This shifting communications landscape – and the heightened risk to reputation – has also necessitated a change in approach and a change in the structure and culture of communications teams. In sectors with significant regulatory restrictions or more conservative cultures (e.g. pharmaceuticals or banking), vigorous debates are being held about how to best navigate this new environment. Within companies, there is a flux in both structure and culture. Superb subject-matter expertise must now be married with expertise in the distribution of content across entirely new technologies and channels. More seasoned professionals haven’t yet fully embraced or understood the possibility of digital and social, while the “millennials” can’t picture their world without it. The “always-on” communications reality has placed a premium on content. In addition to regularly planned events and launches, companies now need high-quality, relevant content to sustain the ongoing conversations that are happening on digital and social channels. This has implications when planning communications campaigns. Companies are therefore looking internally to mine more content and are up-skilling and engaging their employees to become brand ambassadors, instead of relying solely on designated external communicators. But there exists significant uncertainty over how best to do this. In a world of more voices and more conversations, how should businesses harness the (often untapped) power of their own employees to better tell their story and build the company’s reputation? In a world drowning in content, how do companies produce content that is relevant, interesting and influential? In a world of endless conversation, how do you focus the discussion around your brand or business and drive sales? To gauge the views of senior communications managers at 100 top organisations in EMEA, MSLGROUP developed a survey with a mixture of open and closed questions targeted to their experience in dealing with communications and reputational issues. The surveys were conducted across EMEA markets in person or over the phone between 13 January, 2014 and 24 June, 2014. A full list of the companies interviewed appears below. Quantitative questions were analysed according to the data, with the descriptive supplement answers providing insight into the thinking behind the quantitative answers. The qualitative answers were in general clustered in order to ascertain any common themes across companies. When analysing responses, percentages are shown out of the total respondents for that question, as this is not always the full 100 companies interviewed. Many interviews were conducted in local languages and have been translated into English for the purpose of evaluation. MSLGROUP would like to thank all of the companies who participated in the study. To receive a copy of the full survey please contact victoria.sugg@mslgroup.com 02 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 03
  • 4. Increased scrutiny of communications at board level “ There is an increased understanding of the role communications plays, both internally and externally, in building the reputation Reputation is quickly becoming a key indicator of business success. The majority of companies surveyed agreed with the statement that reputation can bring a positive or significantly positive impact on how well a company does business wise. Respondents also indicated that the reputational consequences of company errors or crises are now regarded as more severe, given the ability for bad news to spread quickly via new digital and social channels. Despite the risks social media presents to reputation, a significant majority (79%) of those surveyed view social media as a clear opportunity. Only 5% viewed social media as a clear threat. However, of the companies who view social media as an “opportunity”, 23% explicitly added, without prompting, the caveat that this is only the case when social media channels are managed appropriately and with a certain degree of caution. The heightened reputational impact of social media is one of the reasons why a solid majority (70%) of respondents said more consideration is now being given to communications at board level. As a result of this increased scrutiny, several companies stressed that they intend to adapt the way they report on reputation. Some firms, for example, intend to move away from only analysing media coverage and establish more “sophisticated” tools such as RepTrack as a measurement instrument in order to capture the new breadth of conversations happening around their businesses. Board attention has also prompted companies to consider new ways to build their brand and reputation, although interestingly only a minority of respondents indicated that digital and social media would play a role in those efforts. 70% of companies said more consideration is now being given to communications at board level 86% of companies are thinking about different approaches to building their brand and reputation 85% of companies agree or strongly agree that the reputational consequences of their mistakes have become more serious of the company. Kerry O’Callaghan VP, Global Brand Communications and Government Affairs, GSK Key Findings “ Reputation has always been serious. There is heightened focus on reputation and awareness nowadays due to the accessibility of information to consumers. Christine Diamente Head of Brand and Corporate Sustainability, Alcatel-Lucent The MSLGROUP take Digital and social channels have quickened the pace of conversation and have eliminated the barriers to debate. Companies and the “traditional” media no longer control or mediate the discussion. While not all online debate is necessarily important or impactful, companies must be vigilant and monitor the discussion and engage where appropriate to ensure any negative impact on reputation is caught early and addressed. The study shows that within the new “always-on” media landscape, reputation functions as an important business characteristic and plays an essential role in contributing to business performance. The new media landscape has also impacted how companies measure and evaluate reputation. We can see that companies are on their way to incorporating their social and digital media activities into their reporting metrics on reputation. From a reputation perspective, companies are beginning to treat feedback through social and digital channels as equivalent to feedback through more traditional instruments such as research or media coverage. The Business “Take Out” Design a robust online monitoring and analysis regime to engage in the conversations that are happening around your business or brand. Careful monitoring can help flag problems before they metastasize into business-disrupting crises, and accurate metrics from these reporting regimes can help inform board discussion on reputation and positioning. “ It’s extremely important that you don’t just move in your own little world, but are open and receptive to doing something else. Head of Communications and Government Affairs of a global technology company 04 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 05
  • 5. 88% of companies produce more content than two years ago “We are still trying to find a balance between what we produce, at what cost, and what it is people want to hear about us. Head of Communications of a national beverage company Types of content companies are producing more of versus two years ago 13% 12% 11% Videos Pictures & infographics Brand content/storytelling Blogs & thought leadership News & press content “ Writing and creating 34% 30% content tailored to each of our target audiences can be a challenge and typically requires a good bit of time and resources.We have a content producer on staff, supported by other team members who write and provide inputs, and this helps us maintain focus on our content marketing objectives and activities. Silvio Cavaceppi VP Marketing & Communications PR, Embracing and adapting to the “always-on” landscape “ I believe that the time of “shiny and polished brands” is over. Now it’s more about stories. It’s the little things that build the brand. You need to be able to tell interesting stories “ 74% of companies have seen their approach to communications change fundamentally due to the rise of social and digital media 74% have transitioned from broadcasting to engaging in ongoing dialogue with their key stakeholder audiences Key Findings APR Energy A majority of respondents indicated their approach to communications had fundamentally changed because of the rise of social media. Instead of broadcasting to their audiences via paid and owned channels, they are now increasingly engaging in conversations with stakeholders online. To monitor and respond to these conversations, a strong majority of companies have some form of social media listening or early warning systems in place to mitigate risk, or have processes in place to manage real-time interactions. The Rise of Content With the rise in the use of social media comes an increase in the need for content to populate social and digital channels. To build and defend reputation, companies are now generating richer – often highly visual – forms of content to sustain conversations across multiple channels. In the survey, 88% of companies indicated that they produce more content than they did two years ago. There is also a clear trend in what types of content are being created and shared on social channels, with companies being more likely to produce short, easily-digestible content for their social channels, rather than longer-form blogs and thought leadership pieces. about your services. Aku Varamäki Social Media Manager, Finnair If social media didn’t exist, you’d be trying to invent it. Alex Cole Director of Corporate Affairs, BUPA A Difficult Harvest Despite facing a pressing need, many companies are finding it difficult to find, collate and publish content. The factors that stand out from the survey as hampering content publishing are time and budget, as well as format and tone. “ We don’t find content too difficult to find. We’re a broad business and there are lots of people with interesting things to say. The challenge is often getting this content into good enough shape for publication. Tim Baxter Global Head of Communications & Corporate Affairs, Standard Chartered Bank 06 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 07
  • 6. Embracing and adapting to the “always-on” landscape There are all sorts of legal considerations. We are looking at how to use our digital and social channels in ways and areas of the business that aren’t bound by our regulatory requirements. Kerry O’Callaghan VP, Global Brand Communications and Government Affairs, GSK From broadcast to conversation Armed with content, companies indicated that they have now started using digital and social channels to deepen their engagement with stakeholders. However, the survey found that not all audiences respond equally well to digital and social engagement. While respondents indicated that the value of using social media was evident when dealing with employees, customers and the media, quite a few responded that its value was less apparent for other audiences, including analysts, investors and policymakers. There was also some conservatism within sectors, with highly regulated industries like pharmaceuticals and finance indicating they saw limited upside in engaging with their stakeholders over very public social media channels. “ “ We are not just senders of messages but we must now accept criticism and respond to our customers. Thierry Bouvard Head of Sector Editorial Programs and Sponsorship, Banque Populaire Do you find it difficult to find, collate and publish stories? 58% 42% Yes No Do you encourage staff to take time to do this? 74% 26% Yes No “ We have a much closer relationship with compliance. Because we are a financial services company we need to be very careful with what we say on social media and that’s why, when it comes to financial products, we tend to use traditional media to communicate product information. Jonathan Akerman Senior Strategic Communications Manager, Santander UK The Business “Take Out” Marry deep subject matter expertise with technological savvy and then experiment with tone and approach across channels. Companies need both a deep subject matter expertise and an intimate familiarity with digital technology to succeed in the “always-on” environment. The new digital and social channels allow for flexibility in tone and approach, and companies should take calculated risks in how they communicate their business or brand in this new environment. While not every initiative will be perfectly on-brand, the approach will feel more genuine to consumers or partners. “ It’s about lighting beacons, not setting off fireworks. We’re trying to create communications initiatives that last longer. Tim Baxter Global Head of Communications & Corporate Affairs, Standard Chartered Bank 1 http://mslgroup.com/insights/2014/curing-the- content-headache.aspx The MSLGROUP take As we all know, the rise of digital and social media has changed the way companies approach communication. In addition to more traditional communications events like product launches and quarterly or annual results, companies are also staging lower-threshold events in order to stay active in the 24-7 news stream. Companies have taken a number of approaches to curing their content headache1, from hiring content marketing experts and ex-journalists, to engaging outside firms. Collating, qualifying, and sequencing content in a robust content calendar that supports corporate and brand narratives will remain a priority for the coming year. A number of respondents in highly regulated sectors like finance and healthcare cited their regulatory obligations and/or ability to move markets as reasons to limit their activity on these new channels. Other firms in these sectors cited an overall cultural conservatism toward external communication. For those who do participate actively in social media, the positive effect the “always-on” conversation has had on a company’s stakeholders’ ability to understand the company’s values is more pronounced for some stakeholder groups than others, notably less so for analysts, investors and policymakers. 08 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 09
  • 7. Changing teams/ changing culture “ The MSLGROUP take In order to fully utilise this comparatively new medium, companies are prioritising capability in social and digital media, as well as in content production. This has often meant bringing in younger staff who have grown up with digital and social media. With a majority of senior level communications staff having entered professional life well before the advent and rise of the new channels, there is a clear split in familiarity, perceived utility, and capability with digital and social media. These two poles will eventually converge. The Business “Take Out” Knock down internal silos and embrace the quicker pace of communications in an environment of increased transparency. All departments are now potentially outward facing. Mastering communications in the “always-on” environment will require a united front across external, internal, customer service and investor communications. Veterans can mentor new employees in substance, while younger employees can instruct more seasoned colleagues on the merits and particulars of the new communications channels. Key Findings The survey shows that companies are beginning to review the internal structure and make-up of their communications teams in response to the change in communications output (i.e. more content across more channels) and reputation management. While some communications teams are growing, the majority of companies surveyed are not putting their emphasis on increasing the size of their teams. Several companies highlighted the need for hiring focused on content generation and not simply social media expertise. Others are concentrating on attracting channel and technology specialists and experts. For these companies, the focus is ensuring that the team has the right capabilities. In some cases, this means hiring younger staff who are more comfortable with social and digital media, in other cases this aspect of communications is outsourced. “ While some companies have not yet changed their teams or activities, most see the opportunities and benefits of doing so and are either in the planning phase for change, or lack the manpower and expertise to move ahead with changes at the present time. Personnel aside, the survey finds that companies are coming across a number of cultural and organisational barriers when trying to adapt to the needs of the new media landscape and meeting the demands of the always-on conversation. A number of companies indicated that their IT systems were lagging behind and that they simply didn’t have the mobile technology necessary to continuously engage with the new channels. Some respondents didn’t feel they had significant enough buy-in from senior management to proceed with staffing changes to cover off the new channels. “ I do not advocate a separate social media department or division. In future, all communicators will have to be more “savvy” and have a good understanding of the various communications channels. Marc Binder Group Communications Director, Celesio AG “ The pressure for change came from… different directions: in addition to communications, HR noticed that young employees had new expectations. Heli Järvenpää Communications Manager, Algol It is also clear from the survey that companies need to invest in talent from a resource perspective as well as from a capabilities perspective. To that end, we see most companies adapting their teams or appointing external agencies to handle the bulk of social and digital communications in tandem with their internal teams. The company’s mind-set is fundamentally changing. I have a team that used to own their own channels and operate in silos – people now have to think differently. Tim Baxter Global Head of Communications and Corporate Affairs, Standard Chartered Bank Traditional communications are performed by many employees in our organisation, but few through social media. I think we will need to have a change in culture to empower communication in social media as well. External Communications Manager for a global pharmaceutical company Respondents were asked to rank from 1-6 the greatest cultural or organisational barriers they experienced in meeting the demands of the always-on conversation 01 Capability (staff) 02 Resource (staff) 03 Culture (organisational) 04 Technology (equipment) 05 Leadership (by a CEO) 06 Risk Management 10 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 11
  • 8. “ All LEGO employees communicating with consumers via social platforms require an internal Social Media Driver’s Licence. Preben Møller Brand Director (EU), LEGO “ Letting employees who are not members of the communications team participate in the company’s external communications leads to loss of control over the content. Head of Marketing and PR for a multinational clothing retailer Empowering employees to become external advocates “ Internal and external communication are continually merging because, either privately or (at work), employees are able to send what they feel, think, and say in the company around the world. Head of Communications and Government Affairs of a global technology company “ What has completely changed is the circle of communicators. This not only includes the people in my communications department, who are communicating with a broad coverage and were hired to do that, but also everyone in the company, who today are able to communicate with this wide reach and do so, as well, both privately and at work. Head of Communications and Government Affairs of a global technology company Key Findings To the question of whether it was good in theory to empower people outside of the communications teams to communicate, companies were fairly supportive. The survey found that 77% of companies think empowering individuals outside the communications team to communicate externally is a good thing. One quarter consider it a bad thing or express resistance when it comes to encouraging their employees to communicate about the company externally. That said, companies are still hesitant to grant their employees a licence to comment on social channels in an official capacity: 75% Limit external communications using social media to certain authorised people Is empowering individuals outside the communications team to communicate externally a good or bad thing? 9% Embrace contribution from others, although contributions could be vetted or employees trained first 7% Allow all employees to communicate externally about the company without any measure of guidelines or oversight Most companies underline that there must be clear guidelines and restrictions on how employees can communicate about the company they work for. A number of companies pointed out the importance of educating not just the core communications team, but also the wider network of employees. This can be in the form of formal training, or through company social media guidelines. “ I think that engaging employees – experts in their fields – in external communications (also in social media) may be profitable and poses a great value in building a brand’s position and reputation. Head of External Communication and Public Relations of a multinational retailer 57% 23% 20% Good Bad Overall good but with restrictions The MSLGROUP take Employees are now increasingly aware, interested and involved in the internal and external discussions happening around their brands or businesses thanks to digital and social channels. A company’s successes or failures can reach employees quickly and without context. Among the respondents there is an understanding that employees must have a role if companies are to sustain and engage in the conversations happening in digital and social media. Whether in the generation of content for the new channels, or as external advocates, employees are increasingly demanding a role in their company’s communications. While the majority of respondents support their employees’ external communication in theory, in practice there is uncertainty over how to best engage and utilise their talents. A majority of the respondents cited the need for clear social media guidelines. Others cited specific training courses their employees must complete before being allowed to contribute on digital or social channels. “ The process is really complex and still immature. Empowering people outside of the communications team to communicate externally through social media needs a serious and severe evaluation. Paolo Armano Digital Marketing Manager, Magneti Morelli The Business “Take Out” Share knowledge and positioning with all employees and match it with training before they can earn their passport to engage publicly, if not officially. 12 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 13
  • 9. Summary & Recommendations The broad agreement among communications managers that digital and social media have the power to both positively and negatively impact corporate reputation goes hand-in-hand with the rising attention being given to corporate communications at board level. The new 24-7 “always-on” landscape is an opportunity for communications directors to build their brand and corporate reputations and to redefine their value in the eyes of their superiors through more data-driven reporting. However, it will be a challenge to fulfill the expectations of the C-suite if communications capabilities are not properly resourced and managed. Along with overcoming in-house cultural conservatism and an external lack of receptiveness to digital and social content amongst some stakeholder audiences, communications managers must knit the newer skills of often much younger employees with the experience of more senior members of their teams. In a communications environment that is moving faster than ever, through more channels than ever, to more audiences than ever, devising appropriate advisory and permissions procedures will be crucial. So, how will communicators be able to use this opportunity most effectively? Monitor, respond and measure Conversations about your brand or business are happening all around you, whether you want them to happen or not. The chatter might be meaningless, or it might be signaling an unmet need or an issue that has yet to surface. Companies should set up social media listening programmes to get a better understanding of the conversations happening about their brands and businesses. The analysis of that listening should be used to develop risk mitigation plans to neutralise potential issues, and to inform positive white space opportunities for brands to expand their reach. All efforts should be measured carefully to adjust approaches if necessary, and then be reported back to senior management to give them a fuller picture of corporate communications and business successes. Start a content engine to sustain conversations Creating enough content to populate digital and social channels is hard work. It must be planned for, resourced, and executed properly. It’s not solely a question of volume – people are looking for high-quality content that’s relevant to them. Creating and fuelling a content engine to sustain conversations across digital and social channels requires both creativity and process. It requires art and science to identify both what to say, who to say it to, and how to say it. It must reinforce the brand or business’ purpose and narrative. Convene an editorial group comprised of representatives from multiple units of the business – including HR and internal communications, customer service, investor relations, external communications & media relations, and marketing – and populate a six-month editorial calendar. Overcome cultural conservatism and engage Digital and social media aren’t going away anytime soon. To repeat: conversations about your brand or business are happening all around you, whether you want them to happen or not. Burying your head in the sand will only expose your behind. While regulatory requirements might prevent some forms of communications, there are still avenues of expression that should be pursued. Misinformation must be countered by fact and legitimate customer enquiries must be serviced. Use data to help make the case internally – one of the benefits of these new channels is that responses can be tracked and measured with specificity. Demonstrate the benefit of engaging and help avoid the damage when a rumour is allowed to spread across the internet. Improve internal and external transparency The old adage is truer than ever: if you don’t want to see it on the front page of the newspaper, you shouldn’t be doing it. Given the increased transparency wrought by the new channels, a company’s internal behaviour must absolutely match its desired public perception. This requires a change in culture at all levels, and not simply a new CSR programme to put in the shop window. Companies should embrace transparency instead of fighting disclosure. Bad news will find a way out of your organisation – with a click of a button millions of pages of information can now be disseminated around the world. Be honest and accountable and you’ll have less to fear. To help with this process, bring your employees onboard and communicate with them regularly. Don’t let them be rattled by rumour or bad news. Give them the facts and trust them to use them to full advantage. Make your employees active communicators With more voices starting more conversations about your brand or business without your control or approval, you’ll be needing more advocates for your cause. Why not start with the people who work so hard for you? Upskill them to participate in these new channels and arm them with information and stories they can share. Set a clear framework and monitor their efforts and ask them to self-regulate too. With the right skills and stories they’ll be a passionate and committed advocate for your cause. After all, who knows your company better than the people who run it? Here are a few principles and recommendations from MSLGROUP: 14 An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey An MSLGROUP EMEA Survey 15