Though other companies might be cutting measurement budgets, FedEx is standing by its commitment.
Over the past couple of years, FedEx has beefed up its efforts to communicate CSR activities. The company has a decade-long history of including measurement in its PR plans, so when the team discovered that audiences were uncertain about the company's citizenship efforts, it took action.
“While FedEx got a lot of credit for being a good citizen, a lot of people were uncertain about our [CSR] record because they didn't have the information,” says Bill Margaritis, SVP of global communications and IR at FedEx. The company got high marks for “emotional appeal” – trust, admiration, and respect. To solve its CSR issue, the PR team found that all it had to do was get the word out.
So, FedEx began including information about its CSR efforts, which include philanthropic, local community, and environmental work, in all internal and external communications. Margaritis says the company has received favorable feedback from both customers and employees since adding the information.
“Trust is the core of our reputation, so if we simply give [people] information, they will give us credit,” Margaritis says. “All we had to do was make them aware.”
The economic recession has companies searching for ways to cut spending and squeeze value out of every marketing dollar. If something has to go, measurement is often the first to be cut.
However, at FedEx, measurement is becoming an even more crucial part of the PR budget. While it might be conducted differently going forward to account for the belt tightening that most companies are experiencing, by no means does the sour economy signal the end of the company's measurement efforts.
“In an economic downturn, it's even more important to measure,” Margaritis says. “Clearly in situations like this... you have to be sure you're getting the maximum ROI because the scrutiny is increased. We're tweaking our formula... to save costs without diluting the integrity and quality of the data.”
FedEx relies on a number of third-party market research firms outside of its internal team and its longtime AOR, Ketchum, to conduct PR measurement. The effort includes everything from employee surveys across the company to media monitoring with the overall goal of managing the company's reputation with employees, customers, investors, and other international stakeholders.
Margaritis calls measurement the “cornerstone” of the company's reputation management program. FedEx researches and measures a number of reputational drivers, such as the aforementioned emotional appeal, recruitment and retention, the perceived quality of management, and “whether customers are willing to give us the benefit of the doubt if we have a slip up or a crisis.”
Margaritis admits the company is asking a number of questions about the way it measures its worldwide communications, including whether it can lower the number of measurement companies it works with. However, there is no question that the overall measurement effort will continue.
“Senior executives have confidence in what we're doing, and they're expecting us to continue to report back on performance,” Margaritis says. “Corporate communications people are expected to be counselors, not order takers. In order to be a successful counselor to an internal client, you have to have knowledge and data to back up your strategy.”
The information is used for the yearly communications plan, and real-time tracking on a weekly or monthly basis dictates adjustments as the year progresses.
While the downturn has made efficiency and cost-effectiveness an important part of this process, it has also highlighted why measurement is important in the first place.
“This downturn invariably brings change,” he says. “In a period of change, you have to be mindful of not doing something that has unintended consequences [like] demotivating people or defection among customers.”
Ketchum's role in the process has been to help with measurement analysis and aid the company's attempt to streamline the measurement process. With large or global companies, the firm has found that it's easy for the number of measurement tools to grow too large.
“A lot of clients... get to a point when they're buying a half dozen media monitoring services, a half dozen media research services, and they say, ‘Let's pause... and make sure we're buying the best things,” says David Rockland, partner and MD of research, consulting, and interactive communications at Ketchum. “In a global company, you wind up having different units around the world buying a lot of different things. There can be significant cost savings to pulling that all together.”
Certainly, Rockland thinks these tough times should be a chance for measurement to shine, particularly if it's used correctly.
“Measurement... is supposed to be prescriptive,” he says. “It's helping you take a rifle shot instead of a shotgun approach.”
The current economy is one more opportunity to show the worth of the hard work FedEx has put into its measurement plans.
“We believe every company has a reputational DNA,” Margaritis says. “We try to understand [our] attributes... where we want to dominate... and where we want to compete. It's extraordinary how you can... show value in times like this.”
Getting the most out of your measurement
Measure your brand in real time and apply your data to competitive, industry, and other forms of actionable analysis. And measure often, using benchmarks to track progress.
Learn about measurement efforts in other marketing disciplines and create comparable approaches.
Be sure to take quantifiable measures of areas that are tied to the key objectives of the business and are also in line with the outcomes that executives in the organization are looking for. Speak to things like specific target audiences or time frames.
Agency measurement professionals should talk with the practitioners in charge of research and measurement on the client side.
Stay focused. Measure specific activities or issues to pinpoint information that is most relevant to the company and to reaching communications goals.