Digital Roundtable: Social passions

As digital media prompts communicators to alter how they work, leading PR pros gathered in New York to discuss how they leverage, monitor, and tackle the new landscape.

As digital media prompts communicators to alter how they work, leading PR pros joined Rose Gordon in New York for this Taylor-sponsored roundtable to discuss how they leverage, monitor, and tackle the new landscape.

Andrew Bowins, SVP, group head, external comms, MasterCard
Andrew Cutler, executive/internal comms manager, BMW of North America
Corey duBrowa, SVP, global comms and international public affairs, Starbucks
Sabrina Dupre, director of global corporate comms, The Estée Lauder Companies
Ben Edwards, VP, digital strategy and development, IBM
John Havens, EVP of strategy and engagement,
Sabrina Horn, CEO and president, Horn Group
Lisa Jaycox, manager, external comms, McGraw-Hill Companies
Jackson Jeyanayagam, VP of digital strategy, Taylor
Evan Welsh, director global media relations, SAP

The digital component
Rose Gordon (PRWeek): What progress have you made in terms of integrating digital media, including social, into your overall communications strategy?

Andrew Bowins (MasterCard): Over the last six months, we've been building inline tools while building up to what we're calling a conversation suite – a command center that gives us a view across the social graph, across online, and across traditional media. What are the trends and conversations happening? Who are the audiences we care about?

Historically we were a b-to-b play. Now, we want to create an emotional connection with consumers and merchants. The nature of our dialogue must change.

Corey duBrowa (Starbucks): We're fortunate to be a brand that is inherently in a social business. We have 17,000 stores around the world. Sixty million customers a week come through our doors. We're already in a lot of communities. This third place that Starbucks represents between people's homes and work lends itself in some ways to a fourth place that uses all of these digital means that people now have at their disposal to have a more meaningful kind of engagement.

Thinking about the journey we've been on is a little staggering. We have 40 million global Facebook fans that span 35 pages. We have 2 million Twitter followers. On Instagram, about 120,000 followers. A lot of what our digital team has spent time doing has been building platforms that fundamentally give this very engaged consumer group a way to demonstrate their level of engagement and be a part of that dialogue.

Sabrina Horn (Horn Group):
Social is a part of every communications program we give clients. It has to be, but it runs the gamut. For one of our clients, it's helping them understand the value of social, how to do social, and going all the way to conducting a training program on how to set up your Twitter account. Tech companies in Silicon Valley don't want PR in a classic sense. They only want to communicate through social channels.

Evan Welsh (SAP): Seven to nine years ago, we started the SAP Community Network. It has nearly 3 million members. This is a place for people who are really interested in SAP, our ecosystem, our customers, our partners, developers. There's no filter. There's no monitoring of what people say. If there are negative comments, SAP is not the one to respond. It's third-party users, other customers, other partners. They get points from the network the more they respond. The more points they get, the more revered they are within the network.

We also have The Idea Place where people can vote on new ideas that will become part of new releases or SAP products and new solutions. If it gets enough votes, we can include that in the next release, which is a great way to move business forward. It's not us saying, “This is what we think our customers want” and five years later we come out with the release.

Sabrina Dupre (Estée Lauder): Digital or social media factor into everything we do. It's our opportunity to keep building our brand's equity. It enables us to do something we've done well for many years, but do it even better. It eliminates that middleman and lets us really communicate directly with consumers.

Lisa Jaycox (McGraw-Hill): McGraw-Hill has been around for more than 100 years. We're a very traditional company, but we also think of ourselves as digitally savvy. Our education textbooks division has been moving more toward digital platforms both in terms of e-books and learning solutions. [Our ratings subsidiary] Standard & Poor's has been moving toward the social space, even though it's a highly regulated company.

We launched an internal employee network last year that's gained a lot of ground with employees collaborating online and being able to share documents. It also has an ideation component, similar to SAP.

Andrew Cutler (BMW): A car is an emotional experience. The sales and marketing side has the responsibility to get the customer hooked, excited, and sold into a car. Then there's the after-sales group. They have a three- to five-year window where they need to maintain the relationship with that customer and then pour that satisfied customer delicately back into the hands of the sales funnel.

When it came to social engagement, the two divisions weren't even talking, so we established the Social Business Council. We had about 17 different departments with about 25 people represented, including some agency partners. Collaboration was the key.

Jackson Jeyanayagam (Taylor): The question was, “How does digital strategy fit into communications strategy?” I actually look at it the other way around. It should be, “How does your communications strategy fit into your overarching social strategy?”

Too often you see brands force-feeding content, force-feeding communications experience – whether it's advertising or PR – into digital platforms and experiences that don't make sense. You have a 30-second spot and a billboard ad and you hope that same experience resonates online. We force-feed that content versus optimizing it for that experience.

Comms' responsibility
Gordon (PRWeek): As communicators, what specifically are you tasked with on the digital and social side within your organizations?

Ben Edwards (IBM): I think less about how IBM divides up internal responsibilities and more about how it integrates itself around a client or employee journey.

So, what's the key activity there? It's design in the broader sense. We can design ideas about how a client might progress through a sale or a relationship with IBM. We can design ideas about how an employee might move from having no relationship with us to being a passionate advocate. If we all share that same idea about that design, our internal structure really doesn't matter, so long as we're integrating into the same notion and we're working off of iterations of that same notion.
John Havens ( It's about being action-focused. When you give someone something specific to do, you get them to be a part of the conversation.

Dupre (Estée Lauder): Because of social media, flexibility and agility are the most critical attributes to working as a team. Where we've seen social media work really well is when we're all at the table.

Welsh (SAP): It all begins with aligning ourselves around the business strategy. As communicators, marketers, and customer service within organizations, we must rally around the strategy the business has set up. The PR team can take conversations back to our leadership. We should all have a seat at the table to say what the sentiment is and what we're hearing in the various channels so we can influence strategy.

Bowins (MasterCard): We quickly went from, “Get the comms guys in here, we've figured out what we must do to get a PR campaign,” to “Get the comms guys in here with their insights because we must start thinking about A, B, and C against our business strategy.”

We've made great strides for our own credibility in the organization. Social media has enabled that.

It's interesting when you come to the table with data. The emotion is taken out of the discussion because now you're having a solid business dialogue. You're framing your relevance in an ops perspective versus what does communications think or feel. That's changed the dynamic for what our function is within the company.

Horn (Horn Group): Most often, the challenge we get is to solve a problem. The first task is defining it. What problem are you trying to solve? What do you want your outcomes to be from a real business measurement standpoint? What's working for you? Against you? Sometimes we can't do a social media strategy because we don't have the infrastructure. So, let's start with something else and graduate to a social strategy.

Secondly, we're being asked to focus more on love-based than fear-based campaigns. Social lends itself so much more to that. It fits in so much more nicely with love-based campaigns and things that make you feel good about a brand than things that say, “If you don't use this, something bad will happen to you.”

Dupre (Estée Lauder): I like what you said about love-based campaigns. Our makeup brand MAC has psychotically passionate, loyal fans. They want to feel they're a part of building that passion. It's worked tremendously well as MAC has gone into other channels and we've seen it translate into emerging markets.

Find out your values and what you're passionate about, intersect that with what's passionate to your consumers, and turn the key from there.

DuBrowa (Starbucks): It may be unusual for the company's leadership to talk about love. [Starbucks CEO] Howard Schultz talks about this all the time. Maybe it's even a little uncomfortable, but what's happening within this world now is pushing us more toward polarity. There's love and then there's apathy. The key is – and ['s] John [Havens] brought this up – giving people something to do about it.

We have a fan base for our pumpkin spice latte. Fans know when it comes out to the day. We launched a Facebook app to give people in different geographies the ability to express their love for it. If your geography had the most or best examples, or instantiated it in the most compelling way, then your geography got to launch pumpkin spice latte a week ahead of everybody else. There were 170,000 “likes.” There was all this commentary and an amazing flood of love or passion. It gives people an outlet.

Better measurement
Gordon (PRWeek): How are you handling social media monitoring and digital campaign measurement?

Jaycox (McGraw-Hill): I'm looking at how we create a platform that can be more widely used across the entire corporation instead of being in the hands of a select few. I also want to standardize the key points you should be measuring because it's all over the map right now.
Edwards (IBM): The new way of thinking is about modality of relationship. It's from a spectrum of “I don't know you and you don't know me” to “You're my most passionate advocate.” There's a lot in between.

How can we help you along that modality of relationship, whether you're an employer or client? Action is very important, but not just any action. Action that is achievable. I take a step, I can see what happened. It's this kind of tremendous feedback mechanism, so I'm going to go take another step. Belief, action, advocacy. We should start measuring those things.

Bowins (MasterCard): We built a tool that takes an API feed from any given tool out there today and I have a real-time dashboard that anyone on my team globally logs into. We monitor in every language except Farsi in 46 countries, everywhere we do business.

What the team can see each day at a high level is how our net promoter score looks [compared to our benchmark] at a country, regional, or a global level. How are corporate reputation drivers performing? They look at those drivers to see if there are any trends happening or if something's getting traction. Who are the people driving the most dialogue? Then we have a set of analysts behind the scenes because you can't just rely on the artificial intelligence. We're in the early days, but we're getting really focused now.

Jeyanayagam (Taylor): A lot of questions we receive fall under, “What does success look like?” You have all this data – qualitative and quantitative. Is that good? Are 50,000 “likes” good? Are 1 million YouTube views good? The industry lacks context. If you have a true e-business model, you're including widgets to measure and track recommendations and shares.

IBM's Ben Edwards likes data

By Lindsay Stein

Just prior to the Digital Roundtable (HYPERLINK), a group of New York communicators listened to a Q&A with Ben Edwards, VP of digital strategy and development, hosted by Rose Gordon, senior editor of special projects.

Edwards credited LinkedIn as a major social media platform for IBM, which has 300,000 employees using the site. He added that while the company is engaging with the people on LinkedIn who follow IBM, he thinks “there's a lot more” the company can do with the social channel, especially in terms of research.

“Think about the amount of data that LinkedIn is sitting on,” he said. “We want to provide better information for our clients.”

Twitter has also become a popular social network for IMB, said Edwards. Last year for the company's 100th anniversary celebration, IBM encouraged employees to publicly pledge hours to philanthropic efforts using the hashtags #IBM and #Centennial. Edwards said the campaign garnered more than 30,000 tweets, and from January 2011 to June 2011, about 300,000 IBM employees, as well as their friends and relatives, pledged 2.5 million hours of service around the world. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted about IBM's centennial, he added.

IBM also has 250 internal blogs in its network, helping to turn employees into brand ambassadors, which Edwards said is “very much part of [IBM's] core strategy.”

With more than 400,000 employees worldwide, monitoring IBM's social channels is just as important as keeping the platforms active, said Edwards. He said the company focuses on “mitigating the risks to better unlock the value.”

“Marketing, communications, and human resources are looking at value, and the CFO and Information Governance Council are looking at risk,” he explained.

Educating employees on how to properly use social channels linked to the company is key for IBM reputation management, but Edwards said so is teaching the staff about how IBM can mitigate risks related to cyber security and hacking.

“We'd like every IBMer to tell you about the nature of these risks and how to prevent them,” he said.

Content's leading role
Gordon (PRWeek): How has the digital age impacted the content you create?

Bowins (MasterCard): We're exploring curation now. [We] took the bold move with our consumer blog in the last week to stop blogging and stop posting. We started to use Percolate to curate the most relevant conversations about shopping and travel from around the world and surface it into our blog as content. Then we add commentary and retweet or use Tumblr to syndicate it back to the original sources or the communities where those conversations originated.

It's called The Daily Beat and it's for our Cashless Generation program. Now we have the responsibility to earn the right to be relevant in those conversations, add commentary, and let it syndicate back out.

Dupre (Estée Lauder): We talk about co-creation and finding opportunities to co-create with a consumer or with a blogger. The Estée Lauder brand recently did a partnership with the Cupcakes and Cashmere blogger. It has brought so many new customers who would have never thought of buying our products together to its brand site. Together, the brand, which has an incredible constituency, and the blogger, who's got their own audience, are co-creating value. When you have a point of view, those co-creation partnerships tend to happen more seamlessly and organically.

Havens ( We see people as the content – the social innovators we focus on. We help brands identify their shareholders, their employees, all these folks, not just their consumers. How do you bring the shared value, the triple-bottom-line equation to everyone?

Content still has to be entertaining, but people now ask, “What are you doing for me? What are the specific things you can help my life with?” Also, in terms of sustainability: How does your company help itself and all its stakeholders survive for the next five, 10, 20 years? If you don't have that message down, you just won't be around.

Horn (Horn Group): For our client, we all get in a room and say here's all of our content. We just let it collide and see what bubbles up. Therein lies some beautiful gem of a campaign or a new theme that then goes out through all of its various channels.

It's not about the hit or the placement. It's the engagement; it's the return on the relationships you now need to build. It's ROR, not ROI. The press release is almost the lowest on that totem pole.

Welsh (SAP): We've started hiring ex-reporters or ex-bloggers who have great relationships and followings who are also really good storytellers. I also agree companies need to be sustainable, otherwise they won't be here in as little as three to five years. It's the triple bottom line, like [Havens] said. It's business sustainability. It's social. It ties in with CSR. That ties in with reputation and brand awareness and is essential for survival.

Jeyanayagam (Taylor): We're going to get more into a do-it-yourself culture. This new generation won't rely on brands or media entities to create apps or create content. They're doing it themselves.

So how do we engage with them? We recommend a five-step process. It's creating or curating that content; optimizing it for the platform wherever you are, wherever your audience is; engaging around that content; measuring and monitoring that content to see how people are reacting; and adapting. The key to monitoring measurement is taking those results and adapting.

DuBrowa (Starbucks): Brands also create content through experiences that are shareable. We're experimenting with this idea of capitalism and altruism, which, if done in balance, can create a trust capacity or equity that brands can continue to tap.

In South Central Los Angeles and Harlem, we've found two organizations in the community to work with where we're going to give half of the profits from those stores directly to that organization.

Back to co-creation. It's not just what we create nor what the third party creates. It's what the people in the community create. What we are able to share – whether it's community-service projects, specific acts of kindness or love, or whatever they are – will ultimately feed back into the brand narrative and give us a richer way to talk about how we engage in these communities.

Evolution of the press release
Jaycox (McGraw-Hill): I don't think the press release is dead. It's evolved. We've transitioned. You're creating this toolkit of content for people online. You have video associated with the press release; the release is written in a way that it's search engine optimized. You have links throughout it, photos associated with it. Anybody who comes there can pull the parts that are most important to them. We're doing pitches, one-off e-mail pitches, and sharing it on all our social networks. All these other things kind of bubble up and die. But that press release that we push out lives online forever.

Cutler (BMW): We have such a rich asset of videos, images, and stories to tell around the products. In a way that makes our job easier, but there's also a real thirst for that type of content.

What we've done is deconstruct it. Why throw this all out in one fell swoop? There are so many great stories embedded in the launch of the new X3. Why should we throw it all out there in one lump? Tell the stories a bit at a time. From that comes a greater story that is more sustainable over a period of time.

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