Why relevance is the new reputation

Could your organisation benefit from a model that can help communicators better connect with all its stakeholders? Annalise Coady, Laura Mucha and Kate Hawker from W20 Group explain how it works

Relevance has become the new reputation, a PRWeek PharmaComms audience heard at Hilton Canary Wharf, London. In a time when information is everywhere and people’s attention spans are fleeting, if a company’s brand, product, service or company isn’t on people’s radar, then it doesn't exist. 

"We all know reputation is important," said Annalise Coady (pictured, above), President, W2O Group. Indeed, corporate reputation accounts for 35.3% of the market cap of the world’s 15 leading equity market indices – and this figure is even higher for healthcare companies, at 39% of market cap. "But we think reputation is limited given the impact of digital technology over the past couple of years. News travels so fast now you no longer have any time to control the story." 

Due to today’s social and digital reality, companies have to demonstrate relevance that’s based on its purpose and its ability to connect to audiences about the things that matter to them. "You need to tailor your message to the way your audience wants to hear conversations. We know from the work we’ve done with advocacy groups that people want to communicate in pictures and in their own language. So the dynamics have changed, we can’t talk to our stakeholders in the way that we did before if we’re going to stay relevant," said Coady.

Three essential relevance commitments

  1. Show strategic purpose that creates shared value - "It’s about having a purpose that your stakeholders can get behind and really believe in. It needs to be authentic and and needs to make people want to have a conversation with you. It doesn’t just happen automatically, you have to build towards it." 

  1. Engage with customers through living brand experiences - "Can your audience find the information that they want and can they find it where they want to find it? Can they use their own language? Are you providing the information they need – both good and bad?"

  1. Company narratives need to be powered from the inside out - "Your story and purpose has to come from the inside out. It has to be driven by your employees. If you don’t have the energy coming from that then it won’t work."

How do W20 Group measure relevance?

"There’s a sweet spot between what companies are interested in communicating and what audiences and stakeholders expect and want to hear," said Laura Mucha, Managing Director, Integrated Solutions Portfolio Leader EMEA, W2O Group, "and that’s the part that matters."

The model that W20 Group has developed is in light of this digital reality and it’s based on analysing different kinds of data signals.

"In our model there are five core signals in how we assess relevance. Some are internal, so how employees feel about the company and culture. And the leadership, how strongly does the audience approve or not of a company’s C-Suite?

"And there are also some external signals: search interest, how visible is a company when people are looking for information online; how well does the content that’s produced resonate and what does the financial analysts community really make of the company," said Mucha.  

The model also takes into account the key differences that exist between companies which are accommodated in the model by looking at topics and audiences and geographies in a more bespoke way, choosing those ones that relate to the company’s business.

What is a relevance score?

"We like to put things on a scale so we can tell organisations how they performed, not only in isolation but also compared to their peers. On this scale we plot each of those five core signals and audience specific ones and assign a score," said Mucha.

The top tier of most relevant companies – those with Strong (>75) or Resilient (>85) scores – will lead on multiple measures such as market share, brand value, employment desirability, reputation and innovation.

"It’s not just about having a score card, though. It’s great to have a number, but as communicators we also need to know what’s behind the numbers. What’s driving the score and more importantly how can I improve it? So we also do a lot of deep content analysis using both AI and human judgment to ensure we are contextually accurate," said Mucha. 

What W20 Group has learned from tracking relevance?

  1. It’s hard to break through the issues-centric media agenda/narrative

  2. Few companies register a strong or resilient relevance 

  3. Even fewer healthcare companies have a strong or resilient relevance

  4. Relevance is more easily lost than gained

"The most exciting thing about the model is that there are some very actionable insights that have come out of the research. It can really help organisations to decide on what they can dial up and dial down in terms of relationships with audiences. The strategic approach in terms of messaging, positioning and engagement activities. And also, which business strategies to emphasize to different stakeholders, because in reality advocacy and patient groups don’t want to hear the shareholder value story but they do want to hear what you’re doing in terms of market access. It’s about being able to tailor stories appropriately.

"Another key advantage of a measurement model is that it enables you to go senior leadership to advise them on how to invest," said Kate Hawker, Practice Leader at W2O Group. "And it’s often not where people might think. It could be the smaller publications, influencers or it might be paid media, a great way of amplifying your story."


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