FedEx and General Motors are among the major companies pulling more of their monitoring and measurement capabilities in-house.
Brand leaders cite a number of reasons for this: speedier reaction time to concerns, the fact that analytics is now a central driver of the PR function, and for allowing in-house teams to collaborate more productively with their PR firms.
“It is not really a knock in any way toward our PR agencies, or agencies in general,” explains Patrick Fitzgerald, SVP of integrated marketing and communications at FedEx.
“But with the growth of digital and social, there has been a development of new tools and technologies for internal use. This has freed up the PR agencies to do what they do best, which is provide high-level strategic communications counsel and support. That is a positive development for comms and PR in general.”
FedEx has made the transition during the last five years and has built its monitoring and measurement capabilities from a portfolio of software tools. Fitzgerald notes that this has happened in tandem with the company expanding its comms group “with some very skilled professionals.”
However, evaluating the many software options out there is no easy task, given “tremendous jumps in their capabilities,” notes Fitzgerald.
With 400,000 team members globally and a service footprint of 220 countries and territories, the monitoring capabilities FedEx considers must have scope and breadth.
“With the growth of digital and social, there has been a development of new tools and technologies for internal use. This has freed up the PR agencies to do what they do best.”
Patrick Fitzgerald, FedEx
“We have a lot of interested parties and team members needing immediate access to information, and so in addition to looking at the content that is included, we do look at the mechanics and flexibility of being able to service such a wide internal subscriber base,” he says. “We also have issues and events happening around the world every hour of every day, so responsiveness and immediacy of information is important, particularly as it relates to crisis management.”
His team also evaluates the usability of the portal or dashboard. Fitzgerald says it needs to be intuitive to understand and the team also judges how it compares to others.
“In addition to traditional media and social media, I also have responsibility for all of our advertising and sponsorship, and so we look at tools that can connect more broadly to how we monitor and measure other marcomm activity,” he says.
General Motors is another major corporate brand that has evolved its reporting, monitoring, and measurement structure.
“Previously, agencies used measurement and analytics to portray the success of their projects, but we weren’t able to compare or contrast that holistically,” says Tony Cervone, SVP of global communications at GM. “The communications practice must learn and improve constantly and to facilitate that we needed to move to a centralized reporting function. This allows the team to maintain and report in a consistent way, drive benchmarks, and make insight-driven decisions.”
GM’s investment in software for the automaker’s in-house capabilities is key for another reason.
“Having it in-house signifies to our team the importance and value we place on measurement. It gives us the ability to look at our reporting holistically and ensures that we have our data versus outsourcing it,” he explains. “The team is able to look at the drivers of earned media from inception, particularly of confidential announcements, and move toward a more insights-driven culture.
“And because it’s in-house, the team is living and breathing the company culture and complexity of what is being measured, so they are more familiar with the complex issues day-in and day-out,” he adds.
That is not to say GM’s PR agency partners aren’t involved in the analytics piece because their expertise still plays a key supporting role.
“We have agency partners who sit onsite so they understand our business. Oversight is handled by GM and we work to ensure integration with messaging and future planning,” says Cervone. “The strong relationship we have with agency partners ensures we act as a team and share objectives.”
“The communications practice must learn and improve constantly and to facilitate that we needed to move to a centralized reporting function”
Tony Cervone, GM
“We have agency partners who sit onsite so they understand our business,” Cervone adds. “Oversight is handled by GM and we work to ensure integration with messaging and future planning. The strong relationship we have with agency partners ensures we act as a team and share objectives.”
Moving forward, he believes there is an opportunity for GM to improve its tool integration. “As we review current and future needs, we will drive for a more holistic tool stack moving into 2019,” he says. “We are asking vendors for more application programming interfaces both at the tool level and into a larger data warehouse.”
As well, he says “we need tools that allow us to look at the data both at a macro and micro level and begin to move into more predictive analytics. Measurement and integration across communications and marketing are crucial to delivering an integrated plan. Our goal is to drive insights-based decision at every level within communications.”
While the tools continue to advance and impress, Marcy Cohen, VP of digital comms at Mastercard, says when evaluating a particular software solution from a vendor, the financial services company also factors the “human element.”
“I’ve found that some social listening companies have great analysts to help us make sense of the data,” says Cohen. “The companies that are investing in people and technology are the best mix for us.”