Why internal comms has a role to play in building positive employee experience

This week's chat

Rubain Manzoor

Millennials have begun to take over the workforce. Organisations need to know how to stimulate, engage, and retain this extremely sophisticated class of employees, says Rubain Manzoor, content marketing manager at Contact Monkey.

Organisations have been slow to learn but are finally catching up on the importance of investing time and resources into creating strong employee experiences – and there’s a good reason why.

A study by Future Workplace found that 83% of HR leaders claim strong employee experiences lead to improved organisational productivity and success. In response, they are pushing for new types of engagement, and companies must respond to their demands by developing robust employee experiences.

But how does internal comms fit into all of this? And, more importantly, what role do communicators play in creating successful employee experiences?

In the past, organisations have devoted a lot of time and resources into creating successful customer experiences, allocating massive budgets to external relations and communications, while overlooking the need for internal marketing and communications.

With the rise of employee experiences, the focus has shifted on engaging the workforce, giving internal communicators the responsibility to create communication strategies that reflect cohesiveness and engagement among employees.

It’s not so much that Millennials and Gen Z want different things from their jobs; they want the same things as previous generations and more. They still need to have clear goals and a route for achieving them, but they want to know what value those goals are contributing. They want to feel part of a team, listened to and valued, but this need is amplified because they have grown up with a constant flow of messages, comments and likes on social media.

A big flaw in large organisations is the trickling of information in a top-down flow. Information often gets lost, distorted, or mismanaged, often leaving managers confused and in a tough spot.

Internal communicators can help by providing middle management with better, easier-to-use tools and processes that decrease the chances of information getting forgotten or delayed. And when it comes to delivering messages that apply to the whole organisation (or an entire location), have a central way of delivering them to reduce the pressure on individual team managers.

When it comes to internal comms, employees appreciate a steady flow of information which tells them how their team and the wider company is progressing towards various goals. But within this, they want to know that their own job matters. A recent LinkedIn survey found that 73% of the 26,000 people surveyed globally wanted a career where they felt they were making a difference.

Companies need to wake up to the fact that internal communications can no longer be treated as an afterthought; it’s an important business function that, when done well, helps keep employees engaged and loyal to the organisation. When neglected, it’s likely to have the opposite effect.

To keep a Millennial workforce engaged, an effective internal communications system should provide motivation for employees to keep working towards a shared goal. By seeing what they are working towards, employees are likely to become more committed to doing their part.

Fortunately, it seems that a growing number of companies are actively investing in the idea of letting internal comms own employee engagement programs in the modern workplace. A 2016 internal communication survey revealed that internal comms budgets are on the rise, with 87% of respondents saying their budget would either stay the same or increase in the coming years.

The ultimate goal of internal communication is to help leaders get their message out. In order to get buy-in, make decision-makers aware of this goal and get them involved in the planning and development phase of your internal comms strategy.

Rubain Manzoor is content marketing manager at internal communications Outlook tool Contact Monkey. Contact Monkey is holding a #CommsChat on 14 May – keep an eye on the website for details of topics

What do you think? Continue the #CommsChat on Twitter

Want to contribute? Email amy.sandys@communicatemagazine.co.uk



Mailrooms, the forgotten facility?

This week's chat


Mark Calladine

The first quarter of 2017 saw the UK’s private sector outsourcing market record its strongest quarterly performance in five years. There remains, however, one essential component of corporate performance that is generally overlooked, says Mark Calladine, sales director at CMS Network.

Despite the proliferation of digital tools, mail remains a critical part of the communication mix. Analysts estimate that mail operations, including the use of courier services, account for around 9% of the budgets of Fortune 500 companies. These figures seem reason enough to monitor the efficiency and quality of the mail operation. But, in a vast majority of businesses, mail processes continue year-on-year without attracting the strategic analysis afforded to other parts of the organisation.

Delve a little further into the UK’s outsourcing figures and the numbers reveal a significant spend on services related to improving the customer experience. These contracts alone were worth £437m in Q1. Here, the spend centres on customer-focused services such as call centres and IT for web development and online response services and generally isn’t focused on mail. This is an oversight. When the make-up of business mail is considered, whether transactional invoices and statements, marketing communications, contracts and more, there is no room for error in delivering such communications. Forgetting about the mail operation is causing businesses to run with higher fixed overheads and increased costs, and with antiquated technology and poor efficiency.

At a time when many businesses are consolidating premises and sharing facilities, the mail function remains a dysfunctional anomaly. These legacy mailrooms are a long-way removed from the sustainable, sleek, smart-working environments that are the vision of many business leaders today. The time is right to seek impartial, expert advice in order to bring mail operations up-to-speed with modern business thinking.

The first task is to seek an expert partner who knows the mail environment inside out. This includes courier service usage which can quickly become a significant cost-drain if bookings are not carefully managed, and can leave the business at risk of reputational damage if the wrong courier service is selected. Large facilities management and outsourced service suppliers can often seem like jack-of-all-trades, providing solutions for a variety of business challenges. The mail market is a complex and constantly evolving arena, one that requires specialist knowledge if services are to become efficient and effective.

Of course, cost-savings will always be a priority and the best partners will understand the correct delivery model for the specific volume, type and destination of mail. However, this is more than a cost-saving exercise. Expert partners will act as consultants across the entire mail operation, looking at delivery processes but also at the make-up of the mail facility itself, its footprint within the business and the way staff interact with the facility.

The result of such analysis is that mail as a function becomes better aligned with strategic business goals around overheads, staffing and sustainability. In many cases, staff that have been tasked with overseeing mailroom processes can be upskilled to focus on critical frontline activities.

The UK’s private sector continues to invest in outsourced support in order to fulfil a variety of business processes. Despite the critical role that mail continues to play in business life, the mailroom is often neglected when it comes to seeking expert third-party guidance. Pioneer businesses are changing this mindset, recognising that with strategic support, the mail function can transform from a legacy burden into a key strategic asset.

Mark Calladine is sales director at CMS Network

What do you think? Continue the #CommsChat on Twitter

Want to contribute? Email amy.sandys@communicatemagazine.co.uk


Digital dieting: getting the right balance of tech in our lives

This week's chat

Sophie Harding

Mindshare’s futures director, Jeremy Pounder, recently ran a #CommsChat on digital dieting, which I would like to pick up on a bit more. The topic emerged as part of Mindshare’s recent trends report, which was the result of extensive consumer research that revealed people are striving to achieve the right balance of technology in their lives.

There are increasing concerns around issues such as online privacy, bullying/abuse and how technology is exacerbating low self-esteem, reduced attention spans, increased stress levels, and diminishing social skills. However, what people are prepared to do about it is perhaps less dramatic. People are far from downing tools and ditching technology altogether.

Digital detox was nowhere near a realistic proposition for most. Smaller, more gradual, behaviour changes that were initiated by trigger points was the reality – more akin to a digital diet.

As part of our #CommsChat, when asked what you would cut out or restrict, the conversation mostly revolved around social media (nice to see the irony wasn’t lost that we were using social media to talk about this subject!). You felt social media was too curated and did not provide a realistic picture. This totally reflected the view of those we spoke to in our study and people are starting to adjust their social media behaviour as a result. Many say they are feeling the pressure and are taking a break from Facebook and Twitter, or giving them up entirely. We are seeing growth in more private networks such as Snapchat and WhatsApp, although quite rightly you raised concerns that platforms such as Snapchat could worsen FOMO (fear of missing out.)

It was also interesting to hear a few of you mention LinkedIn and how people should be using this platform more appropriately. Thanks to this chat, I am now keeping an eye out diligently for those elusive ‘guns out’ profile pics from my LinkedIn colleagues!

Something #CommsChat also mentioned was an effort to cut down your email or overall device use. This was another behaviour reflected in the results of our study. People are making a conscious effort to reduce their device time, whether it be only buying a certain amount of data, turning off notifications, activating airplane mode or switching off altogether at key periods of time.

So what does this all mean for brands? Will less digital lead to a more personalised comms approach? Not necessarily. Digital is the perfect platform to actually enhance personal communications but this needs to be done in the correct way, by truly putting the individual and their experience at the heart of the communication i.e. talking to them like a human! It was also highlighted that it was essential for the digital experience to integrate with the offline and overall brand experience for personalised communications to be effective.
Realistically brands cannot and should not cut out digital altogether because consumers aren’t. The majority of people are tech friendly with 75% feeling that tech has a positive impact on their lives. They are simply making small behaviour changes in order to get a healthier balance of tech in their daily routine.

Brands need to work with this culture of digital dieting, using more data to understand their audience behaviour and the channels they connect with, when and why. Once this has been determined then the right mix of media and channels can be used to talk to people at the right time, in the right place with digital dieting in mind. Delivering real world experiences is an additional tactic, but again the message needs to be relevant to the individual.

Another good approach is to emphasise and encourage the positive aspects of digital. For example Jeremy highlighted how the rise of voice interactions could help the visually impaired with digital in the future.
So what about the future? We contemplated whether less digital was likely, or even possible in a future climate where we will be ever more reliant on technology. The jury is out, as it is likely we will not view digital in the same way as we do now.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will enable more automation, and Internet of Things (IoT) more connectivity. We will spend less time gazing and tapping at small glass screens. Digital will become so integrated into our lives, perhaps via implants, that it is not something we will really think about in the same way.
While this is all playing out, there is likely to be a further reaction against certain types of technology, while we struggle to make sense of it all, but history has shown that likely we will adapt to make technology work for us as individuals and society.

Sophie Harding is research and insights director at Mindshare

What do you think? Continue the #CommsChat on Twitter.


The impact of GDPR on the PR industry

This week's chat

Robert Bownes, director of communications at data science and intelligence marketing company, Profusion

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a series of new rules governing marketing data. In particular, the need for ‘explicit consent’ from the recipient of a marketing message, and for this consent to be ‘verifiable’ – i.e. the company doing the marketing must have clear records showing the provenance of the data.

GDPR, which takes full effect in May 2018, covers both B2B and B2C communications and what constitutes a marketing message has room for interpretation. It is also already on the statute books in the UK – so if you’re thinking that Brexit makes it a moot point, you’re sadly mistaken.

If you’re a PR agency or in-house team that relies on unsolicited emails to journalists to secure coverage or interviews, you could have a big problem. By big, I mean a fine for breaching GDPR of 4% of global revenue or €20 million, whichever amount is bigger.

Put it this way, if you contact a journalist for the first time via email with a press release about your new product, the content of that email could constitute ‘marketing’ rather than a ‘service’ or information email.
The journalist could demand to know where you got their contact information from and proof that they consented to receiving marketing material from you. At that point, if you can’t prove that they clearly opted-in to being contacted and provide the history behind how you collected their information, you could be in a pickle.

PR and marketing departments will also need to make all data ‘portable’. Which basically means if someone asks for a copy of all the data you hold on them, you’ll have to provide it. Also, at any point you can request for your data to be destroyed. So if the journalist is particularly prickly (what are the chances?), they could demand you destroy his data and never contact him again. If, in a year or so, a new wide-eyed account executive at your company decided to take the initiative and drop this journalist (that mysteriously doesn’t appear on any media lists) an email you could be in an even bigger pickle.

Now this may all sound doom and gloom. However, like I said, the line between PR and marketing is far from clear. Ultimately, in practice, there could be a lot more wiggle room for PR messages. For many organisations, a record of correspondence with a journalist could also constitute consent to receive further messages. Finally, liability could fall on media database companies. However, while there is ambiguity and risk, many PR companies will do well to invest in data management technology – something they should be doing anyway – to store, manage and harmonise their information on clients and journalists.

Undoubtedly, GDPR represents a bigger challenge for marketers, and will make a lot of traditional marketing methods impractical. This in turn could create more opportunities for PR firms by making it a more straight-forward, risk-free communications channel.

What do you think? Continue the #CommsChat with Robert Bownes on Twitter.


Crisis comms, definition and best practice

This week's chat

Ella Minty, reputation management and stakeholder engagement director

This comment piece first appeared on the CIPR’s news site, Influence.

Recently, @CommsChat moderated a very interesting Twitter chat on crisis communications. The questions they asked were rather interesting and, I could argue, not quite typical for such a topic. Usually, when we speak about crisis communication we like to focus on tools, tactics and immediate results – what we seem to sometimes overlook are the strategic components of the crisis, those which go beyond soundbites and public statements.

The first question they asked was related to the definition of crisis communication, not to that of ‘crisis.’ Many answers were provided with regard to the definition of a crisis but the overarching concept of crisis communication did not strongly come through: the communication suite that requires leadership support, timely and verifiable information, public interface and fact-based views.

Without the appropriate support from the organisation’s leadership, there can be no communication of any kind – regardless how much we, the PR/communications practitioners, would argue the need to ‘go public’ if the leadership disagrees with it, there’s nothing we can do.

Equally, to be able to communicate in a crisis we need timely and verifiable information. If the most recent information available is, let’s say, two days old, that can hardly be timely! The key part in a crisis, as the events unfold, is to be able to use the latest data/details you have and present it/them in a verifiable manner to the public(s).

There needs to be someone, at any point in time, you can pick up the phone to and ask: ‘Is this true?’ The last thing we can afford to do in a crisis is assume that what we have been told/given to run with is accurate and correct – trust me, it often isn’t. Don’t let the heat and pressure of the moment cloud your professional judgement – you cannot afford to be dragged into it because you are the sound of reason for many there.

Your public interface needs not be just one individual, nor does he/she need to be the most senior person in the organisation – the best public interface you need to put forward is the most credible one, the one that can provide everyone in that room and everyone watching the news or listening in, with the assurance that he/she is in control, that he/she is fully aware of the implications and that he/she knows what it is all about.

The last thing you need in a crisis is to put forward a CEO/board member who has very little empathy, lacks a strong personality and talks in a ‘wooden language’ – if you do that, you might as well go home and lock yourself in the bedroom. It is not the leadership’s position to advise you, the comms/PR professional, who should be talking to whom, on what and in which case. That is your business and yours alone!

You are the one who must tell the leadership who you would need to have trained as the most suitable spokesperson(s) in a crisis. There will be times when a completely non-media trained technical expert would have much more credibility and media appeal than any other ‘smooth’ spokesperson – that uncertainty or, if you wish, clear lack of training, will work in that spokesperson’s favour because no one will doubt that he/she is not telling the truth or he/she has something to hide and has been trained to spin the truth.

Move away from the fallacy of one spokesperson only and from that of the CEO/chairperson being the most suitable voice for the organisation – nothing further from the truth. A full-blown crisis is not the right time to give your CEO ‘air time’ – that can prove fatal not just for him/her, but for the business too, and for you in terms of your actual competence/knowledge to understand the extremely complex landscape of communicating in a crisis. It may be obvious but, as I said above, the first thing that needs to be done is to get your facts straight and, as much as possible, build a timeline.

Our worst and most dangerous enemy is to assume: that we know what happened, why it happened and what the effect is going to be.

You need to find out, in this exact order, WHAT HAPPENED, WHERE IT HAPPENED (exactly), WHEN IT HAPPENED and WHO WAS INVOLVED/AFFECTED/INJURED/KILLED. Although extremely tempting, never jump at WHY IT HAPPENED – you, and likely not even those on the ground, know exactly the reason why. It’s about cause and effect: you can say that, for instance, a piece of equipment failed and caused the injury of the person (that’s the effect), but you cannot expand on the reason the equipment failed (the cause).

Any assumption publicly made in a crisis will only lead to your having to retract it at a later date and, as such, lose credibility and trust. When faced with a crisis or when you are a crisis-prone organisation, credibility and trust are of utmost importance. These need to be very clear and well captured in the statement you’ll be issuing – a crisis statement is not a press release, nor is it the opportunity for you to speak about your CSR and commitment to planting trees and building community centres!

You’ll have the opportunity to add those on at a later date. Right now, in the heat of it all, you need to show that you’re in control, you know exactly what’s going on and that, first of all, you are the most reliable source of information, not speculation.

What do you think? Continue the #CommsChat with Ella Minty on Twitter.


The A-B-C of social enterprise communications

This week's chat

Simon Francis, founder member, Campaign Collective

Social enterprises play a unique role in society – and social enterprise communications needs to be equally bespoke.

For most brands and businesses, communications is ultimately measured in sales; the activity put in place needs to communicate the benefits of the goods or services on offer.

While this is still part and parcel of what social enterprises have to communicate, marketing for organisations that place delivering a benefit to society at the heart of what they do will ultimately need to reflect more than just sales targets.

In the recent #CommsChat on social enterprises, the overwhelming interest of participants was on the role that communications needs to play in these organisations.

Social enterprise is a broad term which includes a whole variety of organisations, from charities, charitable trading arms, community interest companies, co-operatives, limited and even listed companies. In variety lies the strength of the sector, but trying to find a common marketing philosophy is challenging.

However, three broad principles for social enterprise marketing emerged from #CommsChat, These can be interpreted as an ABC for social enterprise marketing:
• Agitate for change
• Build sales
• Communicate value

The ideal communications strategy will deliver against all three of these objectives. Tactics will campaign for change while demonstrating the product/service on offer and communicate the added value of buying from a social enterprise.

On paper, this sounds like a tough job. In practice modern marketing methods make this easier to achieve than ever before. For example, creating a supporter-led campaign around the social purpose and showing how the product/service is part of the solution should be possible for most social enterprises. If it is not possible to develop such campaigns, social enterprises are faced with a choice. On one hand, marketers in social enterprises could develop siloed activity for each of the three change/sales/value objectives.

Or, perhaps the inability to communicate the full ABC of social enterprise marketing means that the enterprise itself needs to re-think its positioning. It could be that the social purpose is “bolted on” to the provision of services or vice versa. Both of these situations will only lead to confusion.

With the growing rise of social enterprise as a valued and favoured way of business, the final marketing challenge will be defending the authenticity of the social enterprise status.

Membership of a trade body (such as Social Enterprise UK) and the “Buy Social” badge should be a pre-requisite for being able to use the phrase social enterprise in marketing – and fake social enterprises (or those who are using the term to purpose wash their behaviour) should be called out.

While each organisation will need a bespoke approach to its communications, acting in unity in celebrating our shared take on redefining how businesses should be run will benefit every social enterprise.

What do you think? Continue the #CommsChat with @si_francis on Twitter.


Make HR Visible

This week's chat

Tony Glass, VP and general manager, UK & EMEA, Skillsoft

Traditionally, the top table is reserved for those who seem to make the largest contributions to the bottom line – something which HR has always had difficulty proving quantitatively. Though the situation is changing – Forbes last year argued that the chief human resources officer should sit at the top table – a more alarming trend has appeared, an indication that this lack of presence is also felt throughout the wider organisation.

HR is facing several difficult challenges, one of which is that workers have different attitudes and expectations. This might not sound important, but it has a considerable effect on talent management and staff retention. Many employees are looking beyond the traditional rewards and opportunities, which often lead to staff moving on after only a short period. Staff engagement is also an issue, with the UK ranked 18th out of the top 20 developed countries and employees indicating a lack of appreciation and encouragement to be innovative.

The mysterious world of HR

These issues aside, arguably the biggest obstacle facing HR is a distinct lack of internal communications as highlighted by YouGov’s latest survey for the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD). According to participants’ responses, opinion is divided as to what the HR function is actually responsible for, with a large proportion of respondents citing recruitment, compliance, grievances and disciplinaries as perceived core duties. The lesser-associated roles included training, retention, career progression, internal communications and organisational strategy. While some could be forgiven, many of the functions are integral features of a fully functioning HR department. It’s not only necessary that they are completed, but also that they are seen to be completed within the organisation.

When asked who was responsible for HR-related work within their organisations, the most popular response was a resounding ‘don’t know’. This may not be an immediate problem, as depending upon the size of an organisation the HR function will be divided up differently among members of the department. However, the fact that a quarter of employees can’t identify HR personnel within their company is disturbing. It indicates that HR is not doing enough to promote itself – confirmed by the admission of half of the participants, who believed HR had no noticeable effect upon the performance and wellbeing of the organisation.

Re-establishing visibility

To turn the tide, HR needs to demonstrate that its role stretches further than simply transactional responsibilities. Any HR professional will attest to the importance of the department in reinforcing the strategic elements of the business, such as internal communications, recruitment and talent management and even the overall business strategy.

A big part of this will involve re-evaluating the shared services model, long responsible for removing integrated and highly visible services and placing them in an isolated department.
Another significant contribution will come from the re-integration of HR professionals into the senior leadership team – rather than holding independent consultations around implementing business strategy, working policy and training and development.

However, for the workforce in general, the key to greater visibility lies with improving the delivery and accessibility of professional development pathways for employees at all levels. Recent surveys have shown that employee engagement increasingly depends upon development opportunities and the establishment of a positive work environment, and HR now has a wealth of tools to help meet those expectations. Where the department has previously felt the strain of sourcing and managing talent, technology now allows HR professionals to actually concentrate on assisting employees to get to where they want to go.

It’s certainly going to be a tough ride as the immediate pressures facing HR directors are unlikely to disappear while the necessary changes are made. But once HR has again established a firm foothold in business, it can begin to address the virtual and sometimes physical invisibility of the department which has fuelled negative perceptions and barriers to communication within organisations worldwide. In order to improve business performance and employee motivation, HR has to once again become an integral and widely recognised function that frequently demonstrates its contribution, not only to the business, but to each and every employee.

Find Skillsoft tweeting at @Skillsoft


Is gender equality the new reputation driver?

This week's chat

Rachel Friend, MD, Weber Shandwick, London

After decades of women demanding equal representation, it seems there’s still a long way to go when it comes to a seat in the C-suite.

At Weber Shandwick, we believe gender equality is an emerging driver of company reputation, and will only become more powerful in years to come. Together with KRC Research, we sponsored a survey of 327 senior executives across 55 countries in North America, EMEA, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the survey was titled, “Gender Equality in the Executive Ranks: A Paradox — The Journey to 2030”.

The research reveals a paradox – nearly three-quarters of global executives (73%) believe that gender equality in the C-Suite will be achieved by 2030. This is great, on paper. However, there’s no clear road map for making this prediction become a reality. Most execs (56%) report that their company does not have specific goals in place for achieving such an outcome, and only 39% of C-level executives report gender diversity in senior management as a high business priority, ranking seventh among 10 priorities.

In the absence of proactive steps, women appear to be developing “gender pipeline fatigue”, and believe that parity will only come through compulsory measures such as governmental mandates on equal pay.

However, things are beginning to look up. The research identifies several “push” forces that will move gender equality further up the corporate leadership agenda. These include:

  • Increased media and social media coverage of gender equality (worldwide, there has been more than a threefold increase in articles about female CEOs since 2010)
  • The need for companies to get better at attracting and retaining talented women
  • Growing acknowledgement that diverse gender perspectives lead to better financial performance

More women are also aspiring to the C-suite, and for young people, gender equality in the C-Suite is a no-brainer. Three-quarters of Millennials (76%) say that it’s important to them, a marked increase over Gen Xers (44%) and Boomers (48%).

The research also looks at the roles of a group of companies and leaders, Gender-Forward Pioneers (GFPs), who are ahead of the curve in making diversity in senior management a reality. GFPs are much more likely than non-GFPs to formalise clear goals for improving gender equality (58% vs. 37%), and 68% publicly share information about their gender equality efforts because they believe it enhances their reputation.

The Weber Shandwick GFP 2015 Index measures the percentage of Fortune Global 100 companies that have achieved gender equality in their leadership ranks. According to the 2015 Index, only 12.5% of senior leaders in the world’s top 100 companies are women. In EMEA, the figure is even lower, at 9.9%. The findings of this study are a wakeup call. Senior executives across EMEA must make a positive commitment to redress the balance of gender equality.

Aiming for equality in the workplace is a core part of our mindset and attitude at Weber Shandwick. In London, 47% of our senior executives are women and 70% of the Weber Shandwick leadership across our seven offices in the UK is female. We have reached this position because of the positive steps taken by our gender-forward CEO, Colin Byrne, who champions a fair and balanced workplace. We will continue to support gender equality at Weber Shandwick and across the entire PR industry.

There’s still a long way to go but it seems we are close to a tipping point, with pressure building toward gender equality progress. Wise corporate leaders should heed the signs: companies without women in senior positions are going to experience the negative reputational consequences.

Find Rachel tweeting @RachelFriendly




Data and marketing: the perfect match

This week's chat

Sean Jackson, CMO, EXASOL

The sheer volume of data that is available today has created a new era for marketing and communications.  Indeed, business and organisations across the globe continue to produce enormous amounts of data at a staggering rate. This data provides infinite possibilities for marketing departments to truly understand the motivations of those they need to influence, enabling them to put their customers’ needs at the heart of activity while taking a more personalised approach where needed. It allows marketers to learn what messages, products and price points are resonating with their audience.

Not only does data guide the strategy to help your organisation gain more market share, but it arms the marketing department with a source of real evaluation. Measuring campaigns with data will show the true impact of the marketing teams efforts and the value they are driving to the business.

However, it’s not just about gathering and storing data. The marketing department needs to know what data is relevant and there needs to be analysis of that data to find the insights necessary to achieve their goals.  Only by understanding what questions you need to ask of the data, and the consequential analytics, can the marketing and communications department deliver true results.

Having the ability to collect and analyze data easily and then turn it into actionable insights that feed back into the business fast, is crucial in a world where there is so much information available on consumer activity, their likes and dislikes. The marketing department has a real opportunity to take the lead.

So where do you start? We’ll be talking about this on #CommsChat, but here’s EXASOL’s top four tips for getting going with data analytics in your marketing:

  • Ensure your data is clean – there’s no use analysing data if it is of poor quality.  You wouldn’t expect great performance from a badly maintained car, so don’t neglect your data either
  • Know what data you have and make sure you can access it all – to get a full picture of what’s going on, you need to be able to access all of your data.  Make sure people aren’t storing data in siloed spread sheets
  • Have a clear goal in mind – figure out first what you are trying to achieve with your analytics before you embark on your analytic journey.  Too often companies start analysing data without having a clear goal in mind and get side-tracked with all the things data can do. You must remain focused
  • Use the right tool for the right job – there are tools for just about every aspect of analysing. Once you know what your goal is, make sure you use the right technology to meet your objectives


This week's chat

Mark Guk, senior developer, Itransition

Large companies with dispersed offices and complex internal structures depend on effective collaboration. But even though enterprise collaboration tools are adopted by most businesses, enterprise social networks (ESNs) often become abandoned and unused, or transform into gossip meeting spaces where little business is conducted.

Below are 10 tips that can help integrate social collaboration tools into core business processes (from HR and training to development and marketing):

  1. Bring real value. Intuitive and business-aligned social tools must be used to share information that is valuable for business needs of every employee. When staff members can see that the information they gained helped them organize their work, be more productive, bring more revenue or learn a new skill, they will be naturally motivated to share and collaborate more.
  2. Encourage social engagement, knowledge sharing and debate between all company levels. Becoming stagnant in one role or identifying too much with one position can stall development and growth. Information from different company levels can help people come out of their comfort zone and try new approaches and techniques.
  3. Incentivize knowledge sharing. If information is a chance to learn and grow as a professional, receive bonuses and promotions, it will be shared and consumed naturally. When the cliché, ‘knowledge is power,’ is monetized, it can become a strong incentive for even those staff members who usually prefer to stay in the shadows.
  4. Make social tools fast and keep them in one place. Social solutions must be fast and information easily available – centralized in one location – to increase productivity. When something is cumbersome and takes effort to use, it is likely to be abandoned and also have a negative label stuck to it for eternity. Take the tools you use seriously and always choose the most intuitive ones.
  5. Empower users. Excellent user experience, including convenient notification controls, relevance content filters and easy customization makes collaboration effective. Users have to be empowered and not get inundated with nonsense messages that make them feel out of control. Let them customize their collaboration experience and enjoy content they really need.
  6. Make sure you facilitate easy integration with other business systems (email, content generation and CRM). When social collaboration tools are easy to pair with other powerful instruments you use in the enterprise, they will be used more often. If you can watch a new video from a popular third-party website right in the collaboration tool, chances of it actually being viewed are higher.
  7. Think of security. Make sure you invest in high-quality data encryption and security technologies that are always based on a level of confidentiality. Don’t treat all information the same and you will save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.
  8. Show statistics. Statistics help monitor the value of contribution, levels of engagement, recognition and feedback from people, so they can have the results of their efforts visualized. That helps them put their work into a wider context and see that it really affects the entire enterprise in a positive way.
  9. Use gamification to motivate your employees. Try to include some type of game elements in your social collaboration strategy. Use quests, missions, badges, prizes, incentives and points that add fun to the process and break the monotony of office environments.
  10. Give everyone access. Mobility features enable access from any mobile device, anywhere in the world, so that you can add your two cents on the go, wherever you are. Real-time collaboration helps avoid bottlenecks and silos, and keeps things moving at a pace that is necessary to stay relevant in contemporary business.


Better collaboration benefits business in various ways, from requiring less backtracking on missed meetings and making informed decisions quicker, to appreciating multifaceted perspectives of various experts and finding compromises in interactive discussions. Collaboration should work on all company levels, from top execs to trainees just starting out. Business-oriented social tools help managers be more effective with task tracking while allowing developers and programmers to benefit from more interactive, peer-assessed code review processes. Encouraging participation in ESNs is a business critical goal for every social enterprise with complex teams that strives to produce cohesive results on every project, no matter how complicated.


Mark Guk graduated from Belarussian National Technical University with an M.A. in Mathematical Modeling in 2012, and is currently working on his Ph.D. dissertation in Mechatronics, Robotics and Automation Engineering. Mark has been working with Itransition as a software developer for more than four years. He became a senior developer a year ago. He is experienced in a wide variety of technologies such as Ruby on Rails, ASP, ASP.NET, Silverlight, ActionScript 2&3, and Java. His areas of expertise are Ruby applications, as well as team support, common development environment setup, and improvement, code review and audit.