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Are you making the wrong decisions?

– If you are relying on periodic stakeholder data to guide your decision-making, you could be making the wrong decisions. Here’s why we think real-time data is a game-changer

Imagine that you’re going on a journey with an old and outdated map. It may get you to where you want to go, but you cannot be certain of that.

All it gives you is a general direction towards your destination – and nothing about the obstacles you may encounter along the way.

Today, most of us depend on real-time guidance to tell us where we are going. The GPS apps in our cars and phones advise us on the best route to take and give us information on the traffic and the weather en route, preparing us for delays, recommending diversions and making us more confident of arriving on time.

Periodic data is like looking at an old and outdated map

Sticking to this analogy, most communicators are still using old and outdated maps when trying to find the best route to understand and react to stakeholder perceptions, and successfully navigate their company’s reputation journey.

For example, when a crisis hits, communicators are often inclined to turn to Twitter or Facebook to understand the immediate impact on the company. Some may commission a stakeholder study to assess if the crisis has left any reputational scars.

Even in normal times, most companies still take a traditional approach to generating, interpreting, and activating stakeholder insights: commissioning an annual research study with a lengthy set-up phase, protracted field-work and long delays before receiving results in the form of hundreds of PowerPoint slides; then sharing these by-now-outdated slides with whoever is interested in the organization, and struggling to make sense of them, let alone agree any follow-up actions.

Like an old map, these tools are not without merits, but they are not reliable or agile enough to give precise direction on how to position the company or how to engage with stakeholders. Tracking social media is often broad and unfocused, mostly capturing opinions from individuals that are vocal rather than relevant.

Periodic surveys look at the past, making it hard to distinguish which corporate actions or external events impacted perceptions, how much and for how long. All this leads to difficulty in translating insights into effective and timely action.

Real-time data is like having a GPS

Upgrading the old map to a GPS means using new tools that listen to relevant stakeholders in real time. Towards a constantly changing destination, it is vital for communicators to have a tool that tells them when and why to turn left or right – in essence, how to make the right decisions that build the right perceptions, all the time.

Companies like Vattenfall, AstraZeneca and Airbus are substituting the old map with real-time guidance. They use a live dashboard to track changing stakeholder perceptions and integrate the data with media monitoring to get a better sense of how their communication activities and macro events are impacting their key stakeholders. This allows them to optimize their initiatives, mitigate negative impact and continuously base decisions across markets and functions on fact rather than gut feeling.

Set the right course for building and protecting your company’s reputation

As a corporate communicator, your job is to see and understand the stakeholder landscape and help set the right course for building and protecting the company’s reputation. GPS in hand, you will have the data to know how to act in line with relevant stakeholder expectations to help optimize the impact of communication initiatives, or to mitigate a current crisis.

Managing the reputation of your company should not be a journey into the unknown. So, ask yourself “what am I relying on to give me direction?”

This post was written as an opinion piece for Communicate Magazine

Photo credit: Regis F. (image taken from Unsplash.com)

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