There's an old John Denver song called Today is the First Day of the Rest of My life.
For MediaConnect, that day is today.
You've probably already noticed the new website. However, this new website isn't just a new, shiny coat of paint. Rather it represents MediaConnect's coming out as the company we've long planned to be.
MediaConnect was founded in 2000 as an information provider to PR and journalists in the technology sector. Over the last 12 years, we've gradually morphed from information provider to software company, from the technology sector to working across all verticals and sectors. In March of last year, we soft-launched Influencing. It was our big step outside of the technology sector and a statement that our future lay in the online software tools that we've been iterating for more than a decade.
We soft-launched for a reason. We wanted to make sure we were getting it right. We wanted to make sure we had a media database that was superior to any other in Australia. We wanted to make sure that we had the right tools for PR pros that worked in exactly the right way.
So over the past 15 months we worked with a small, handful of companies outside of the technology sector. The first thing we discovered was that we needed to make the platform easier to use, which was a surprise to us as we'd already made massive changes in order to simplify our service. So we went back and made them easier again. And then we did it again. We're only "coming out" now because we know Influencing is so dead simple. And fast. We design every new feature around being able to complete any task in less than a minute.
We've also worked very closely with a small, handful of companies on building out our toolset. We've literally sat down with PR professionals and asked them to take us through their workflows and we've then designed tools to do those jobs better. And then we've sat down with those same PR pros until those same tools worked exactly as the user expected them to.
A few months ago, the feedback we were getting suggested we'd just about arrived. So the company took on our sales director Mike Woodcock, who has been out in the marketplace for the past couple of months taking PR companies through what we now have to offer. And it's fair to say we've been blown away by the response.
Some might say it's dumb luck - I of course prefer to think that it's down to the fact that we've been working towards this point for more than a decade - but what we're now offering in the Influencing PR management suite comes at the precise moment in time that PR professionals in Australia are crying out for these kinds of tools. In today's sophisticated marketing environment, the traditional media database and media monitoring alerts just don't cut it any more. PR professionals need to be more professional and more productive if they're to successfully transition into the digital age and we've made it our mission to help as many PR agencies and departments get there, as we can.
Personally, as the founder of MediaConnect, I feel like the vision has been realised and we have no intention of keeping quiet about it anymore. We're out there, loud and proud. This is MediaConnect.
At one point, during Wednesday night’s discussion on how PR practitioners can ensure their role and work is understood and appreciated from a senior-level business perspective, the statistic was raised that a 1 per cent improvement in customer satisfaction can have a 3 per cent improvement in market capitalisation.
As Mary Smiddy, the senior vice president of Health & Wellness at Weber Shandwick, pointed out that’s the kind of language that business leaders speak and it’s the message they want to hear.
Another of Wednesday night’s speakers, Piers Shervington, senior corporate communications manager of Cochlear, stressed the need for PRs to understand their audience. He wasn’t referring to the consumer audience that PR is generally preoccupied with, rather he was talking about knowing how to relate to your senior managers and internal stakeholders to ensure you have executive buy-in.
The reality is a lot of CEOs (and basically every CFO) talk in numbers, but it’s a language that PRs are generally terrible in speaking. PR pros are generally great story tellers but not so adept at translating their outcomes into business benefits.
It strikes me that what our industry needs is a similar kind of metric related to reputation. Everyone in the PR industry knows that reputation underpins not just all marketing activities, but I’d suggest most business functions as well.
I dare say when someone is able to do the required empirical study, it is going to demonstrate that shifts in a brand’s reputation have very clear and direct correlations to sales, profit and company value. And when that is clearly demonstrated, reputation has to become one of the core KPIs of any business and maybe then we’ll see more communications directors being invited into the C-Suite.
Until that time comes, of course, the experience of the speakers suggest that getting the ear of the CEO is no easy task. Amongst the advice given by Piers and Ben Findlay, senior manager of corporate affairs and communications at Deloitte, was taking work and worry off their tables, helping them to scratch their ego itch, and being proactive in providing counsel, especially in times of crisis.
All great advice, and they absolutely reflect the current reality that PR pros have to battle with in their everyday business environment. However, they are also all very subservient services and actions. In many ways, it’s sad that PR professionals have to wiggle their way into a CEO’s mind space.
David Breen, head of corporate affairs at ING Direct, made the very salient point that today’s CEO should be good at two things. He said they need to be the company’s chief sales person and that they need to focus on getting the people part of the business right. In other words, their key roles are internal and external communications. It’s hard to understand then, why any CEO wouldn’t want their chief communications executive by their side at all times and to be a critical member of that top executive circle. It’s hard to reconcile these modern-day business dynamics with the very obvious struggle that all of the speakers outlined in getting senior executives to understand the value of communications and reputation management.
Clearly, every single one of us in the industry need to do a better job at helping the business community understand our value. We need to speak their language and work out how to translate communication outcomes into direct business benefits. I know at MediaConnect, we’ve worked very hard at creating an online software platform that can capture as many data points as possible, and seamlessly translate them into easy-to-digest charts and reports. But I know, like everyone else, we can do it better.
No one in this industry should be satisfied until comms directors are an accepted part of the C-Suite and it’s everybody’s responsibility to help work towards making sure that happens sooner rather than later. As such, a big thank you to PRIA for a very informative event and MediaConnect was delighted to support the event and do our little bit towards working towards this objective.