In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the push for data-driven transformation is changing the way that financial businesses manage each and every aspect of their operations. And this includes previously “unmeasurable” concepts such as reputation, trust, perception and functions such as communication.
Recent research has found that over the next five years, reputation will be a bigger driver of business performance than margin. Meaning, that financial results will no longer be the end all be all for businesses. And while this does mean that a more equitable and socially conscious business world will begin to form, it also means that financial businesses will now need to find a way to measure and assess their reputations in the same data-driven way that they do when it comes to all other aspects of their businesses.
Owning the external intelligence piece has traditionally been the responsibility of the comms leader or Chief Comms Officer: understand the ecosystem in which we operate, be the eyes and ears on how we are perceived by the media and wider stakeholder group, and steer the narrative accordingly . In an era of information overwhelm, having relevant and timely intelligence on how your company is perceived in relation to topics like social unrest, climate change or other news items is now not just a secondary supporting element to business strategy, but a core pillar of driving business success and differentiation. Moreover, boards and investors are also prioritizing “doing the right thing”, so having tangible and measurable reputation insights is now paramount.
It goes without saying that harnessing data has reaped massive business intelligence benefits for financial companies today. And with the success these companies are seeing in other business functions thanks to applying AI to that data, they are now also naturally looking to duplicate this success in the reputation and communications function too. Afterall, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. This push for more data-driven oversight and measurability is perhaps coming at just the right time as ESG emerges as a central force in driving business success.
This all adds up to one thing for financial businesses: they need to revamp their comms strategy in order to drive the results that they need.
The Current State of Comms
Financial communications teams are no strangers to being tasked with answering some of the most amorphous and complicated questions that businesses are looking to answer today including:
- What does our company want to be known for?
- What drives loyalty and interest in our brand?
- What threats exist in the short-, medium- and long-term to our company’s perception?
- What is the reputation of our competitors and what opportunities exist?
The problem is that communications teams today lack the ability to effectively measure the answers to these questions and tie them back into their company’s overall performance. Instead, communications teams rely on various ill-fitting tools, databases and manual processes to try and make sense of how a company’s messaging is being received and what tweaks they need to make – none of which told the full story. In order for the financial industry to be able to track reputation in any meaningful way, it needs to begin to adopt a data and metrics driven approach.
Enabling a Data and Metrics Driven Approach
Adopting this type of approach – particularly when it is so “new” to the comms industry – is easier said than done.
For decades, financial companies have relied on static, labor intensive – and frankly unscientific – means to gauge their sentiment and reputation. This means that financial comms teams will need to build a whole new technology infrastructure and skillset from the ground-up. On the flip side, comms teams may be champing at the bit to get started to pull in technology, but need to exercise caution to make sure that they not just partner with the right technology company, but that they simultaneously build up the necessary in- house data and technological expertise to hit the ground running.
Measurement Success is About More Than Data
The most important aspect in a financial organization’s reputation metrics revolution isn’t technology, it is the strategy and end goals that a company is looking to achieve with that technology. Sure, having AI and real-time data is great. But if it isn’t delivering the actual insights you need, what is the point?
With that in mind, financial organizations and their comms teams will be able to set the strategic questions they need the data to answer. By building up their technology suite and data-first capabilities they can set and understand the topics they want to be associated with, track any sudden reputation changes, or prevailing sentiment and other key decision-making elements beyond just how many stories ran.
Arguably no sector is more dependent on reputation than the financial industry. And by adapting modern tools, financial institutions can finally unlock the reputation intelligence they need to not just adapt to changes in the market today, but build the road for long-term sustainability for decades to come.