March 20, 2024

How CCOs Can Prove Impact on the Bottom Line

Flipping the Age Old Communications Script

By Carrie Ponder, Senior Managing Director, Applecart

Carrie Ponder is a Senior Managing Director at Applecart. Carrie previously served as Executive Vice President, Corporate and Public Affairs at Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW), where she managed some of the agency’s largest and most complex accounts.

Every single corporate communications strategy, stakeholder engagement plan, and public relations campaign comes down to the same question in the mind of a CEO: how did this initiative impact our company’s bottom line? And over the past twenty years advising the C-suites of Fortune 500 companies, I have not met a single Chief Communications Officer or Head of Public Affairs who could concretely and consistently answer that question—because the technology and data simply hasn’t existed to be able to do so. From time-to-time we get lucky, and we hear from someone on a business development team that an earned article drove an inbound revenue opportunity. But, in an uncertain economy, when CEOs are demanding to see value from every dollar spent, communications leaders can’t afford to rely on luck. Without proof of ROI, PR & marketing budgets are being re-routed to support more measurable interventions. Don’t let this happen to you. 

As we enter 2024, I urge my clients and colleagues to rethink the age-old narratives of share-of-voice, demographics, sentiment and impressions and build a strategy rooted in reaching the specific, critical senior decision makers who matter most to your business in a highly measurable way.

Proof of Value Roadmap for CCOs, CMOs, and Heads of Public Affairs 

New Decision Maker Marketing technology is disrupting the way content can reach a company’s most important stakeholders and adding a level of precision that’s never before been possible. Here are a few north stars I recommend communications, public affairs, and marketing executives use to make the most of this new technology as they prepare their strategic plans for the coming year:

1. Get hyper-focused on the specific people who matter most to your business.

To become a respected and sought after voice amongst the C-suite, you have to stop reporting against broadstroke PR metrics and start thinking about your communications strategy from the CEO’s perspective—how are you reaching your organization’s most critical stakeholders? The first step of every planning exercise has to be identifying the people who matter the most to the company, and not just in generalities. You need to know the specific, named individuals who are disproportionately affecting your bottom line. 

Going one step further, consider the people in your specific stakeholder’s orbit and who is most likely to influence their thinking. With Decision Maker Marketing, you can push earned media and any other compelling content directly into the view of specific decision makers and the specific set of people in their sphere of influence. We all know that it's rare for someone to make a major decision based on having seen one article. They consult the people around them who they trust and ask for their opinions before making a decision. Decision Maker Marketing replicates this word-of-mouth dynamic by making sure those who influence a specific stakeholder see your best content, in addition to the stakeholder themselves, whether that be current and former colleagues, business associates, friends, and/or family.

2. Don’t let your content die on the vine; push it directly into the view of your most critical stakeholders.

As communicators, we spend countless hours cultivating media hits and content to best position our brand. But once we land an earned media article and/or publish an opinion piece, it’s critical that we make the most of that effort and take the next step of making sure the people who matter actually see it. 

Senior executives are overwhelmed with emails, phone calls, and news stories. There’s a good chance they might not see the article that you want them to, or maybe they don’t follow your company or your executives on social platforms. When your CEO asks who that matters to the business actually saw and engaged with an article that you placed, you want to have an answer.

Decision Maker Marketing empowers you to deliver your best content directly into the view of the specific, named stakeholders who matter to your business and their spheres of influence. Before Decision Maker Marketing, communicators could guess at who probably saw their earned content based on readership demographics and media kits. Now, with Decision Maker Marketing, you can identify who among your specific list of critical power players is seeing and engaging with your best content. Once a compelling piece of content is published, you can report back to your CEO with measurable insights about engagement within the group of people they care most about reaching, and not amongst an irrelevant set of demographics and look-alikes. 

3. Get real data about the content your stakeholders find most engaging and direct your dollars and energy there.

How many times have we poured time and resources into creating research, thought leadership, and other content only to realize it wasn’t what our audiences wanted to see at all? Imagine if, instead, you had real data and insights into which content is most interesting to your most important stakeholders - which topics, formats, headlines, etc. get them clicking and engaging. 

With Decision Maker Marketing, you get real-time insights into engagement amongst your set of elite decision makers. You can see which articles, podcasts, etc., are getting the most traction with your stakeholders and their sphere of influence, and you can see when their attention is ebbing and flowing. So, when you request funding to support a content development project, you can point to real data that proves you know what’s going to be most compelling and justify why you’re directing your time and money there.

If you’re a communications leader who wants a seat at the table when leaders are scrutinizing spending, you have to be able to measure and report back on the impact of your team’s work. You need to expand your repertoire beyond earned media plans; it’s about getting your message into the hands of the people who matter most to your bottom line. Rather than focusing on general metrics, go a level deeper and prove you’re reaching the exact people who matter most to the success of your business.

This year, I shifted my focus from public relations and public affairs execution to supporting the expansion of Decision Maker Marketing programs inside Fortune 1000s, and I have truly been amazed by the results. When communications teams invest in the systems that connect their most important messages to their business-critical decision makers, they not only prove their worth, but they also elevate their role within the C-suite.

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