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with or
without you
Five principles for building and protecting your
reputation in the always-on world
Here in EMEA at MSLGROUP, we are fortunate to work with
some of the regions largest companies on complex and
challenging business assignments. Our clients universe
along with ours as consultants has changed significantly over
the past few years. The dot-com era forced businesses to adapt
to the disruptive commercial impact of the internet, and now
companies are being forced to react to the equally disruptive
communications impact of digital and social networks.
Instead of occupying the commanding heights of
communications alongside the media, companies are now
swimming in a sea of new voices, each one posing a potential
threat to reputation and the bottom line. Add to that the rapid
increase in the pace of communications and businesses are
faced with an extremely high-risk environment.
It is also a time of tremendous opportunity for companies
courageous enough to grasp the nettle.
Companies are waking up to the reality that the debates about
their business and brand will happen with or without them,
and so its in their interest to engage.
With this report we set out to answer two basic questions:
can organisations adapt to managing their reputations in this
always-on world? And if so, how?
Its always good practice to step back, observe your
surroundings, and adjust your approach. This study should
help our clients to navigate the risks, seize the opportunities
and advise their own boards and communications colleagues.
We have certainly found it valuable.
We are confident youll find insights in this report that will help
you to navigate the always-on world and build the stronger
reputation and relationships youll need to achieve your
business goals.
Anders Kempe
President, EMEA
Introduction Contents
Anders Kempe
President, EMEA
MSLGROUP builds and protects our clients brands,
reputations and relationships by helping them to be more
INFLUENTIAL in the big, non-stop conversation both
inside and outside their organisations. We help them to
infuence the right people at the right time, in the right
way. Its part art, part science. It takes continuous insight,
ideas and action. It takes people, process, creativity and
technology working together relentlessly.
For more information on the full survey please contact
Summary & recommendations
Survey Methodology/
Executive Summary
Part 1: Increased scrutiny of
communications at board level
Part 2: Embracing and adapting
to the always-on landscape
Part 3: Changing teams/
changing culture
Part 4: Empowering employees
to become external advocates
3M Italy
Algol Group
APR Energy
BAE Systems
Banque Populaire
Bech Bruun Law Firm
British Land
Chr. Hansen
Continental AG
Interviewed organisations
Individuals from the following organisations were interviewed in markets across EMEA.
Please note: A number of companies who participated in the study declined the opportunity to be named.
Survey Methodology Executive Summary
Danish Broadcasting
European Parliament
Friskolornas riksfrbund
HJ Heinz
IKEA Group
KPN Telecom
Magneti Morelli
Neste Oil
Norges Pelsdyralslag
Northland Resources
Norwegian Bar Association
NS, Dutch Railways
Pioneer Pekao Investment
Randstad Holding
Rynkeby Food
Saint Gobain
Santander UK
Siemans AG
Standard Chartered Bank
Stroili Oro S.p.A.
Suomen Terveystalo
ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe
Union Investment TFI
UWV (Dutch Employee
Insurance Agency)
VR (State railways)
ZF Friedrichshafen
The free flow of digital information and the
transparency brought about by social media
have increased both the number and pace
of conversations about brands and business.
Its a lot busier and faster out there.
Companies are adapting to this always-
on communications environment and the
relentless threat to reputation and the bottom
line that it represents. Bad news travels faster
than ever, while good news is often drowned
out in the news stream.
As a result of this new always-on reality,
communications is receiving more attention
than ever at board level.
This shifting communications landscape
and the heightened risk to reputation has
also necessitated a change in approach and
a change in the structure and culture of
communications teams.
In sectors with significant regulatory
restrictions or more conservative cultures
(e.g. pharmaceuticals or banking), vigorous
debates are being held about how to best
navigate this new environment.
Within companies, there is a flux in both
structure and culture. Superb subject-matter
expertise must now be married with expertise
in the distribution of content across entirely
new technologies and channels. More seasoned
professionals havent yet fully embraced or
understood the possibility of digital and social,
while the millennials cant picture their
world without it.
The always-on communications reality
has placed a premium on content. In addition
to regularly planned events and launches,
companies now need high-quality, relevant
content to sustain the ongoing conversations
that are happening on digital and social
channels. This has implications when
planning communications campaigns.
Companies are therefore looking internally
to mine more content and are up-skilling and
engaging their employees to become brand
ambassadors, instead of relying solely on
designated external communicators. But there
exists significant uncertainty over how best
to do this.
In a world of more voices and more
conversations, how should businesses harness
the (often untapped) power of their own
employees to better tell their story and build
the companys reputation?
In a world drowning in content, how do
companies produce content that is relevant,
interesting and influential?
In a world of endless conversation, how do
you focus the discussion around your brand
or business and drive sales?
To gauge the views of senior communications managers at
100 top organisations in EMEA, MSLGROUP developed a survey
with a mixture of open and closed questions targeted to their
experience in dealing with communications and reputational
issues. The surveys were conducted across EMEA markets in
person or over the phone between 13 January, 2014 and 24 June,
2014. A full list of the companies interviewed appears below.
Quantitative questions were analysed according to the data,
with the descriptive supplement answers providing insight into
the thinking behind the quantitative answers. The qualitative
answers were in general clustered in order to ascertain any
common themes across companies.
When analysing responses, percentages are shown out of the
total respondents for that question, as this is not always the full
100 companies interviewed.
Many interviews were conducted in local languages and have
been translated into English for the purpose of evaluation.
MSLGROUP would like to thank all of the companies who
participated in the study.
To receive a copy of the full survey please contact
Increased scrutiny
of communications
at board level
Reputation is quickly becoming a
key indicator of business success.
The majority of companies surveyed
agreed with the statement that
reputation can bring a positive or
significantly positive impact on how
well a company does business wise.
Respondents also indicated that
the reputational consequences of
company errors or crises are now
regarded as more severe, given the
ability for bad news to spread quickly
via new digital and social channels.
Despite the risks social media
presents to reputation, a significant
majority (79%) of those surveyed
view social media as a clear
opportunity. Only 5% viewed social
media as a clear threat.
However, of the companies who view
social media as an opportunity,
23% explicitly added, without
prompting, the caveat that this is
only the case when social media
channels are managed appropriately
and with a certain degree of caution.
The heightened reputational
impact of social media is one of
the reasons why a solid majority
(70%) of respondents said more
consideration is now being given to
communications at board level.
As a result of this increased scrutiny,
several companies stressed that
they intend to adapt the way they
report on reputation. Some firms,
forexample, intend to move away
from only analysing media coverage
and establish more sophisticated
tools such as RepTrack as a
measurement instrument in order
to capture the new breadth of
conversations happening around
their businesses.
Board attention has also prompted
companies to consider new ways
to build their brand and reputation,
although interestingly only a
minority of respondents indicated
that digital and social media would
play a role in those efforts.
of companies said more
consideration is now being
given to communications
at board level
of companies are thinking
about different approaches
to building their brand
and reputation
of companies agree or strongly
agree that the reputational
consequences of their mistakes
have become more serious
There is an increased understanding of the
role communications plays, both internally
and externally, in building the reputation
of the company.
Kerry OCallaghan
VP, Global Brand Communications
and Government Affairs, GSK

Key Findings
Digital and social channels have
quickened the pace of conversation
and have eliminated the barriers
to debate. Companies and the
traditional media no longer control
or mediate the discussion. While
not all online debate is necessarily
important or impactful, companies
must be vigilant and monitor the
discussion and engage where
appropriate to ensure any negative
impact on reputation is caught early
and addressed.
The study shows that within the
new always-on media landscape,
reputation functions as an important
business characteristic and plays
an essential role in contributing to
Reputation has always been serious.
There is heightened focus on reputation
and awareness nowadays due to the
accessibility of information to consumers.
Christine Diamente
Head of Brand and Corporate Sustainability,

business performance. The new

media landscape has also impacted
how companies measure and
evaluate reputation. We can see
that companies are on their way to
incorporating their social and digital
media activities into their reporting
metrics on reputation. From a
reputation perspective, companies
are beginning to treat feedback
through social and digital channels
as equivalent to feedback through
more traditional instruments such
as research or media coverage.
The Business Take Out
Design a robust online monitoring and analysis regime
to engage in the conversations that are happening
around your business or brand.
Careful monitoring can help flag problems before
they metastasize into business-disrupting crises, and
accurate metrics from these reporting regimes can help
inform board discussion on reputation and positioning.
Its extremely important that
you dont just move in your
own little world, but are
open and receptive to doing
something else.
Head of Communications and
Government Affairs of a global
technology company


We are still trying to find

a balance between what
we produce, at what cost,
and what it is people
want to hear about us.
Head of Communications of
a national beverage company

Writing and creating

content tailored to each
of our target audiences
can be a challenge
and typically requires
a good bit of time and
resources.We have a
content producer on staff,
supported by other team
members who write and
provide inputs, and this
helps us maintain focus
on our content marketing
objectives and activities.
Silvio Cavaceppi
VP Marketing & Communications PR,
APR Energy
Key Findings
A majority of respondents indicated
their approach to communications
had fundamentally changed because
of the rise of social media. Instead
of broadcasting to their audiences
via paid and owned channels, they
are now increasingly engaging in
conversations with stakeholders
To monitor and respond to these
conversations, a strong majority
ofcompanies have some form
of social media listening or early
warning systems in place to mitigate
risk, or have processes in place to
manage real-time interactions.
of companies have seen their
approach to communications
changefundamentally due to the
riseof social and digital media
have transitioned from broadcasting
to engaging in ongoing dialogue with
their key stakeholder audiences
The Rise of Content
With the rise in the use of social
media comes an increase in the
need for content to populate social
and digital channels. To build and
defend reputation, companies are
now generating richer often highly
visual forms of content to sustain
conversations across multiple
In the survey, 88% of companies
indicated that they produce more
content than they did two years ago.
There is also a clear trend in what
types of content are being created
and shared on social channels,
with companies being more likely
to produce short, easily-digestible
content for their social channels,
rather than longer-form blogs and
thought leadership pieces.
I believe that the time of shiny and polished
brands is over. Now its more about stories.
Its the little things that build the brand.
You need to be able to tell interesting stories
about your services.
Aku Varamki
Social Media Manager, Finnair

If social media didnt exist, youd be

trying to invent it.
Alex Cole
Director of Corporate Affairs,

Embracing and
adapting to the
always-on landscape
We dont find content too difficult to find.
Were a broad business and there are lots
of people with interesting things to say.
The challenge is often getting this content
into good enough shape for publication.
Tim Baxter
Global Head of Communications & Corporate Affairs,
Standard Chartered Bank

of companies produce more
content than two years ago
Types of content companies
are producing more of versus
two years ago
Pictures & infographics
Brand content/storytelling
Blogs & thought leadership
News & press content
A Difficult Harvest
Despite facing a pressing need,
many companies are finding it
difficult to find, collate and publish
content. The factors that stand
out from the survey as hampering
content publishing are time and
budget, as well as format and tone.
Embracing and
adapting to the
always-on landscape
From broadcast
to conversation
Armed with content, companies
indicated that they have now started
using digital and social channels
to deepen their engagement with
However, the survey found that not
all audiences respond equally well to
digital and social engagement. While
respondents indicated that the value of
using social media was evident when
dealing with employees, customers
and the media, quite a few responded
that its value was less apparent for
other audiences, including analysts,
investors and policymakers.
There was also some conservatism
within sectors, with highly regulated
industries like pharmaceuticals
and finance indicating they saw
limited upside in engaging with their
stakeholders over very public social
media channels.
There are all sorts of legal considerations.
We are looking at how to use our digital and
social channels in ways and areas of the
business that arent bound by our regulatory
Kerry OCallaghan
VP, Global Brand Communications and Government Affairs,

We are not just senders of messages

but we must now accept criticism and
respond to our customers.
Thierry Bouvard
Head of Sector Editorial Programs and Sponsorship,
Banque Populaire

Do you find it difficult to find,

collate and publish stories?
Do you encourage staff
to take time to do this?
42% 58%
We have a much closer relationship with
compliance. Because we are a financial
services company we need to be very
careful with what we say on social media
and thats why, when it comes to financial
products, we tend to use traditional media
to communicate product information.
Jonathan Akerman
Senior Strategic Communications Manager, Santander UK

The Business Take Out

Marry deep subject matter expertise with technological
savvy and then experiment with tone and approach
across channels.
Companies need both a deep subject matter expertise
and an intimate familiarity with digital technology to
succeed in the always-on environment. The new
digital and social channels allow for flexibility
in tone and approach, and companies should take
calculated risks in how they communicate their
business or brand in this new environment. While not
every initiative will be perfectly on-brand, the approach
will feel more genuine to consumers or partners.
Its about lighting
beacons, not setting off
fireworks. Were trying
to create communications
initiatives that last longer.
Tim Baxter
Global Head of Communications
& Corporate Affairs, Standard
Chartered Bank

As we all know, the rise of digital
and social media has changed
the way companies approach
communication. In addition to more
traditional communications events
like product launches and quarterly
or annual results, companies are also
staging lower-threshold events in
order to stay active in the 24-7
news stream.
Companies have taken a number of
approaches to curing their content
, from hiring content
marketing experts and ex-journalists,
to engaging outside firms. Collating,
qualifying, and sequencing content
in a robust content calendar that
supports corporate and brand
narratives will remain a priority
forthe coming year.
A number of respondents in highly
regulated sectors like finance and
healthcare cited their regulatory
obligations and/or ability to move
markets as reasons to limit their
activity on these new channels.
Other firms in these sectors cited an
overall cultural conservatism toward
external communication.
For those who do participate actively
in social media, the positive effect
the always-on conversation has
had on a companys stakeholders
ability to understand the companys
values is more pronounced for some
stakeholder groups than others,
notably less so for analysts, investors
and policymakers.
Changing teams/
changing culture
In order to fully utilise this
comparatively new medium,
companies are prioritising capability
in social and digital media, as well
as in content production. This has
often meant bringing in younger staff
who have grown up with digital and
social media.
With a majority of senior level
communications staff having entered
professional life well before the
advent and rise of the new channels,
there is a clear split in familiarity,
perceived utility, and capability with
digital and social media. These two
poles will eventually converge.
The Business Take Out
Knock down internal silos and embrace the quicker
pace of communications in an environment of increased
All departments are now potentially outward facing.
Mastering communications in the always-on
environment will require a united front across external,
internal, customer service and investor communications.
Veterans can mentor new employees in substance,
while younger employees can instruct more seasoned
colleagues on the merits and particulars of the new
communications channels.
Key Findings
The survey shows that companies
are beginning to review the internal
structure and make-up of their
communications teams in response
to the change in communications
output (i.e. more content across
more channels) and reputation
management. While some
communications teams are growing,
the majority of companies surveyed
are not putting their emphasis on
increasing the size of their teams.
Several companies highlighted
the need for hiring focused on
content generation and not simply
social media expertise. Others are
concentrating on attracting channel
and technology specialists and
experts. For these companies, the
focus is ensuring that the team has
the right capabilities. In some cases,
this means hiring younger staff who
are more comfortable with social
and digital media, in other cases
this aspect of communications is
While some companies have not yet
changed their teams or activities,
most see the opportunities and
benefits of doing so and are either
in the planning phase for change,
or lack the manpower and expertise
to move ahead with changes at the
present time.
Personnel aside, the survey
finds that companies are coming
across a number of cultural and
organisational barriers when trying
to adapt to the needs of the new
media landscape and meeting
the demands of the always-on
A number of companies indicated
that their IT systems were lagging
behind and that they simply
didnt have the mobile technology
necessary to continuously engage
with the new channels. Some
respondents didnt feel they had
significant enough buy-in from
senior management to proceed with
staffing changes to cover off the new
I do not advocate a
separate social media
department or division.
In future, all communicators
will have to be more
savvy and have a good
understanding of the
various communications
Marc Binder
Group Communications Director,
Celesio AG

The pressure for change

came from different
directions: in addition
to communications,
HR noticed that young
employees had new
Heli Jrvenp
Communications Manager,

It is also clear from the survey that

companies need to invest in talent
from a resource perspective as well
as from a capabilities perspective.
To that end, we see most companies
adapting their teams or appointing
external agencies to handle the bulk
of social and digital communications
in tandem with their internal teams.
The companys mind-set is fundamentally
changing. I have a team that used to own
their own channels and operate in silos
people now have to think differently.
Tim Baxter
Global Head of Communications and Corporate Affairs,
Standard Chartered Bank

Traditional communications are performed

by many employees in our organisation,
but few through social media. I think we
will need to have a change in culture to
empower communication in social media
as well.
External Communications Manager
for a global pharmaceutical company

Respondents were asked

to rank from 1-6 the greatest
cultural or organisational
barriers they experienced
in meeting the demands of
the always-on conversation
(by a CEO)
Risk Management
Letting employees who
are not members of
the communications
team participate in the
companys external
communications leads
to loss of control over
the content.
Head of Marketing and PR for
a multinational clothing retailer

All LEGO employees

communicating with
consumers via social
platforms require an
internal Social Media
Drivers Licence.
Preben Mller
Brand Director (EU), LEGO

employees to become
external advocates
Internal and external communication are
continually merging because, either privately
or (at work), employees are able to send
what they feel, think, and say in the company
around the world.
Head of Communications and Government Affairs
of a global technology company

What has completely changed is the

circle of communicators. This not only
includes the people in my communications
department, who are communicating with
a broad coverage and were hired to do
that, but also everyone in the company,
who today are able to communicate with
this wide reach and do so, as well, both
privately and at work.
Head of Communications and Government Affairs
of a global technology company

Key Findings
To the question of whether it was
good in theory to empower people
outside of the communications
teams to communicate, companies
were fairly supportive.
The survey found that 77% of
companies think empowering
individuals outside the
communications team to
communicate externally is a good
thing. One quarter consider it a
bad thing or express resistance
when it comes to encouraging their
employees to communicate about
the company externally.
Is empowering individuals
outside the communications
team to communicate externally
a good or bad thing?
Embrace contribution from
others, although contributions
could be vetted or employees
trained first
Limit external communications
using social media to certain
authorised people
Allow all employees to
communicate externally about the
company without any measure
of guidelines or oversight
That said, companies are still
hesitant to grant their employees
a licence to comment on social
channels in an ofcial capacity:
I think that engaging
employees experts in
their fields in external
communications (also
in social media) may be
profitable and poses a
great value in building
a brands position and
Head of External Communication
and Public Relations of a
multinational retailer

Most companies underline that

there must be clear guidelines and
restrictions on how employees can
communicate about the company
they work for.
A number of companies pointed out
the importance of educating not just
the core communications team, but
also the wider network of employees.
This can be in the form of formal
training, or through company social
media guidelines.
Overall good but with restrictions
Employees are now increasingly
aware, interested and involved in the
internal and external discussions
happening around their brands
or businesses thanks to digital
and social channels. A companys
successes or failures can reach
employees quickly and without
Among the respondents there is
an understanding that employees
must have a role if companies
are to sustain and engage in the
conversations happening in digital
and social media. Whether in the
generation of content for the new
channels, or as external advocates,
employees are increasingly
demanding a role in their companys
While the majority of respondents
support their employees external
communication in theory, in practice
there is uncertainty over how to best
engage and utilise their talents.
The Business Take Out
Share knowledge and positioning with all employees
and match it with training before they can earn their
passport to engage publicly, if not officially.
The process is really
complex and still
immature. Empowering
people outside of the
communications team to
communicate externally
through social media
needs a serious and
severe evaluation.
Paolo Armano
Digital Marketing Manager,
Magneti Morelli

A majority of the respondents cited

the need for clear social media
guidelines. Others cited specific
training courses their employees
must complete before being
allowed to contribute on digital
or social channels.
Summary &
The broad agreement among communications managers that digital and
social media have the power to both positively and negatively impact corporate
reputation goes hand-in-hand with the rising attention being given to corporate
communications at board level.
The new 24-7 always-on landscape is an opportunity for communications
directors to build their brand and corporate reputations and to redefine their
value in the eyes of their superiors through more data-driven reporting.
However, it will be a challenge to fulfill the expectations of the C-suite if
communications capabilities are not properly resourced and managed.
Along with overcoming in-house cultural conservatism and an external lack
of receptiveness to digital and social content amongst some stakeholder
audiences, communications managers must knit the newer skills of often much
younger employees with the experience of more senior members of their teams.
In a communications environment that is moving faster than ever, through more
channels than ever, to more audiences than ever, devising appropriate advisory
and permissions procedures will be crucial.
So, how will communicators be able to use this opportunity most effectively?
respond and
Conversations about your brand
or business are happening all around
you, whether you want them to
happen or not. The chatter might be
meaningless, or it might be signaling
an unmet need or an issue that has
yet to surface.
Companies should set up social media
listening programmes to get a better
understanding of the conversations
happening about their brands and
businesses. The analysis of that
listening should be used to develop
risk mitigation plans to neutralise
potential issues, and to inform positive
white space opportunities for brands
to expand their reach.
All efforts should be measured
carefully to adjust approaches
if necessary, and then be reported
back to senior management
to give them a fuller picture of
corporate communications and
business successes.
Start a content
engine to sustain
Creating enough content to populate
digital and social channels is
hard work. It must be planned for,
resourced, and executed properly.
Its not solely a question of volume
people are looking for high-quality
content thats relevant to them.
Creating and fuelling a content engine
to sustain conversations across digital
and social channels requires both
creativity and process. It requires art
and science to identify both what
to say, who to say it to, and how to
say it. It must reinforce the brand or
business purpose and narrative.
Convene an editorial group comprised
of representatives from multiple units
of the business including HR and
internal communications, customer
service, investor relations, external
communications & media relations,
and marketing and populate a six-
month editorial calendar.
Overcome cultural
conservatism and
Digital and social media arent
going away anytime soon. To repeat:
conversations about your brand or
business are happening all around
you, whether you want them to
happen or not. Burying your head in
the sand will only expose your behind.
While regulatory requirements
might prevent some forms of
communications, there are still
avenues of expression that should
be pursued. Misinformation must
be countered by fact and legitimate
customer enquiries must be serviced.
Use data to help make the case
internally one of the benefits of these
new channels is that responses can be
tracked and measured with specificity.
Demonstrate the benefit of engaging
and help avoid the damage when a
rumour is allowed to spread across
the internet.
Improve internal
and external
The old adage is truer than ever: if you
dont want to see it on the front page of
the newspaper, you shouldnt be doing
it. Given the increased transparency
wrought by the new channels, a
companys internal behaviour must
absolutely match its desired public
perception. This requires a change
in culture at all levels, and not simply
a new CSR programme to put in the
shop window.
Companies should embrace
transparency instead of fighting
disclosure. Bad news will find a way
out of your organisation with a
click of a button millions of pages of
information can now be disseminated
around the world. Be honest and
accountable and youll have less to fear.
To help with this process, bring your
employees onboard and communicate
with them regularly. Dont let them be
rattled by rumour or bad news. Give
them the facts and trust them to use
them to full advantage.
Make your
employees active
With more voices starting more
conversations about your brand
or business without your control or
approval, youll be needing more
advocates for your cause. Why not
start with the people who work
so hard for you?
Upskill them to participate in these
new channels and arm them with
information and stories they can
share. Set a clear framework and
monitor their efforts and ask them
to self-regulate too. With the right skills
and stories theyll be a passionate and
committed advocate for your cause.
After all, who knows your company
better than the people who run it?
Here are a few principles
and recommendations from