For marketing and communications teams, ‘talking at’ consumers is no longer enough. As communications expert Michael Marinello puts it, marketers “need to win the hearts and minds” of their audience. But this is no easy task for mature organizations with traditional communications strategies.

Percolate’s Director of Marketing, Rob Rozicki, had the chance to sit down with Michael to discuss what it takes for communications leadership to create incredible customer experiences, gleaned from Michael’s +15 years in communications at companies such as Turner Broadcasting and Bloomberg. Check out the full webinar  or read on for four key insights from their conversation.

  1. Build your comms strategy around business problems

Communications teams now have a direct relationship with consumers that didn’t exist a decade ago, and organizations must change to match this new dynamic. To do this, communications leaders must frame their tactics around customer and business impact – demonstrating how comms can address the business problems of the organization and the priorities of key stakeholders. Michael puts it bluntly: if your communications objectives don’t align with business outcomes, then you shouldn’t be doing them. Of course, a business outcome doesn’t always need to be defined by dollars and cents – for example, brand awareness can be a great target business outcome.

  1.  Have the courage to be measured

While both communications and marketing are centered around building brands, marketing’s strong connection with sales often results in a greater emphasis on defined metrics that are tied to the bottom line.

Communications has a lot to learn from marketing in this area, as there are few established standards of measurement for PR/communications. As a result, communications teams often struggle to establish credibility within an organization, have trouble optimizing their tactics, and may be misaligned with their peers in other functions. To truly have a business-focused mentality, communications teams must be open to quantifying and measuring the impact of what they are doing – a challenge few comms teams have overcome.

  1. Treat vendors as valued members of your team

Today, the number of solutions in any enterprise tech stack is staggering, making procuring and managing software a major responsibility – and challenge – for leadership. Often times, companies dive into software procurement before they understand their own needs and overlook the vendor’s fit from a relationship and partnership standpoint. Ensuring that you fully understand what you want your software to solve is a necessary first step, and investing in a partnership is key for long-term success. “It’s not a pop quiz,” Michael says, “you’re trying to get a business result… but if you don’t know what you’re trying to solve, don’t talk to a vendor!”

During Michael’s time at Turner, he chose to assign a team member to each key vendor partnership, allowing for a more personal relationship with each vendor to develop. “If you don’t treat them as part of the team, they won’t function as part of the team, and you’re not going to get the outcomes you want,” he notes. Michael also recommends conducting regular in-depth audits of vendors to reduce inefficiencies and realign expectations.

  1. Look to the future with a focused roadmap

While the role of comms may not be about securing a single sale or converting a specific customer,  it is about shaping the long-term outcomes of the brand and the organization. That’s why it’s key for communications leaders to constantly have an eye toward the future and routinely refine a roadmap for success. Michael emphasizes three focus areas that any communication roadmap should include:

  1. Procuring the right technology – data is becoming more and more critical for comms effectiveness, and your data is only as good as the technology that interprets it.
  2. Making strategic investments in people and processes to modernize and increase in-house capabilities.
  3. Developing mechanisms to create value-add, “premium” content for your audience. “Premium” doesn’t necessarily refer to the produced quality, but rather its impact on your audience.

Ultimately, companies should never sell themselves short: every company, no matter its size, has a unique story to tell that can connect with an audience if that story is communicated effectively. “You don’t need to spend your way to relevance,” Michael stresses, “just spend smartly.”

For more insights from Michael, be sure to watch our on-demand webinar “Comms & Customer Experience: Four Essential Focus Areas for Today’s Leadership.