Marketing managers are dealing with changes imposed on them through marketing technology and social media. Some of them have decided to address this full on by centralising the operations in a central location; the social media war room or the marketing communication command centre.
The foundation for these centres are recently laid by innovating marketing leaders such as Damien Cummings and they are starting the deliver results. Time to meet with Michel Mommejat, MD of one of the agencies that has actively positioned themselves in this area; FleishmanHillard.
FleishmanHillard is part of Omnicom Group. It has transformed itself and now covers a wider range of services, which include social media strategy, content management, paid media and results measurement. Michel joined a few months ago, coming from AdPeople and before that Wunderman in Singapore.
The M3C concept
Michel explains that the Marketing Communication Command Centre, or M3C, is almost a logical consequence of the growing importance of contents and storytelling. To manage content production, to measure its effectiveness and optimise it and to ensure that this is aligned with marketing strategy, centralising these operations in one team, in one location, makes sense.
Philips, Mastercard and Chevrolet are among the first brands that took the decision to centralise the marketing, communication and PR in one centre. There are many other terms in use, like the more aggressive sounding social media war room or the media control centre.
Michel explains that FleishmanHillard considers three activities to be important for any M3C.
• Drive the strategic and operational engagement of a brand with its existing and potential customers
• Develop and distribute content
• Analyse, report and act on the data in line with the overarching strategy
In short they should be there to ‘own the conversation’. That sounds a bit harsh and goes feeling wise against what social media is about. In Michel’s view owning the conversation is an objective. The way you reach it is through engaging customers with storytelling. The story telling should be authentic and convey the brand’s core values and should respect the principles based on influencing and convincing, rather than dictating. In the end you can own a conversation if your value proposition is universally compelling. Of course this requires at times changes in consumer services and products but this is exactly what the constant monitoring of social media allows.
This also leads to stress for brands who lack a set of authentic values. Brands that seem to exist for market share growth and pushing more products down consumers’ throats, like some brands in the fast food and FMCG sector.
Michel explains that in the end it comes down to 3 things that M3C should cover:
To achieve that goal a convergence between PR, marketing and communication strategy is required. Story telling, Michel says, is typically the heritage of PR. Social media has added digital data, digital channel distribution and the aspect of real time communication to the story telling aspect. This leads to the almost inevitable and yet very wise decision to converge a multitude of activities that were previously in silos, into one room, managed by a converged team.
Michel continuous to explain that this allows a team located in a M3C to operate with the required speed, volume and frequency with which content needs to be produced. It is also the only way to cater to the customer defined messaging. It is in many cases the customer that dictates the topics and themes, instead of the brand driving the agenda.
The art and science of a good social communication strategy starts with the definition of an overall strategy first. How would the company like to be perceived, what are the core topics and core values that support this perception?
Effectively ‘owning the conversation’ requires the identification and nurturing of influencers and advocates, in close orchestration with advertising for awareness and the media.
This approach takes time but also here it is easier to manage a team that works together in one room, than stakeholders spread over departments, or worse countries. A pure influencer strategy is challenging. Having brand advocates, especially those do this voluntarily, is more important.
To identify them it is best to start with social listening and identifying communities on social media, according to Michel. In general this leads to customer defined messaging.
Influencing in B2C and B2B
Is there then a difference between B2C and B2B? Michel states that in both cases brands can engage customers through content and storytelling.
The actual channels and the content type differ certainly but both can benefit from a M3C. Social media in a B2B setting is more challenging. In this setting it is important that employees e.g. present themselves and actively pursue a personal branding strategy where possible, in line with the company values.
But an added advantage of this approach is that employees feel more engaged, which in turn leads to better retention.
Why and how a M3C?
Michel explains that FleishmanHillard usually helps with strategy, the actual team set-up and the room plan. It assists with the content production strategy but once the team is up and running they usually moves on. “We can do content production but usually other agencies or internal resources are better suited for this task. But we enable clients so that they are able to produce everything, from tweets, through articles, to video content on site.”
He also explains one other compelling reason to set up a M3C. As we all know, internet has been crisis game changer. Malaysia Airlines, BP and in recent days Volkswagen have experienced this first hand. There’s an old expression: reputation drives on foot, but it departs on horseback. This applies even more in the internet age: reputation still drives step by step, but if something goes wrong it can disappear with rocket speed.
When things go AWOL there is an added benefit of a M3C emerges during catastrophes, accidents or crisis. The central availability of a M3C makes targeted, fast-paced communication a lot easier.
In many cases the team in a M3C is a mix of agency people and internal employees plus free lancers, specifically for content production or during peaks in a communication campaign.
But more in general, as stated before by Michel, the M3C is for many companies the right answer to a world that demands more and more a real time answer to their questions and demands, with content to match.
Editor: Matthieu Vermeulen