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Most Valuable Platforms Executive Summary

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Burson-Marsteller, in partnership with Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), interviewed business decision-makers about the value and challenges of various platforms – specifically conferences and events, corporate awards and rankings, and digital and social channels. Our research sought to identify which platforms are most relevant today, and which emerging platforms companies are gravitating toward to reach and influence stakeholders in the future.

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Most Valuable Platforms Executive Summary

  1. 1. BURSON-MARSTELLER’S Most Valuable Platforms Study Executive Summary May 2017
  2. 2. 2 New Opportunities and Growing Challenges as Executive Visibility Platforms Proliferate Executives who wish to raise their public profile may choose from a myriad of digital and social media platforms, and a growing list of business conferences, events, awards and rankings. At the same time, corporations and the people who lead them face rising expectations for increased transparency, authenticity and a commitment to something more than profits and shareholder returns. In this environment, where options abound and competition for “air time” is intense, the path to becoming an effective company spokesperson and thought leader can be a daunting one. The increasingly complex landscape has also made the job of managing executive visibility more difficult. Communications counselors face a growing list of tough questions: Should we be active online and off? Which conferences, awards and networks are worth our effort and dollars? How do we know if we’re reaching the right audiences? Which platforms are becoming more prominent and influential? How do we measure success? In this context, having a rigorous approach to executive positioning that enables you to determine which platforms to leverage, when and how, is critical to the success of any program. Yet, according to our research, many companies lack precisely this kind of strategic, systematic methodology. The Research Burson-Marsteller, in partnership with Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), interviewed business decision-makers about the value of and challenges associated with executive visibility platforms—specifically conferences and events, corporate awards and rankings, digital and social channels. Our research sought to identify which platforms are most relevant today, and which emerging platforms companies are gravitating toward to reach and influence stakeholders in the future. The research was both quantitative and qualitative, including an online survey of 300 vice presidents and above (“business decision-makers”) from large enterprises (10,000+ employees or $5 billion+ in revenue) and mid-sized enterprises (1,000 – 9,999 employees or $500 million – $4.9 billion in revenue) and eight in-depth-interviews (IDIs) that delved deeper into the quantitative findings. The online survey was conducted between June 8 and June 17, 2016. The IDIs were conducted between October 14 and November 15, 2016.
  3. 3. 3 What We Discovered – Topline Insights  Increased choice is driving confusion: Business and communications executives think events, awards and rankings, and digital platforms are all important, but struggle to prioritize where to spend time and money. Most do not feel sufficiently well-informed about the options to make strategic decisions. In fact, on average, one in four respondents say they only “kind of understand” the executive visibility platforms available to them. In the survey results, many tied for the top spots, perhaps indicating that the sheer volume of options and lack of strategic approach has led to challenges in prioritization.  Measurement is ad-hoc and under-resourced: Decision-makers and communications professionals want a more structured and systematic approach to determine Return on Participation (ROP), but often lack the resources to do this or don’t know where to begin. Respondents believe measuring success is as much art as science; what is important to one person or department may not be important to another.  Sales leads are the default success metric: In the absence of better and more relevant indicators, sales activity is the default metric used by business leaders to gauge the value of different platforms. Decision-makers and communicators recognize there are other, less tangible benefits, but need assistance to identify specific objectives and measures of success.  Most Valuable Platforms of the future differ from today’s: Respondents see CEO summits and councils as important conferences and events today, but think technology, women’s and ideas-focused conferences are gaining importance. Corporate reputation, workplace and CEO awards and rankings are seen as important now; however, opportunities related to innovation, diversity and sustainability are expected to increase in importance in the coming years.  Increasing focus on digital platforms and “owned” events: Moving forward, decision- makers and communicators want to be more active on digital platforms. Also, recognizing the opportunities in creating their own branded channels, many want to host their own events rather than participate in third-party conferences.  CEOs have markedly different priorities: When it comes to choosing platforms, CEOs are more concerned about visibility, thought leadership and connecting with multiple stakeholders, while decision-makers and communicators are more focused on clients or customers and new commercial opportunities. In measuring ROP, CEOs value impact on reputation over sales generated, whereas other decision-makers prioritize sales and number of new business leads generated.
  4. 4. 4 Key Findings by Platform Respondents believe conferences, events, awards and rankings, in addition to digital platforms, are all important, but currently they prioritize conferences, events and digital platforms over awards and rankings platforms. Respondents also believe, however, that platforms they think are important today are not necessarily the ones that will be important in the coming years. For instance:  CEO summits and councils are seen as important today, but respondents believe topic- focused events particularly technology, women’s and ideas-focused conferences are gaining importance;  Executives are most active on their own company websites today, but business leaders want their executives more active on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube moving forward.  Corporate reputation, workplace and CEO awards and rankings are seen as important now; however, opportunities related to innovation, diversity and sustainability are expected to increase in importance in the coming years. Conferences & Events CURRENTLY IMPORTANT GAINING IMPORTANCE Rank Platform % Platform % 1 Bloomberg LIVE Events, hosted by Bloomberg Consumer Electronics Show, hosted by Consumer Technology Association 42 Aspen Ideas Festival, hosted by The Atlantic and The Aspen Institute Bloomberg Technology Conference, hosted by Bloomberg Milken Institute Global Conference, hosted by Milken Institute Events hosted by YouTube 28 2 AWS re:Invent, hosted by Amazon CEO Council events, hosted by The Wall Street Journal Microsoft CEO Summit, hosted by Microsoft 41 Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, hosted by Fortune Events hosted by The New York Times Women in the World Annual Conference, hosted by Women in the World and The New York Times 27 3 Forbes Global CEO Conference, hosted by Forbes Events hosted by The New York Times WSJ ECO:nomics, hosted by The Wall Street Journal 40 Brainstorm E, hosted by Fortune Conference of the Parties (COP), hosted by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Corporate Conference, hosted by Council on Foreign Relations Dreamforce, hosted by Salesforce Events hosted by LinkedIn Zeitgeist events, hosted by Google 26
  5. 5. 5 4 CEO Summit, hosted by Yale School of Management World Business Forum, hosted by World of Business Ideas 39 Annual Meeting at Davos, hosted by World Economic Forum AWS re:Invent, hosted by Amazon Buttonwood, hosted by The Economist CERAWeek, hosted by IHS Markit FT Innovate, hosted by The Financial Times Events hosted by Politico Sustainable Brands’ Annual Conference, hosted by Sustainable Brands TEDGlobal, hosted by TED The Future Of: events, hosted by The Wall Street Journal (formerly known as Viewpoints Executive Breakfast Series) World Innovation Forum, hosted by World of Business Ideas 25 5 Annual Meeting at Davos, hosted by World Economic Forum APEC CEO Summit, hosted by Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forbes Healthcare Summit, hosted by Forbes WSJ D.Live, hosted by The Wall Street Journal 38 APEC CEO Summit, hosted by Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation BSR Conference, hosted by Business for Social Responsibility Forbes Healthcare Summit, hosted by Forbes GreenBiz Annual Conference, hosted by GreenBiz SXSW Conference, hosted by South By Southwest Techonomy Annual Conference, hosted by Techonomy Media Inc. World Retail Congress, hosted by Ascential World Water Week, hosted by Stockholm International Water Institute 24 Awards & Rankings CURRENTLY IMPORTANT GAINING IMPORTANCE Rank Platform % Platform % 1 Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 47 Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 33 2 Forbes’ America’s Best Employers Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies 44 Glassdoor’s Highest Rated CEOs 29 3 Forbes’ World’s Most Innovative Companies 42 DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity Newsweek’s Top Green Companies in the World 26 4 Barron’s World’s Best CEOs 40 Fast Company’s World’s Most Innovative Companies 25
  6. 6. 6 Barron’s World’s Most Respected Companies Chief Executive Magazine’s CEO of the Year Forbes’ World’s 100 Most Powerful Women Forbes’ World’s 100 Most Powerful Women Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work National Association for Female Executive’s Top Companies for Executive Women 5 Dow Jones Sustainability Indices Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year 39 Corporate Knights’ Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World CR Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens 24 Choosing is Challenging Choosing the right platform or opportunity is challenging for a range of reasons:  Choosing the right platform varies depending on the goals of the company and/or executive, and whether pursuing an opportunity will support their goals;  The process for determining participation is often ad-hoc and informal; on average only one in four respondents say they “kind of understand” each platform;  Word-of-mouth, especially if an executive mentions or recommends a platform, drives decision-making: 58 percent of respondents say executive recommendations are the leading determinant in choosing an event or conference;  Several other variables further complicate the process. “Very important” decision-making factors: Conferences and Events Top 7 - Ranked by Overall (%) Overall Awards/Rankings Top 7 - Ranked by Overall (%) Overall Networking opportunities with customers/clients 60 Is relevant to our clients/customers 54 Relevant agenda 59 Important within our competitive set/ our competitors are ranked 47 Networking opportunities with influencers 58 Reaches multiple important audiences/stakeholders 46 Audience attending conference/event 55 Helps with recruitment and retention 46 Aligns with our company’s aspirations 53 Issued by a top tier publication or organization 45 Ability to create and distribute thought leadership related to the event 51 Leads to additional opportunities 45 Provides practical guidance for our business 50 Typically awarded to prestigious companies 44
  7. 7. 7 Prioritization and Preferences Are Not Aligned CEO perceptions differ from those of other executives. CEOs don’t necessarily have the same priorities and expectations as other business decision-makers when it comes to choosing platforms. Overall, CEOs are more concerned about visibility, thought leadership and connecting with multiple stakeholders. Other decision-makers are more focused on clients or customers and new commercial opportunities. For awards and rankings:  CEOs believe the top benefit of awards and rankings is the opportunity to position themselves as leaders and influencers (53 percent). When making decisions about the opportunities to pursue, CEOs prioritize opportunities where their competitors are ranked (64 percent), and those that will reach multiple stakeholders (60 percent);  Other decision-makers are more interested in how the award or ranking will raise the profile of the company (50 percent), its relevance to customers or clients (534 percent) and if it will lead to additional communications opportunities (43 percent). Regarding conferences and events:  CEOs are more likely to place importance on networking opportunities with influencers (69 percent) and the ability to create and distribute thought leadership at the event (69 percent) when choosing which conferences and events to attend, while others are more likely to place importance on the relevance of the agenda (58 percent) and potential networking with customers or clients (57 percent);  CEOs (55 percent) are also more likely than other decision-makers (35 percent) to think that media exposure is an important decision-making factor in choosing conferences and events to attend. Measuring Return is Biggest Challenge The biggest challenge across platforms is how to measure Return on Participation (ROP). Almost four in five respondents say they need a more formal process for measuring ROP. Determining the metrics (which, per our research, can be even harder for large enterprises) and executing a measurement system are the key challenges when it comes to measuring ROP, followed by allocating the necessary financial and human resources. In the absence of a more developed ROP measurement system, the default metric used by business leaders to judge the success of a platform or executive visibility program is the number of sales generated as a result of participation. Business decision-makers, however, say they are open to using additional metrics moving forward.
  8. 8. 8 Top Current Metrics for Measuring ROP (%) Preferred Metrics for Measuring ROP in Future (%) CEOs and other business decision-makers have different methods and preferences for measuring ROP:  CEOs currently measure ROP through their satisfaction from participation (44 percent) and the impact it has on their reputation (42 percent). Impact on reputation continues to be CEOs’ preferred measure of ROP in the future (40 percent), followed by sales generated and audience survey results (both 37 percent);  Other decision-makers currently measure ROP by sales generated (35 percent), number of new business leads generated and informal feedback (both 33 percent). In the future, their top preference for measuring ROP continues to be sales generated (39 percent), followed by number of new ideas generated (31 percent) and number of new business leads generated (30 percent). 42 33 33 31 31 20 27 31 31 36 26 27 Sales generated Number of new business leads generated Informal feedback Executive’s satisfaction from participation Impact on CEO’s reputation Number of business connections formed Large Enterprise Mid-Size 39 33 30 29 27 26 25 24 39 29 19 26 31 27 27 27 Sales generated* Number of new ideas generated Number of business connections formed Impact on CEO’s reputation Number of new business leads generated Attracting or retaining talent Impact on company's reputation Ability to stay ahead of trends in the industry Large Enterprise Mid-Size
  9. 9. 9 Conclusion The explosive growth of events, conferences, annual awards and rankings, and digital and social platforms has made the job of executive positioning more complex than ever. The process of vetting and pursuing the ever-increasing number of online and offline opportunities for executives is straining available resources and revealing the limitations of traditional approaches to executive visibility. Our research confirms that building an effective corporate and executive positioning program does not follow a one-size fits all approach. What is right for one company may not be right for another. And, what is valued by the C-suite may not reflect the priorities of other executives and decision-makers. Aligning on priorities is critical. Communications counselors need to create more structured and strategic approaches to measuring the ROP of each platform—particularly new ones—if they are to effectively manage both opportunities for executive positioning and the expectations of their business leaders. Developing a proactive strategy using a formalized, yet adaptable rubric that reflects key metrics, preferences and business drivers identified throughout this survey is critical to cutting through the clutter, choosing the right platforms and effectively measuring ROP post-participation. About Burson-Marsteller’s Corporate Positioning & Thought Leadership Offering For more than 60 years, Burson-Marsteller has provided clients across a broad spectrum of industries and in every major world geography with expertise in defining—and realizing—their executive positioning goals. Our offering is rooted in research, informed by experience and focused on helping our clients achieve sustainable results. Our approach is customized to address the specific needs of each individual client, their business goals and executives’ visions, passions and ambitions. We position our clients where they need to be by developing the strategy and bespoke criteria to vet platforms, identifying where to put resources and how to measure the impact:  Positioning & Thought Leadership Platforms: We help our clients articulate a differentiated point-of-view, identify appropriate and meaningful partners, engage in substantive conversations and develop vital solutions on issues that matter.  Executive Positioning & Visibility: We develop a customized approach for each executive based on their leadership vision, goals, experience and passions. We identify opportunities that enable corporate leaders to evolve their profiles over time – from being a
  10. 10. 10 spokesperson on a particular issue or in a specific industry, to being recognized in the media and in the market as a thought leader and change maker.  Corporate Positioning & Visibility: Our team has deep experience in developing and executing awards and rankings strategies that promote corporate achievements in a variety of areas, including brand reputation, corporate responsibility, innovation and workplace. We use an extensive benchmarking process to assess client and competitor performance and inform our strategy and tactical planning.  Content Partnerships: Our team often works with other leading organizations, like Palisades Media Ventures, to create innovative and engaging media partnerships. Together, we specialize in developing content projects that support the thought leadership objectives of our clients and are important and relevant to our media partners. Our work resonates through events, newspaper articles, special sections, television programming and digital projects. Alan Sexton leads the U.S. Corporate and Financial Practice at Burson-Marsteller, a team with deep experience in executive positioning, visibility, and awards and rankings. Jen McClellan is an expert in executive visibility and thought leadership and Megan Woolley specializes in awards and rankings. Contact the team at MVP@bm.com.

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