Behind the Headlines With Peter Shafer

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Is your brand communication sparking conversations…or falling on deaf ears?

Peter Shafer, partner at Brunswick Group, says to stand out brands need to engage their audiences in a dialogue and ensure it is not one-sided.

In this interview, Peter discusses how brands can better engage audiences, improve their measurement practices and quantify their communication efforts.

What do you hope to accomplish in your new role as partner at Brunswick Group?

I’m excited to be a partner at Brunswick Group and scale Brunswick Insight with new sets of clients in North America and globally. I will start by introducing Brunswick Insight to my network of corporate and public affairs contacts as well as others in various industry sectors such as Health & Wellness and Fast Moving Consumer Goods.

What are some of the key components of a successful marketing strategy?

There is one basic guidepost on all things marketing: focus on the client. The key components of any successful marketing strategy are (1) meeting the client “where they are” and then working with them on the best path forward to achieve their aspirations and (2) the ability to focus on the “why” so that consumers can make a clear decision as to whether the product or service fits their needs and that you’re the right brand to trust.

With so much content saturating the marketplace, how can brands stand out?

Great question. Besides hiring Brunswick (LOL), brands can stand out in a VERY crowded marketplace in three ways: (1) leverage new “channels,” allowing their voice to be original and heard in new places; (2) engage in a dialogue and conversation across all platforms and outlets which can build higher quality relationships quickly and with more precision because the days of “controlling the message” are over; and (3) make the story about “them” and not you.

I still encounter so many brands that “talk at” their stakeholders, and don’t “talk with” their audiences. Using a combination of listening better and being more authentic in responses creates an environment where the brand can grow and thrive versus being defined in one dimension.

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Why is measurement and analytics such a difficult area for marketers? How can they improve?

Measurement and analytics are evolving every day and it is tricky to keep up with. Too often, I think marketers hear those two words and immediately think, “That’s a left-brain activity and I am totally right brain in what I do as a marketer.”

There has been too much mystery associated with measurement and analytics that most marketers are still trying to sort through what’s truly meaningful. But measurement and analytics can be a terrific source for narratives and can enrich most marketing approaches immediately.

For years, every McDonald’s campaign had one simple measure – how many hamburgers served.  That marketing analytic created credibility, community and creativity to how metrics can make a story come alive.

How has measurement evolved in recent years? What are brands doing differently today that they didn’t do in the past?

I believe marketers are cautiously embracing data and measurement but are still in the “wait and see” mode overall. Brands are doing two things today that are evolutionary within measurement – (1) they are combining different data sources (sometimes big data, sometime not-so-big data) to create a more complete and, more importantly, accurate picture of the consumer and how she behaves; and (2) brands are using technologies like passive metering and cookie tracking to gather in-the-moment data that is more reliable and factual.

This enables marketers to research needs without relying on survey data or other types of data collection methods. But the critical element of measurement that is still emerging is the interpretation or story-telling about the data and results – and that is the next “big” area of opportunity for marketers.

How can communication professionals best quantify their efforts to demonstrate marketing’s real impact on the bottom line?

Quantification of communications results continues to get more sophisticated and more accurate daily. Metrics on volume help tell the story on reach and effectiveness. In addition, because many campaigns are now more targeted and specific, it is easier to see the needle move on an issue.

I think marketers are becoming much better at defining their objectives in measurable ways.  The simplest ways to measure effectiveness in communications today is by determining (1) how far the “discussion” had moved since we became involved; and (2) whether or not overall business objectives such as profit and productivity shifted because of our efforts and conversations.

The ability to measure “relevance of message” in the midst of disruption will be key. For example, are “brick-and-mortar” retailers’ marketing efforts aligning with the shifts in consumer behavior? Looking at several metrics, the efforts may not be in alignment as in-store sales shift rapidly to online.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned throughout your career?

I am glad to say I keep learning new lessons all the time so “continuous learning” is a lesson everyone should learn and embrace. In addition, active listening is a skill that has to be practiced and refined all the time.

I remember in several jobs that my ability to “listen” in a meeting and capture/synthesize in writing the key points of those meetings for senior executives got me promoted faster and got me assigned to much larger projects.

Finally, be respectful of everyone’s role and ideas, especially now in this world of social media analytics. By demonstrating genuine respect, you will get the breakthrough ideas you need to set your marketing group apart from your peers.

Rapid Fire Round

1. My hobbies outside of work include…working part-time for the National Football League (NFL), solving crossword puzzles and word games, traveling and playing golf.

2. If I was stuck on a desert island, I’d…find things I could eat ASAP.

3. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…curiosity…I am always interested in what every new day brings.

4. I laugh most at…British comedy shows.

5. One thing most people don’t know about me is…I have authored two books and many journal articles.

6. My biggest pet peeve is…rude people.

You too can be a headline maker. 

The key is understanding the impact your marketing’s making and how you can use those insights to improve your future efforts. Find out how Cision can help by requesting a demo.

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About Maria Materise

Maria Materise is a content marketing specialist for Cision. Formerly a copywriter, she enjoys creating content that excites and inspires audiences. She is an avid reader, movie trivia geek, Harry Potter fanatic and makeup junkie..

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