In today’s business climate, measuring the impact of your Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) communications may be just as important as measuring the impact of your ESG initiatives. Investors, consumers, and employees demand to know what companies are doing to address social and environmental challenges. If you’re doing the work yet not able to effectively communicate what you’re doing to your key stakeholders, then you’re missing the mark. Fortunately, advanced AI-powered analytics are available to measure ESG communications’ impact and show how game-changing it is to everyone involved.
We recently interviewed Paige Rodgers, ESG Communications Consultant, and Matt Oakley, Global Head of Data & Analytics of Hotwire Global Communications, about this capability and the value it’s delivering to tech clients worldwide in partnership with NetBase Quid®.
Hotwire has spent years helping clients move from purpose to impact through strategic communications and consulting services on ESG. They’re also working with clients to improve engagement with prospects by employing advanced analytics and strategic AI methodologies. Now these two capabilities are being used together to help leading brands understand how to be more targeted in their ESG communications to reach the right audiences at the right time with the most relevant message.
This is the second blog in our two-part interview series. In the first, we explored the challenges companies face and how AI-enabled analytics enhance ESG communications, and here we’re talking about measuring the impact of these efforts.
How does data help companies connect with audiences about ESG?
Matt: Understanding the demographics found on each communications channel—from the different social media platforms to media outlets—helps companies reach different audiences emotively. When you understand who they are and what drives them (both positively and negatively), which interests are over-indexing and which are under-indexing, you can approach your target audiences with tailored messaging and a specific tone that will resonate.
Age is another area that certainly ties into messaging as well:
Based on this, combined with other insights, we could prepare talking points to help win over a negative older crowd by maybe appealing to family values and building additional messaging about green living and technology to further inspire and activate the younger audiences.
Why should brands have multiple messaging points around ESG?
Paige: If brands want to ensure certain messages reach specific audiences as intended, they need to differentiate and customize the message for that audience.
It seems so basic, and yet, so many times, companies come out with their ESG report, and they use the same message for all audiences. It’s a lost opportunity. Investors might be the most important audience for this piece of content, but they aren’t the only audience. And the parts of the report that are relevant to employees or resonate with customers will be different from investor priorities.
Matt: Over the years, we’ve developed plans to help clients break down the messaging of their global reports for different markets. This work includes how to leverage this material to approach key editors writing about environmental protection and corporate sustainability.
Taking a data-driven approach, we’re able to secure more coverage in the trade, business, and national press. In the process, we’ve established strong relationships with multiple editors who regularly reach out to us when they need insights into corporate sustainability. This work is all data-driven and AI-enabled.
Exactly how different are conversations about ESG in the media versus social channels?
Paige: The media tends to report on the anti-ESG sentiment in a very hyped way, whereas, on social media, it’s more conversation-based. A brand can use its social channels to have very meaningful, nuanced conversations with its audiences using specific talking points that matter to them. And these conversations could then bubble up to impact what is being reported.
Matt: Monitoring the types of media that are getting involved in the conversation can lead to new angles. Although we see ESG mentioned mostly in traditional publications, this isn’t always the case. And when we see non-traditional media outlets and publications picking up ESG stories, we can identify new messaging points that will resonate with different audiences. Their readership is a potentially new audience base and it’s being presented with an ESG topic, or at least a subset of the topic, and this offers potential.
How does data help enhance brand perception and affinity in the ESG space?
Matt: Once we understand whom we want to reach and the tone of voice we need to put out there to connect meaningfully and authentically with them, companies often need a message bearer. The company or brand may not have that personal connection with the public, and they need to create one.
Data allows us to pinpoint the top commentators or who is driving the conversation and getting the desired engagement. This adds to our contextual understanding as we identify influencers or individuals who can take our strategies and various messaging points to the next level.
These efforts can be tracked and managed to see if messaging results in more article shares, conversation shifts, or website visits for more information.
As part of that process, we might identify politicians or influential commentators within certain media outlets that somehow skew the conversation. We know that many of these voices have a huge following, so we want to understand their audiences’ makeup.
Aggregating this data at scale allows us to work with it in various ways to slice and dice the conversations they’re having. We can investigate trending negative and positive terms and uncover commonalities within the themes they’re discussing, further informing our messaging.
Paige: This is particularly powerful when we cross-reference this with insight from other data sets, as you can catch conversations happening that impact your brand and use that information to inform your response.
How quickly does social sentiment around ESG topics shift?
Paige: Regardless of the medium or the audience, the sentiment may move quickly, and it’s important to monitor for this reason. Data can tell you where the sentiment is going and how to use those different channels for different purposes.
Matt: The social conversation can quickly spin up different things that impact the perception of a brand. For example, maybe someone on staff is talking publicly about certain things or topics. If your brand is getting caught up in that, its perception can quickly be altered or affected once a groundswell of opinions accumulates.
In Quid, you can quickly see connections between conversations and understand what is happening and how it’s evolving. Sometimes an outlier conversation that exists on the periphery becomes a central talking point. This previously irrelevant conversation can quickly start to alter how your brand is perceived, and this bleeds into the media messaging—and vice versa. Either can impact the perception of the other, with online conversations informing news stories and news stories further framing and amplifying conversations.
Paige: This is why having strong ESG brand positioning, with key messaging for your core audiences, is so important. If companies are monitoring and tracking conversations and using data points to understand whether or not their message is resonating, they’re better able to adjust or reinforce their positioning and have a competitive edge.
Aggregating conversations and data points is a lot of work; is it worth it?
Matt: Analyzing different data sets gives us different contexts, ideas, and points of view. If we were just looking at social data, our understanding would be influenced primarily by whoever posts online and the conversations arising from those posts. Using just this data, and taking it at face value, would likely not give us the most representative view to base a strategy from.
This is why it’s important to look at all data holistically and comparatively. AI-powered analytics offer objective and unbiased insight from millions of often ideologically motivated posts, social engagements, promotions, and news items.
We can see different trends emerge as we investigate the many interconnected neural networks or if we view results in a timeline view. We can see how conversations are connected and whether they increase or decrease over time. And any of it can serve as a starting point from which you drill down beneath this surface to understand what events, people, or publications drive a conversation forward.
Paige: Combining this intel with audience insight creates a foundation for building your ESG comms strategy. There are various ways to combine and work with data, and we shouldn’t take any of this at face value—relying on any one metric in isolation is ill-advised and unnecessary.
There’s a data story to tell for every topic and sub-topic, and analysts employing the right tools will find that for you, so your brand can move forward with its ESG efforts confidently.
You may have wondered if leading companies sharing their ESG work knew something you didn’t, as they moved forward boldly, regardless of the pushback. And now you know—they do! They rely on data
Paige and Matt are ready to help you map your way through the neural networks, and we’re happy to demo our ESG-supportive capabilities whenever you like—just reach out! And be sure to connect with NetBase Quid® to see a host of additional predictive capabilities in action.