Chris Johnson will probably read this story before anyone else does.
Not because we allowed him to read the story prior to publication – Pipeline, like all the IT Business titles, doesn’t do that – but because Johnson’s company, Ottawa-based dna 13, is in the business of creating tools to automate the media monitoring process.
Now in its third release, dna 13’s Enterprise Communications Management software offers a set of presentation and alert features that ties into what’s being published in print, online and over the airwaves. It rounds out its portfolio with tools specifically designed for small to medium-sized PR firms and a managed services offering.
Pipeline recently spoke with Johnson about how automation can preserve corporate reputation and achieve marketing ROI.
Pipeline: Why did you identify communications and PR as a niche for your software products?
Chris Johnson: Every company deals with corporate issues – most of our clients have upward of 100 issues on their systems. They need a way to manage corporate issues in terms of sharing that information out to other individuals in the company, ie. Other communicators that deal with the media, as well as internal employee. A corporate issue is typically outbound that media want to find out about, or they could be internal issues that they’re dealing with on an employee basis. They wanted a very structured, standardized way they could manage all of those corporate issues and projects they were dealing with within communications, government and investor relations.
Pipeline: How does it work when some of those duties are handed off to a third party, like a PR agency?
CJ: A lot of the time what we suggest is that companies use the software internally to manage some of their issues. But if they have an agency or agencies working with them, they’ll basically buy extra seats so that those agency people can actually participate in the process.
Pipeline: So is this like knowledge management for communications people?
CJ: At a very high level it is, absolutely. It’s ultimately really about corporate reputation. Communicators, whether they’re government relations, public affairs or investor relations, are really out there managing the company to position it correctly. They’re trying to get the right information out to stakeholders and journalists so that the company is “brought” to market so it sees them in the right sort of light. In our software we’ve built a very robust back-end that allows a lot of user rights management. All that means is that you could have 100 people using the software, and if you’re dealing with a very specific issue, like fraud for example, the system is built so that you can share that information out with only two or three people within the organization — when you have your position worked out you can start sharing that to other people in the organization so that they can send the same message out to the media.
There’s a management layer, but the second layer is monitoring. So you’ve got your fraud issue on the system. What you logically want to do next is monitor that issue. So you put some keywords in – your CEO’s name and “fraud” – and it will search across television, Internet and print news and pull in all the relevant information around that particular issue that you’re dealing with. What we’ve done is provided the ability to take those media mentions that are out there, collect them and save them to the issue. So if you’re the corporate communications guy and you’re sharing that with five people, you can all log in and see all the saved media content about the issue that’s going on. So we’d all be aware that there’s been five articles in the Globe, five articles in ITBusiness.ca, five clips on ROB TV.
Pipeline: It sounds like it would be a way to measure campaign success or failure.
CJ: Oh yeah. From a PR perspective, if you’re working for Adobe and you’re pushing a couple of products they’re launching, you would set up an issue on the system and all your information would be on – all the key messages, marketing documentation. You could search for reporters that want to read about that particular product and send out information on it. You could media monitor terms around the product through keywords and pull it in depending on the launch you’re working on.
Pipeline: How far along are we to the stage where this technology could be tied into other enterprise software? For example, so that a company could look at sales data from its business intelligence system and see how changes in strategy affect not only their sales put their brand?
CJ: It’s not that far at all. This product can easily plug into any other system in a corporate network. Siebel is the big standard for sales people, and this could plug into Siebel. You’ve got a marketing machine that puts a product out, and a PR machine that’s positioning the product. You could look at a company in terms of their sales in a certain region and attribute that to the PR work that’s been done in those regions. If you’ve got a company pushing really positive PR in the eastern United States market, and they’ve done a good job and you can measure that, you can start correlating that to better sales efforts that the sales groups are working on.
Pipeline: Hopefully you don’t need a crisis to seek out this kind of software, but what tends to be the business driver?
CJ: A lot of them have lived through the Enron debacle that happened. I think that triggered companies to look much more closely at corporate governance. Based on things that have gone on – more in the states, but particularly here with Nortel, for example – people or companies are placing a lot more emphasis on being transparent to media. They realize they shouldn’t be hiding things and they should be putting an actual position out. If you look at technology and the way the Internet’s changed things, any time bad things happen for a company, the information can get out there very easily now. People can really jump on something that’s happened and send that information around, create a blog around it, make a lot of noise in a hurry. Ten, 15 years ago, we didn’t really have the same infrastructure in place to let people take hold of things and exacerbate the situation. Companies are understanding that things move way, way faster and they need to be able to have a system in place to sort of move at the same speed.