Creating Consensus to Establish a Command Center

Posted by Margot Sinclair Savell on November 09, 2017

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A command center is a centralized communications strategy – ultimately manifested into a dedicated meeting room where team members collaborate on a company’s media and social analytics program, and its multichannel communications program. The command center team represents numerous cross-functional departments, company brands and geographical markets. Within this environment, a command center’s long-term goals are to build and protect brand reputation, illustrate the full picture of an organization’s media and social health, and plan business strategy.

My first blog post about command centers gave you a step-by-step guide to set one up. My second post focused on creating a command center for the C-Suite. Now, let’s look more closely at how to create consensus and support among different groups in your company.

Creating Consensus

Your command center will have high visibility, and you will need to demonstrate success. This process won’t happen overnight. So where do you start? How do you foster internal consensus and traction across departments, business units, brands and geographies?

The best practice is to follow the adage “Crawl, Walk, Run.”

  • Crawl: Find an executive sponsor who understands the value of a command center and encourages consensus among senior leadership.
  • Walk: Plan and launch a pilot program.
  • Run: Expand to a consistent, meaningful and global analytics hub.

Crawl (Find an Executive Sponsor)

The perfect executive sponsor will champion the case for a command center, because he/she believes that social and media intelligence can fundamentally change the company’s business. This senior leader should have respect from colleagues, as well as the reputation of getting things done, removing barriers and building consensus.

Talk to your manager about finding the right person, and then develop a pitch to deliver in a one-on-one meeting with this potential sponsor. Your presentation should emphasize the benefits of a command center, clear goals, a pilot program and a long-term commitment. Be sure to include case studies from other companies that have successful command centers. At the end of your presentation, summarize key takeaways, followed by next steps.

What are the next steps at this stage?

Once your executive sponsor agrees to help drive this initiative, have a follow-up meeting to brainstorm about how to generate widespread support. An initial approach should incorporate a concept presentation at a regular meeting of the executive team, followed by a discussion with communications managers, and then other managers.

Provide your sponsor with ideas about a planning group that will craft a framework of governance, data, metrics and tools, and formalize the physical space of the command center.

Discuss your suggestions for establishing a well-defined pilot program. This small launch group might consist of representatives from analytics, PR, marketing and crisis communications, plus someone from a major product department or a big campaign on the horizon. The team members should be tapped for their strategic and analytical skills, particularly in relation to brand reputation and awareness, competitive intelligence, and industry issues.

The planning group and the launch group will drive the next stages of your command center and help generate consensus along the way.

Walk (Plan and Launch a Pilot Program)

Choose your teams for the planning and launch groups, and also assign two people to lead committees to review tools and metrics. One committee will review the tools that are used across the firm, and determine if there are redundancies. At the same time, the other committee will consider metrics for the pilot program, and later for a larger command center. (See my earlier post on metrics that matter.)

Both committee leads will collaborate with the planning group working on the framework. The goal is to end up with consistent metrics and tools used by everyone.

Of note, the tools process might take some time. Some of your current tools will have contractual obligations; team members might have spirited disagreements about which tool is preferred. Collaboration is key. Choose tools that support metrics for multiple layers and languages of your organization.

For example, one of my clients appointed a social media analyst as the committee lead to find the best tool for five brands in 12 countries and 25 languages. The lead collaborated with others to develop a list of tools already in play, including their benefits and challenges. After all the information was gathered, the lead interviewed the companies owning the tools to discuss use cases and pricing. Next, the lead worked with the committee to reach consensus, and with the executive sponsor to obtain financial approval.

Once the tools and metrics are selected, the pilot program can be launched. The team will start monitoring and analyzing conversations – mining the results for valuable insights, spotting trends and discovering opportunities to inspire creative strategies in the future.

Run (Expand Your Command Center)

After you reach success with the pilot program, use its findings to develop an internal business case to build consensus and expand your command center. In other words, create momentum by sharing the pilot group’s story with other departments, brands (if you work for a multi-brand corporation) and regions. Your narrative should feature winning quotations from departments participating in the pilot program, and an encouraging, enthusiastic comment from your executive sponsor. Often, the presence of a visible, visual and well-branded command center at corporate headquarters can serve as the catalyst for incorporating other teams, brands, business groups and geographies.

Emphasize the value of consistent analytics companywide. In addition to the benefits, explain the downside of not having broader participation: 1) you will not have a clear view of the company’s global media and social health by using diverse metrics and tools in different departments, or by business unit, brand or geography, and 2) campaign performance and product releases can’t be compared in an effective way to inform future business decisions regionally or internationally.

As you gain support, enhance your command center team. You might want to increase participation in waves; for example, the first wave could be customer service, followed by the remaining brands, and the major product teams. The final waves might be the business units and geographies. Customize the expansion according to your firm’s structure and needs. Keep in mind that more than a dozen core participants can make operations more difficult.

As each wave joins the command center, the metrics committee should meet with them and discuss the best way to integrate any new metrics into the framework. Team roles and responsibilities should be also updated, along with any governance changes.

I’ve worked with a number of clients who have had different approaches to global analytics, depending on their size, brands and business goals. One client had a dozen brands, each with distinct communications strategies and tactics, and did not have a global understanding of analytics across any of them. We implemented a 75-25 plan – 75% of metrics were uniform across all brands, while 25% of metrics were unique to each brand and/or market. This enabled a global view, while still recognizing brand and regional success.

On the flip side, another client was not effective because of an unfortunate C-Suite mandate to analyze identical metrics across business units and geographies, even though their strategies and tactics were disparate. Consensus was not reached. The regional teams did not receive meaningful insights and recommendations from the command center data, and after one year, the global analytics program was scrapped.

Summary

Build consensus for a command center by finding an executive sponsor to gain visibility and win endorsement by the C-Suite. Phase in your center, to create collaboration and consensus among departments, business units and countries. As mentioned, it won’t happen overnight. So begin with a pilot program, demonstrate success and then expand to a consistent, meaningful and global analytics program. This will help design a worldwide roadmap to drive future strategic business decisions.

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Margot Sinclair Savell is an award-winning writer who has decades of experience crafting and editing content. During 15 years at agencies such as Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Weber Shandwick, she specialized in strategic counsel for measurement, insights and analytics. In 2016, she was inducted into the PR Measurement Hall of Fame.

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