The Public Relations Industry has evolved over the years, and traditional newswire services have been forced to react, respond, or risk irrelevancy. A major wire service provider requested a study to evaluate recent initiatives within the new competitive context.
The client had previously partnered with Goodmind on several projects devoted to understanding the needs of current clients, and identifying future opportunites for growth. For this study, the client wanted to specifically understand the outcomes of a recent operational consolidation, coupled with lingering effects of various mergers and aquisitions. The client also wanted to test the effectiveness of its branding strategy, as well as drill down into the value of its new products and services in various markets.
Prior research relied on traditional focus groups, and in-depth one-on-one telephone interviews. These studies largely focused on the end user; be it journalist, PR professional, or even blogger. Since the objective was essentially to test whether these groups had provided valuable feedback (and whether we had given good advice), we needed to come up with a way to objectively evaluate the product, market, competitors, and operations of the client.
We couldn’t ask just anyone about the product, market, competitors, and operational strategy of a legacy newswire, so we had to be creative. The respondent in this instance turned out to be the distributed sales force of the client. Who better to understand all the nuances of the PR industry, while simultaneously offering a unique perspective on brand positioning and competitive strategy?
We conducted a three day ThoughtCast discussion with various members of the sales force, and came away with perhaps the longest transcript in our seven year history. Participants had an optimistic outlook, and were generally positive in their feedback. However, we did uncover an unknown interaction between product and operational changes: the sales force was compensated according to an outdated model, with imperfect product emphasis.
Left unaddressed, this minor detail could have undermined the existing value of the brand, not to mention negate recent strategic initiatives. If the client hadn’t looked at the business from the perspective of the sales force, their sound strategy wouldn’t have been worth much in the long term.