“They never, ever read the email”
Sounds familiar? This was the number one challenge set to us by the head of insights at Coca-Cola Western Europe: to gain attention and influence with the work that the team does. We recognized that the need was not just to influence the C-Suite (something we tend to get ‘hung up on’ a bit in data and insights) but to gain broader understanding from a wider internal audience, to achieve greater reach and impact in the company.
A strategy and insights team must ensure that people comprehend and apply broader long-term learnings as well as providing stakeholders with short-term answers to tactical research questions.
Every year, Coca-Cola Western Europe carries out over 200 ad hoc studies, as well as ongoing trackers, and community panels. Sure, stakeholders need these tactical answers. But to impact strategic decision-making, the team must communicate with and integrate broader trends and insights into the larger organization beyond a specific project. And emailing PowerPoint reports is not going to give you that impact, even among those who should be interested in the findings.
The Great Internal Communication Experiment
The purpose of “The Great Internal Communication Experiment” was to identify what types of insight communication had the most critical impact on different teams and departments within Coca-Cola. As with any large company, people focus on their own job. The desire to understand different areas of the business beyond the immediate is limited and time constrained. Time is of the essence, and when you’re being sent hundreds, if not thousands, of emails a day, it can be hard to capture attention.
We needed a better understanding of how the Knowledge & Insights team at Coca-Cola communicated with stakeholders to scope the challenge and create the best solution. We analyzed a sample of existing emails, presentations, and reports. We designed a discussion guide and conducted short qualitative interviews with stakeholders to benchmark the current communications received from the K&I team. We also interviewed K&I team members to map their responses to what the stakeholders had said and better understand how the team communicated.
The results from the interviews and analysis proved interesting. From incomprehensible acronyms and job titles to unclear business jargon and ‘death by PowerPoint’, there was a clear challenge in how the K&I department communicated even the simplest of information – but these were only our initial findings. The K&I team at Coca-Cola are no different from researchers everywhere in that their natural curiosity and engagement with data (whether qualitative or quantitative) often make it hard to step back and view their work from an external perspective.
After doing our analysis and research, we got down to business and worked to deliver the materials which Coca-Cola could use moving forward. Mustard created various materials that would test responses but were also reasonably achievable by an Insights team. We also tested different types of headline and subject lines for the content – using curiosity, negativity and numbers as well as other versions in order to find out what created most engagement and recall.
The material included:
- An email HTML newsletter: This included a title banner (‘Naked Insights’), a short piece of text for each project, and a link to the existing presentation.
- A short (1-2 minutes) animated video of relevant projects: These were to be sent via email with a headline for each.
- A short (2-3 minutes) ‘talking head’ interview: These videos put the Coca-Cola insights team at the forefront as we interviewed the researchers in charge of the project we highlighted in the video. These were distributed via email with a short headline for each.
- A single infographic: These infographics used data and images combined in a single, visual email.
- A drastically edited PPT We created these as a benchmark – how many would people click on the PPT compared to the other items? But it is worth pointing out that these were a maximum of 5-8 slides, visually designed, not the 40 that the team had been sending around before.
And the winner is…
The content Mustard created was sent to random groupings across 15 departments across 12 working days. Results were tracked during the following five working days and were followed up with a short questionnaire asking what people remembered, what they liked, what worked, and what they wanted to see again.
The survey received a 60% completion rate, and when asked if they remembered receiving an email from the Knowledge and Insights team, 46% of people said they did. An average daily email count for stakeholders was estimated to be around 100 a day, so to recall one unsolicited email among potentially 1,200 emails received was counted as a win.
Stakeholders also reacted positively and recalled our newsletter, animated videos, and interviews – and they selected the infographic as something they wanted to see more of in the future. The combination of images and numbers means recipients retain high-level information without wanting to click for more. The study also proved that PowerPoint reports, even when well-designed and a mere 5 slides, were not opened, recalled, or engaging.
Of course, from a communications viewpoint we are not in the business of generating “clicks” alone – we need to raise the profile of the insight team and create strong and ongoing engagement with their stakeholders. Our view from this pilot is that the newsletter is the winning format, closely followed by the infographic and the talking head video.
Finally, we were able to track the most effective communication by tracking the response on Coca-Cola’s knowledge sharing platform. This also gave us insight into the subject lines and headlines that people remembered and clicked on.
Keeping it simple
We tried to keep the communications we created for Coca-Cola’s Knowledge & Insights team realistic and practical, which meant not going for the full Hollywood production values we might use in other situations. With 200 individual research projects a year Coca-Cola needed a fast, cheap, and effective solution. So, we used the company’s existing systems and processes to make it work. For example, we still used email as the most commonly used communication tool (the intranet was not an option for us) and existing video conferencing systems to record videos for example. These are at everyone’s disposal and should not be a barrier to creating excellent insight communication in the future. If we can learn from The Great Internal Communication Experiment, so can you.