Delivering Results: How FedEx Used Data to Discover New Business



The Barcelona Principles assert that determining tangible business results for public relations is our top measurement objective. Executives want to know the impact on the bottom line, not how many clips you counted.

The FedEx case study presented at the PRSA/AMEC Measurement Symposium is a great example of how to  measure the way communications affects business results, and how to make communications better and more predictive.

 “How many of you would consider using FedEx to ship a critical letter to a client or business partner?” asked Neil Gibson, vice president for communications at FedEx, during his presentation at the 2012 PRSA International Conference.  Almost every hand in the room went up. “Now, how many of you would consider using FedEx to ship a gift to your mother or family member?” Fewer people raised their hands.

“This illustrates an opportunity for FedEx,” said Gibson, who noted that the company was built on fast, reliable business-to-business/consumer delivery.  “But, when it comes to personal shipping we have increased opportunities as our pricing and service are not only as good as competitors, but often better,” he said. “The question is: How do we use communications to help put more personal shipping packages on the belt, and what needs to change in both how we communicate and market, but also in how we measure it?”

FedEx undertook a major reputation study to understand the differences in business versus personal shipping by geography across the United States.  The company fielded a representative sample in each Census region to ensure that there was a robust sample within each region.

“Our study showed that feelings about FedEx were ubiquitous no matter where you live in the country,” Gibson said.  “The perception was that FedEx was seen more as a business shipper than one you’d use for personal shipping — which demonstrated an opportunity to mine for additional business.”

Instead of just looking at the image of the company and what drives that opinion, FedEx dug deeper to uncover the drivers of personal and professional purchase choices.

Whereas most reputational studies explore the correlation among different reputational drivers with overall image and intent to purchase, the FedEx data was based on causal analysis of both reputation and brand marketing drivers to determine how together they affect the choice of purchase.

The research found that there are two primary drivers of personal shipping choice.  One is factual — does the company have the right services at the right price? And the other is emotional — do I feel connected to the company? Deeper analysis determined how to create movement in each area.

Since the modeling was causal, and not correlative, it can be used to predict business results. For example, if you move the emotional connection one point on a 10-point scale, you can gauge the corresponding change in personal shipping behavior.

We often erroneously assume that brand marketing and reputation management have completely different sets of attributes. In fact, brand and reputation overlap around 70 percent of the time. You have to manage both together. 

This means that marketing and communications departments have to work “hand in glove” and not be isolated from each other. Your advertising and communication activities all need to be inextricably linked across every channel.

“It’s been an interesting journey for FedEx on this project,” Gibson told the audience in closing.  “The results have made our communications function much more focused on educating  our shippers about FedEx  services that fulfill their specific needs, building a connection to the company and telling our story of how we use our assets to connect the world.”

To Learn more about earning a certificate in Measurement and Analytics from PRSA, check out the course description:

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