Make Your Communications Meaningful

October 31, 2018
Calvez, Elizabeth
North America Regional Manager of External Communications, DSM

As single-use plastics and the great garbage patch in the Pacific are grabbing headlines in the media, eco-innovation is gaining broader traction among businesses and consumers alike. Interest in and demand for circular products are increasing exponentially with each passing day that these eye-catching headlines appear.

Royal DSM  believes in doing well by doing good. Since its founding more than 100 years ago as a government-owned coal company, “Dutch State Mines” has transformed into a purpose-led, science-based company driving economic prosperity, environmental progress, and social advances with a mission to “Do Something Meaningful.” 

For the transition to the circular economy, DSM’s communications objective is simple: create internal engagement and external awareness for us as a leader in driving the transition.

Our message from the outset is clear: shifting to the circular economy is not just a moral or environmental imperative, it’s also a ripe business opportunity. The model provides an abundance of opportunities and future-proofs our business, ensuring this company with a 106-year history continues to thrive, as does the environment we live in.

The keystone of our circular economy communications strategy was the development and roll- out of the of the DSM origins story to captivate, inspire, and convince. Our story speaks to the commitment DSM demonstrates as a company to not only deliver value to our shareholders, but also, just as importantly, to deliver value to all of society. Sharing the sophisticated story of our long history of navigating monumental change builds credibility and allows us to inspire and influence our key stakeholders, including governments, non-governmental organizations, customers, employees, trade associations, and the media. After engaging with our stakeholders, we then use the following five circular principles to deliver a call to action:

  1. Reduce the use of critical resources.
  2. Replace scarce, hazardous, and potentially harmful resources.
  3. Extend the lifetime of products.
  4. Enable recycling with smart and safe materials.
  5. Recover waste streams.

Raising awareness of the circular economy agenda is important to our strategy, but far more important is showcasing the practical, real-life examples that serve as proof points for our key message. Our flagship example is:

DSM- Niaga®

  • We are redesigning everyday products from scratch, using the lowest possible diversity of ingredients that have been thoroughly tested for their impact on health and the environment.   
  • In the United States, 85% of carpet ends up as waste, making it one of the greatest single contributors to the country’s landfills.
  • Because products are made of one material, significantly less energy is required during production and, just as important, the material retains its value as it’s recycled again and again and again.

  • In 2018, Auping and Niaga® entered into a partnership to introduce fully recyclable mattresses.

There is a continuous stream of new innovations and solutions being brought to market, including Decovery, Veramaris, and Ecopaxx, to name a few.

A challenge we continue to encounter is the confusion that the circular economy is just another term for sustainability. Visualization through graphics and video content are critical to conveying the full breadth of the system.

https://www.dsm.com/content/dam/dsm/cworld/en_US/images/circular-economy-infographic-large.png

Measuring Success

Instinctively, we link our desired outcomes to business strategy—designing our communications to contribute to the ways in which the business is ultimately judged—such as reputation or organic sales growth. Our external communications key performance indicators are simple and straightforward, and help maintain the focus on relentless execution. We measure:  

  1. Earned media placements
  2. Trade media placements
  3. External speaking opportunities
  4. Award applications
  5. Opinion pieces
  6. Social media engagement and reach

However, at DSM, we dare to lead, and we dare to listen. Challenged by questions from our leadership team and swayed by influencers in the customer experience field, we recognize that the number of events, tweets, or emails delivered is a measure of output. We are learning to measure outcomes, not just outputs—in other words, measuring what the communications have changed. Being busy isn’t the aim, being effective is. Ultimately, we needed to ask ourselves, are we impacting behavior?

In addition to measuring what works, we also seek to understand why it worked—qualitative assessments combined with data provide richness and lessons learned for future campaigns. For example, it is important to know whether the content, the visual format, or simply when it was distributed made a campaign work well.

Lastly, the success of our CE communications plans is not be deemed the sole responsibility of the communications team. Seeking contributions and collaboration across business groups and functional departments helped ensure that strategies resonate both inside and outside of the organization and remain on-message for where the audience is.