Test Driving the New Model

May 14, 2012, Christa Carone

Marketing models tend to be wallpaper to me. I'm more interested in seeing what's beneath the surface.

During strategy reviews delivered via PowerPoint-enhanced charts, graphs and model diagrams, my colleagues often hear me say, “What do we do with this?" or the ever popular, “How does this translate into something real?" (That's when their eyes begin to roll.) So imagine their surprise when I started talking about a new engagement model - when my presentations morphed from single word slides to model-rich rhetoric.

But, let's step back for a moment. Because when I was first presented with an early glimpse of the Arthur W. Page Society's new model of corporate communications, I wasn't initially a believer. It took some mileage to get there.

Here's where the virtuous cycle began for me. It was March of last year. We met in an early 1900s mansion where time stood still. The estate loomed above stark countryside in a town called Esopus. We were in New York State but I'm still not sure if I was upstate, downstate or just in a small-town state of mind. It was a surreal setting for a meeting with other chief communication officers in what was billed as a “Thought Leadership Summit on Communication."

We'd driven really far to talk about models. There were no .ppt just lots of white paper used to capture random thoughts and meaningful insights. We had great discussions about our roles, the value of corporate character, how to define corporate character, purpose-based communication, how to define a corporate purpose, the ownership of stakeholder engagement and how to collaborate with internal stakeholders to engage, not just communicate. Heady stuff. Meaty stuff. And lots of ideas now captured in color on yards of white paper. Plus, a purple booklet that summed it up: the engagement model in the making. And, I kept thinking: we'd driven really far to talk about models.

On the equally far drive home (funny how that works), my mind wandered to what I always ask my team. So what do we do with this? I played it out against the backdrop of Xerox's brand repositioning campaign. No easy task.

Quick digression here: At Xerox, we're going through a massive transformation. Some companies talk about transformation; we're doing it. About two years ago, Xerox bought Affiliated Computer Services – a company you've likely never heard of but one that is in your life in unexpected ways: like EZ Pass (ACS processes automated toll transactions) or insurance claims (ACS processes those too) or customer call center support for smart phones and tablets (ACS runs the call centers and Web support teams). All this ACS work – and so much more – is now part of Xerox. In fact, we don't even call it ACS anymore. It's all Xerox. More than half of our revenue now comes from business services. A far cry from the document company. But with our brand so firmly entrenched in that “synonymous with copiers" space, our repositioning is tough, takes time and (ah-ha…here's what we do with the model) starts with belief.

Back to the road from Esopus….

Keep in mind, I'm still driving and wishing I had a voice record app to capture the random whims of my model magic. I started reimagining our marketing and communication initiatives against the principles…

  • Corporate character: deeply embedded value system that is respected and admired. Feel good about that one.
  • A purpose-driven strategy that influences investments and sustainable success. Not as crystal clear as it could be.
  • An advocacy-approach to engagement. Segments of the cycle are always in play but are not always connected to keep the cycle virtuously moving.

By the time I pulled into my driveway, I had developed in my mind new creative briefs, the formation of new communication strategies, and the concepts of new organizational design. And, because my cluttered brain tends to work like a sieve, I raced into the house to get it all down in writing. Once in black-and-white, the ideas started taking a more permanent shape.

I started with the basics of spreading the word. First with my senior team in marketing and communications, then with my colleagues on the Xerox executive team, then with the broader Xerox marketing community, and so it goes. I introduced the Page Engagement Model as a way to knock-down the traditional barriers of B2B marketing and communication – and, hopefully, to re-energize our teams into experimenting more with concepts that shatter the status quo.

We're starting to see education turn into actions. That means stopping or reducing business as usual activities (i.e.: Do we really need a press release for THAT? Wouldn't our voice be more authentic by telling the back story? Note: see how we announced news of retiring the ACS brand). As a result, we're asking different questions in strategy review meetings. We're aligning ourselves more closely with customer service (since social media plays a key role in building confidence and encouraging advocacy). We're being more critical with our findings from market research, spending more time on meta-data analysis to mine even more actionable insights.

We've articulated a strong purpose that links our heritage with our future: Xerox's technology, services and expertise simplify the way business works so the world works better. By doing so, we help our clients operate more effectively and focus more on what matters most: their real business. This new video brings it to life.

And, from there, we tell our story. Forging shared belief… one mile at a time.


By Christa Carone
Chief Marketing Officer
Xerox Corporation

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Christa, having been at that session "upstate" with you, I found this a fascinating, candid perspective. Yes, it was a rather loose session, but we wanted to get people talking. I'm glad that, in the end, the 'new model is proving useful for your work at Xerox. Your comments and ideas during the Esopus meeting greatly shaped our thinking and the final product.  Jon
Aah..so we were upstate. When you're born and raised in Buffalo, Syracuse is about as upstate as we go. Geo-kidding aside, the credit goes to you, Jon, and your team for giving us a reason to believe and showcasing how the role of communications is reshaping the traditional roles of marketing. It's time for all communication professionals to embrace this new normal.
  Your blog post makes for a terrific read Christa. The development and articulation of the model only gets us so far – it’s when we share the application of the thinking through tangible examples and actionable insights that we see its real power come to life. As someone who has spent many years close to Xerox, I can endorse the fact that your leadership in this is going a long way to challenge traditional barriers and liberate people to think differently. Success is increasingly being defined by how well brands blend their digital presence with the more traditional, offline communications or marketing tactics. Our customers don’t see the difference. The social customer of today is seeking to establish a relationship with a brand, which forces communicators to consider that transparency and authenticity at every touch point both inside and outside of the organization. This is where the other component of corporate character comes in.  What’s the best way to humanize your brand in a way that will engage consumers, while still staying true to your company values and maintaining a consistent image across all platforms? I think Xerox is certainly worth noting as a great example of this.  
Thanks Aedhmar. It's a pivotal time for communicators ...our in house team and agency partners. Working as one we can start putting more much context into our engagement with stakeholders.
Christa -- I was so impressed by your blog post on the new model of communications and how it's working at Xerox. Then I viewed the YouTube video on how Xerox technology, services and expertise are simplifying the ways in which we live and work. Wonderful piece. Exciting times, no?
Christa, I'm showing your blog to our grad students in leadershipcommunication at Georgetown, because we're studying the Page model--and because you are such a good writer. With admiration, Bruce Harrison