A data-driven approach to building thought leadership

A rigorous use of data and analytics enables software and IT services company Tieto to empower its communications and marketing employees to drive growth for the company.

Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash

Communication and marketing at Tieto have a key role in driving growth for the company; members of the communication team are active ambassadors for change and corporate culture. They contribute by enabling leaders to be better communicators, and by building a holistic communication infrastructure for the company, thereby enabling trust and transparency across our operations.

One of the key elements in the corporate culture is customer centricity: how everyone can drive better customer experience and in this way secure future revenue for the company. Furthermore, our marketing focuses on widening the sales funnel and driving growth for selected solutions by generating leads and nurturing them. Everything we do and say affects the reputation and positioning of the company in the eyes of the key stakeholders. 

Reputation leap

At the beginning of our journey to building a reputation across our stakeholders and markets, we measured publicity value – i.e. the annual increase in positive news we were able to generate in the media. Even though the numbers showed an increase of four to five per cent annually (with no changes in resourcing), the impact measured in our reputation study was not significant. After analysing the situation, we still saw the impact of positive news in media as something to invest in, particularly with reference to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2018, which demonstrated the rebound of trust in journalism and its decline in digital platforms.

Focusing on quality over quantity 

Along with this decision, we also invested on developing our approach towards data-driven communications and introduced the Reputation Capital Value Tree. The Value Tree combines the aspects of quantity and quality with both traditional media hits as well as social media, and provides a strong framework for steering our communication activities and learning from what has worked best (see figure one).

The Reputation Capital Value Tree consist of measuring the quantity (the amount of hits in both traditional as well as social media) and the potential reach achieved. The quality part of the Value Tree is based on our analysis of tier one media (for example, how is our visibility in those media) and also whether we are referred to in ‘right’ thematic context. Similarly, in social media we have defined the thematic context and the discussions we want to part of, and also identified other influencers active in those themes. The quality comes from being part of the right type of discussions and engagements with the right influencers.

Defining reputation spearheads 

As part of our quality-focused activities, we also defined the areas our company wants to be known for. Through workshops, the communications team evaluated our business priorities against external trends to identify high-impact ‘reputation spearheads’, or key communication themes, on which to build our future reputation. As a result of this activity, we ended up with four themes tightly anchored in the strategy and direction of the company, as well as being rich in terms of touch points to the life of consumers and citizens, and thus interesting from journalist perspective.

The four themes that contribute to our core message about the opportunities of a data-driven world are: security and privacy, corporate citizenship, opportunities with new technologies and consumer and citizen services. These themes were used as “gates” through which at least 80 per cent of our external communication could be channeled (see figure two).

360-degree stakeholder engagement

We started with the security and privacy theme, where communications led activities to create a three-phased proactive media outreach campaign based on a consumer study. We started to plan the campaign for Sweden, where, due to several public security incidents and data leaks, the business environment and public discussion had started to focus on insourcing (and so in opposition to our business plans and targets) but ended up using it across the Nordics (see figure three, next page).

Soon after, we also introduced the key themes to our colleagues in marketing and agreed to join our forces to create a full 360-degree engagement across all channels for the theme – occupying our own, bought and earned channels to the theme communication and content marketing in order to secure consistency and coherent messaging, and ultimately building thought leadership and unified perception across our key stakeholders (see figure four, next page).

The key activities and channels used were:

  • Consumer study and media outreach
  • Blogs and opinion pieces
  • Talking points for sales
  • Security Barometer whitepaper
  • Customer newsletter
  • TietoTalks (breakfast seminar followed by a hosted Twitter chat)
  • Podcasts

Focusing on quality pays off

We monitor the impact of our activities with a focus on quality of visibility to ensure that we are building the right kind of reputation for our company. We have also realised that focusing on quality has a bigger impact on the reputation capital; therefore it is certainly worth reducing the quantity of media outreach and instead focus on quality i.e. right type of stories in the right context.

The whole team is inspired by these encouraging results as well as the efforts made to develop our analysis and measuring of the impact of our activities. We will continue the analysis, automating as much as we can of the process and focusing on continuously sharing the learnings about what works and what does not to the entire marketing and communications community – and closing the loop all the way back to content creation.

A final bonus: the work has also enabled us to communicate the impact of our activities to top leadership of the company, thereby making the impact of the whole function transparent.


Kia Haring

As vice president of global communications and sustainability, Kia Haring leads Tieto’s global communication and sustainability team to drive positioning, reputation and development of the corporate culture. Kia has 20 years of experience in international marketing and communications; prior to joining Tieto in 2009, she was marketing manager at Finnish state-owned energy company Fortum, having previously been account coordinator at advertising agency Oglivy & Mather and project leader, marketing for Finnish corporation Wärtisilä.