Q&A with Maliha Aqeel, Director of Global Communications at Fix Network World

marketing metrics
Maliha Aqeel, Director of Global Communications at Fix Network World is an award-winning, communication and marketing professional who helps companies harness the power of their brand to drive engagement and achieve measurable business results. 

She has developed and led content and marcomm programs for B2B companies in the financial and professional services sectors in her over 15 years of industry experience.

MEDIA 7: When did you start working and what was it?
MALIHA AQEEL:
I started my career in 1996 right after high school, freelancing as a journalist and features writer for a magazine in Dubai, UAE. Over time, I expanded my services to include scriptwriting for corporate videos and TV productions, writing and designing client newsletters and promotional collateral.

M7: What made you want to pursue a career in branding and marketing communications? What aspect about your role brings you the most joy?
MA: I didn’t consciously decide to pursue a career in marketing and communication as my plan was to become a filmmaker. However, I had great curiosity about what makes people prefer one brand over the other when a feature-by-feature comparison didn’t show a huge difference between similar products or services. I had taken a few advertising courses during university and it broadened my understanding of how powerful brand experiences and storytelling can drive business objectives. That balance of strategy and creativity is what I enjoy most about what I do and why I’ve continued to find purpose in my career.


"Marketing professionals have to act as conveners, and connect the dots so that there is alignment between stakeholders like sales and operation teams and executive leadership on what products and services will drive growth in any given quarter."

M7: How has branding changed over the years to become what it is today? What marketing metrics do you value most for brand management?
MA:
Branding used to be focused on the tactical: aesthetics of an ad, wordsmithing copy and “selling” a vision that was less about what the customer needed and more about what the brand wanted you to purchase. Much of this was driven by the rise of a consumerist society in the 1980s and part of the 1990s. But the new millennium witnessed boom-bust economic cycles, changing demographics and technological advances at a relentless pace than ever before. Gradually, the brand’s point of view started to become less relevant and empowered consumers took back control of their brand experience and their buyer journey.

Now brands have to look outward, focusing on the needs, behaviors and motivations of their end customers. They’re also recognizing that purpose and having an impact on society in a positive way is what will drive their enterprise value instead of share price alone. The institutional investors are also taking notice and aligning their investment criteria and evaluation accordingly. This was one of the outcomes of the Embankment Project for Inclusive Capitalism, a multi-year initiative that looked into making capitalism more dynamic, sustainable, inclusive and trusted. As a result, the brand metrics that I value most are outcome-focused like contribution to reputation value, net promoter score, brand perception (a combination of brand recall and service delivery) and employee engagement/advocacy scores.


"One of the most common mistakes companies make is implementing a brand strategy that isn’t aligned to the organization’s overall business goal."

M7: What are the common mistakes that companies make when implementing their brand strategies?
MA:
One of the most common mistakes is implementing a strategy that isn’t aligned to the organization’s overall business goal. This can be challenging in large corporations where there are multiple competing priorities, but marketing professionals have to act as conveners, and connect the dots so that there is alignment between stakeholders like sales and operation teams and executive leadership on what products and services will drive growth in any given quarter. And then create and implement holistic marketing campaigns that drive specific results that support the key performance indicators (KPIs) that the executives are measured on.

A second mistake is running campaigns that are not aligned from a macro or micro environmental perspective. For example, an oil company runs a social media campaign on their corporate citizenship initiatives at a time when the industry (not necessarily the company) is under regulatory scrutiny for bad environmental practices. The timing, not necessarily the content, of the campaign can appear tone deaf and unsympathetic to sentiment in society. Another instance is if a company runs an employer branding campaign about its great culture at a time when it might be going through litigation for a workplace harassment issue. To counter this, marketing and communication professionals need to create business partnerships across all layers and functions of the company so that they’re planning and executing brand strategies that are contextually appropriate and reputationally sound.


"Marketing and communication professionals need to create business partnerships across all layers and functions of the company so that they’re planning and executing brand strategies that are contextually appropriate and reputationally sound."

M7: Which strategies do you count on to help leaders understand the value of communications?
MA:
I’m a huge advocate of data-driven decision making and offering informed insights and recommendations. C-suite executives see data analytics as a distinct competitive advantage for their business, and it can be the main strategy we use to help them understand our value. Gut instinct has a role to play in planning and execution, but to convince others and demonstrate our importance, we need to have a common understanding of business goals and use language that senior leaders will understand. Examples of this include showing how strategic communications resulted in cost efficiencies, margin improvement and contribution to revenue or increase in sales. These are tangible financial results that any executive function will recognize and appreciate. In addition to the above, I also use benchmarking data (internal and external) and forecasting as part of my communication and resource planning so that I have a framework for reporting to leadership on communication-driven outcomes.

M7: With over 15 years of progressive experience in strategic communication, what advice do you have for leaders who are trying to improve their performance?
MA:
My advice is to bring the brand promise and purpose into your decision-making process. Often, not always, performance is directly impacted by the culture of an organization. And your culture is a reflection of your purpose. It conveys why what the organization does matters; make evangelists out of your customers and convince employees to be part of the journey not just show up for a pay cheque. Research by Gallup found that highly engaged teams are 21% more productive, but low employee engagement results in 65% lower share price over time.

Communication professionals are enablers of the brand. As strategic advisors, we have to help make the connection between culture and business performance—between the intangible and the tangible. The cost of getting it wrong can have a negative impact on reputation capital, share price and even the balance sheet. Research from the Engagement Institute showed that disengaged employees cost US businesses up to $550 billion a year, which is a little over half the nominal GDP of The Netherlands in 2019 ($900 billion). That’s not a comparison that you want someone making at your annual general meeting of shareholders.

ABOUT FIX NETWORK WORLD

The Fix Network global family of brands includes collision repair franchise networks Fix Auto and Pro Color, glass repair and replacement brand NOVUS Glass and mechanical shops Speedy Auto Service, as well as the full suite of SRP glass products. With more than 2,100 points of service in over 40 countries worldwide, Fix Network is the global aftermarket services leader. The Network continues to grow internationally, thanks to a solid foundation based on entrepreneurship and innovation. For more information, visit Fixnetwork.

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ADP® Assist with Generative AI Features Makes HCM Decisions Easy, Smart and Human

ADP | February 02, 2024

ADP®, a leading global technology company providing human capital management (HCM) solutions, announces the availability of ADP Assist, a cross-platform solution powered by generative AI (GenAI). ADP Assist enhances HR productivity, aids decision-making with data-driven insights, and streamlines day-to-day tasks for practitioners, managers, employees and executives with simple, human-like conversations. It harnesses the power of ADP's unparalleled data and expertise along with GenAI to simplify the world of work. ADP Assist builds on ADP's current AI capabilities and is currently in early release with some ADP clients today with a planned rollout for all clients. "For 75 years, ADP has been at the forefront of payroll and HR innovation. With ADP Assist, we're providing an intelligent platform that simplifies HR tasks, leaving time for people leaders to be more strategic," says Maria Black, president and chief executive officer of ADP. "It's not just another technical solution; it's a comprehensive experience that combines ADP's unmatched HCM dataset and expertise to empower HR professionals, leaders and employees." Data Drives Innovation Data is at the core of all ADP products and solutions, informing and driving ADP's approach to innovation and AI technology. ADP has the industry's largest and deepest HCM dataset with over one million clients spanning 140 countries and 41 million wage earners globally. ADP's extensive and unique dataset is used to train ADP's AI to anticipate what users want and need. ADP Assist turns unmatched data into highly credible and actionable insights so that clients can make smarter decisions. Easy, Smart and Human "In a constantly changing workplace, innovation must keep up and meet people's real-world needs," says Sreeni Kutam, president of global product and innovation at ADP. "ADP Assist is the next step in our vision to create an HR ecosystem that is not only efficient but empowers employees and HR professionals alike. We've created a platform that understands the complexities and dynamics of modern HR management and offers smart, user-centric solutions. And, as always, we are committed to the secure and ethical use of data to support these technologies." ADP Assist seamlessly integrates with ADP products across multiple ADP platforms. It anticipates what users want and proactively delivers actionable insights in plain language. Using an intuitive, conversational interface, ADP Assist provides valuable and contextual insights which touch every aspect of HR – payroll, time, talent, benefits, recruitment, analytics, reporting and compliance. ADP's portfolio of currently available GenAI- and AI-powered tools deliver the following capabilities Easy payroll. ADP Assist validates payroll information. It checks for payroll anomalies and uses GenAI to identify and help resolve missing tax registrations and answer questions by drawing on ADP's large, up-to-date dataset of compliance information. This saves HR effort and helps clients to ensure employees are paid accurately and on time. Smart analytics. ADP Assist uses GenAI to dramatically simplify report creation by understanding context and generating insightful reports in an easy-to-understand format. HR practitioners and leaders can easily access internal, national and global workforce data from ADP's deep HCM dataset to analyze compensation, turnover, candidate profile relevancy and talent market insights. Human insights. Intelligent and AI-based HR support for employees and clients can anticipate and solve common employee problems across HR, payroll, time and benefits. This reduces frustration for employees and eliminates certain low-value tasks for managers and HR practitioners. ADP Assist can send personalized, proactive notifications to employees on their mobile device or desktop to help resolve HR issues quickly, keeping them productive. AI-powered conversational interface makes it easy for employees to get the information they need without involving HR. Search by Intent. The RUN Powered by ADP payroll and HR solution features an omni search bar that understands intent behind the search terms and uses GenAI to mine ADP's deep knowledge base to deliver easy-to-use and effective content. "In the age of AI, the better the data, the better the artificial intelligence," says Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst for Constellation Research, Inc. "ADP is uniquely well-positioned in the field of HCM vendors given the breadth and depth of its data. ADP is using that data to make AI more human, focusing on customer success in a worldwide space. This really makes a difference not only for HR practitioners but for leaders and employees." About ADP Designing better ways to work through cutting-edge products, premium services and exceptional experiences that enable people to reach their full potential. HR, Talent, Time Management, Benefits and Payroll. Informed by data and designed for people.

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