In this everything-digital era, using data-driven insights to drive communications strategy is our lifeblood. If we embrace data, we can use it to step up and shine, demonstrate the importance of earned media and further prove our seat at the table brings significant value.
As PR professionals, we’re up against a number of challenges: fake news, public trust in brand, content pollution, looming crises, content overload. How we communicate and how we consume information is rapid, wild and often distracted. Staying ahead of the digital revolution is hard work.
We’re constantly grappling with trendy new communications apps bursting onto the scene, the blurring lines between marketing and communications, paid vs. earned media, and the traditional media approach slowly moving out of the spotlight. But with the tremendous digitization of our industry, we’ve moved from counting clips to analyzing measurable data from online news and channels. And this gives us the opportunity to extract insights that drive communications strategy.
With metrics so readily accessible, we can more accurately identify how our messages are received, detect looming crises, and track how our brands are viewed in the market.
Admittedly, the idea of analyzing data was a scary one at first. Overwhelming, even. Numbers weren’t my forte. But dabbling on analysis platforms led me to an epiphany: Don’t fear the data; the data tells a story. What’s our impact on the discussion? Where is our voice showing up – or not – and how is it being heard? Where can our brand be stronger, and where is it impeded? This is valuable insight. We can assess and reassess our strategies, and go to the table armed with facts that allow for more informed recommendations on PR strategies. We can be even better brand counselors.
Some argue that measuring ourselves is a set up for failure. That if we don’t hit the mark, we haven’t succeeded. But, the data isn’t the be-all, end-all. It’s actually just the opposite. It’s the beginning of a conversation. It’s answering “why” we succeeded in one quarter, but perhaps not in the next. It’s how we bring unanticipated trends to our client discussions and recommend new approaches to ensure our brand’s voice is heard louder, stronger and with more impact.
Of course, no one likes to be measured. But remember that measurement isn’t a report card so much as a tutor educating us on our quest to be better brand strategists. Data is a tool we as PR professionals can use to learn and get better over time, and educate our clients on strategy and best approaches to deliver messages into the market.
We’re all on a path to be better communicators, and as we continue to use research and evaluation to inform our work, here are a few points to remember:
- Don’t fear the data! Embrace metrics to inform and educate your discussions.
- Track patterns: where is our brand, where are our competitors?
- Identify highs and lows in the data and the root cause: did the company announce significant news? Issue a press release? Launch a product? Host a major event?
- Use this information to formulate a strategy that works best for your brand.
- Bring an informed discussion to your client or brand leaders. Show them why certain brands are spiking in the news, gaining traction at certain times of the year, and where you brand stacks up.
- Frequently revisit the metrics to reassess your strategy and shift as needed to make an impact for your brand in the market.
As the digital revolution continues to unfold, we’ll see more trends emerge. New technology like artificial intelligence, chatbots, and data-mining robots will become part of the discussion and will continue to provide us with opportunity to develop insight. The tools will be better, our insights will be stronger, and ultimately, our value as PR professionals and brand advisors will be even greater.
Megan Dubrowski, US and Global Communications, KPMG