I recently spoke at the PRSA 2018 International Conference in Austin, TX on why data-driven communications team are more agile and efficient.  In a nutshell, quality data and analysis facilitate timely, informed strategic decision making, allowing teams to pivot strategies and resources when necessary, and demonstrate when a crisis response is needed.

All too often quality data and analysis goes by the wayside due to budget concerns, day to day priorities, or just not knowing where to begin. However, in today’s business world, the price of not having quality data and analysis to support decision making is higher than the investment it requires. In fact, a 2018 KPMG study found that a top CEO goal is to make sure any decision or solution is justified and measurable through data they can trust.

So what is meant by quality data and analysis? It starts with metrics tied to the macro goals of the business and highly accurate analysis of the data. It ends with data-driven insights, or windows into your business that reveal the story behind the numbers – a story you can use to to drive strategic decision making.

Here are three of the most important points I made during the presentation:

The communications function must be aligned with business objectives

Business objectives are goals that the entire company works towards, not just the communications department. For example, wanting to be known as an innovative company is a business goal to which all departments from Operations and Finance to Human Resources and Communications must contribute.

Metrics like mentions, impressions, and AVEs usually are not rooted in the goals of the business and do not yield data-driven insights that tell you what to do next. If you aren’t sure about your company’s business goals, have a conversation about the topic with your executive leadership. They will appreciate that you want to make data-driven decisions and that you are seeking to align your department with the business.

Reputation is the core of our profession

Measuring your company’s reputational health on a regular basis will ensure the communications department contributes to the macro objectives of the business.  You will be making data-driven, justifiable decisions that your CEO will respect. Your organization’s high-level reputational goals should be translated into communications metrics that we call reputational drivers.

Reputational drivers are conceptual values like innovation or workplace environment that your company wants to be known for. These concepts can’t be captured by a few keywords and they require accurate sentiment and contextual analysis to get a true picture of brand health. Though more time-consuming to measure accurately than something simplistic like impressions, they form the backbone of quality analysis that will power your messaging, media relations, and influencer strategies.

Microtargeting and personalization is the world we live in

Use data to ensure your key messages are amplified and reaching the right audiences. Understand influencers by the topics they write about it, their sentiment towards those topics in the past, the social sharing they receive, and their audience demographics. The aggregate of this data will help you prioritize your outreach. Then use the data again when crafting your pitch to personalize your outreach and maximize the chances that your message is picked up. Customizing your outreach will be much more effective than an impersonal, mass email blast.

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