Becoming Data Driven

Yesterday, NATIONAL Public Relations (the company I work for) acquired Shift Communications, and it's a big deal for two reasons:

  1. A Canadian firm bought a US firm. This usually goes the other way around
  2. Shift's key value proposition is Data Driven Communications

Everyone wants to be data driven and either claims to do it, or actually does it, and having been doing it for the past decade of my career, I can tell you that this shit ain't easy. It's not easy to make happen across an entire company, let alone make it your whole brand's mantra.

The funny part is - this isn't a new trend (as you can see). Since 2004 at least, everyone has been looking for answers

The ultimate problem however, is multidisciplinary integration.

Data driven decision making sounds awesome. What's not to love about having all of your hard decisions made for you through simple math. The problem though, is that it never works like that. Data driven anything starts with a beginning, middle and end that not everybody wants to invest in.

The Beginning

Data collection is the basis of all greatness in a data driven program. Start with measurable objectives, and make sure you're tracking all of the metrics that ultimately lead to them.
cigarette burns

Why It's Hard

This means having deeper more interesting conversations with clients to talk about their expectations. In Public Relations, this means identifying numbers beyond awareness and digging into the very reason for the awareness in the first place... Like selling stuff. It can be difficult to get into these discussions if your mandate isn't to sell anything, or drive direct business results, but it's important to find some evidence that your awareness is causing some kind of change to the business. If you can't, then you'll end up in a vicious cycle of trying to find higher impression numbers every month. At some point, you won't be able to outdo yourself.

Who's Impacted

Account managers or anybody client facing has to potentially connect the dots between business objectives they may never have been held accountable for in past efforts. Having open dialogue between Analytics and Account teams is crucial to ensure that new measurement goals are achievable without sacrificing the future of the account.

The Middle

Actually evaluating these data points and doing something about them is the essence of being data driven.

Why It's Hard

It's this moment in a campaign where you have to be willing to take a different course of action based on what you're seeing the data say. We typically sell a plan to a client, and figure we'll complete the campaign as planned. There's a two way street problem where the data may tell us that what we're doing isn't working, but worse, it may also tell us that we need more investment to make it work.

Being data driven means that sometimes we have to shift gears, and it doesn't always mean that we save money in the process.

Who's Impacted

Creative Services, Account Services, Strategy, let's face it, everyone is affected when data comes back that's unexpected. It becomes important to identify low hanging fruit as often as possible to constantly pivot areas of effort rather than have to completely restructure a program.

The End

With a program or campaign completed - we get to look at the data, and see how things converted. Which is great, as long as we plan to continue with a new version of the same program, or simply extend it.

Why It's Hard

We rarely run the same program over and over again. With the exception of an on-going blog or other multi-year platforms, we as marketers tend to look for new ways to approach the market so that we can test new channels and ideas.
which half
Comparing apples to oranges between completely different programs prevents you from seeing the bigger picture, or getting close to figuring out the half of your budget you shouldn't use anymore.

Who's Impacted

Once again - account teams are the most impacted at this point with either positive data, or... not as positive. And the more clearly the data points out how awareness did or didn't connect to an objective may lead to some sad trombone sounds.

Clearing the Hurdles

Ultimately, data driven cultures are defined not by analytics experts (though they're impossible without them), but by a collective of team members who all want to achieve the same goal - transparent success across the board. Being in a data driven culture doesn't just mean great charts and always-on programs. It truly means an en masse unified culture of marketers who want to keep improving on every aspect of delivery for the brands they work with.

Becoming Data Driven
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