Garbage in, garbage out; measurement and data in communications
Ali White, PR & Marketing Director
- The only way to evaluate if your marketing and communications activity is truly effective, is to move away from traditional methods
- Data is the answer to measuring the effectiveness of marketing and communications
- Focus on the transparent sharing of data to truly measure the effectiveness of marketing and communications activity
We live in an age of data. Brands and businesses today have more data, about themselves, their customers, employees and their market, at their fingertips than ever before. For communications professionals, this means the traditionally tricky job of measuring effectiveness has become more precise – and at the same time, more complicated.
Still to this day, communications professionals face a host of problems when reporting back on their own effectiveness. These problems are pervasive, and often self-perpetuated. Communications professionals seeking to develop a new reporting strategy, or as is more often the case, are unlucky enough to inherit one, are usually taking on a process reliant on an unstable foundation. And as any data scientist, programmer or researcher will happily remind you – garbage in = garbage out.
Usually, old measurement systems were built with the best data available at the time of their inception, often to satisfy a need from another department to highlight one thing – a big, impressive-looking, number.
As time has moved on, it’s highly likely that not only will the objectives, motivations and strategic direction for communications for your brand or business have changed completely, and so will the tools available to measure them. Let’s not forget, it really wasn’t too long ago that PR professionals were literally measuring column inches with rulers and diligently maintaining press cuttings sticker books in order to calculate the biggest AVE figure they could conjure for the year.
Alongside tunnel vision on big numbers, traditional measurement systems have also been overtly output focussed, for example: “we have spent our time and budget doing X number of X”. Although tracking activity is good and a requirement for effective measurement of productivity, without combining an output focus with an outcome focus, we don’t gain any new information. Another pitfall is a measurement system which completely lacks context, for example: “this campaign generated a 3% CTR”. On its own, this number doesn’t tell us anything, it only serves to raise more questions like, 3% of how many? Is that higher or lower than last year? Is that higher or lower than our competitor’s campaign?
So, as it turns out, the aforementioned problems the communications industry faces when it comes to transparency in reporting, is largely a problem of our own design. BUT, thankfully, the path to wisdom is paved with humility so now that we’re willing to admit it to ourselves, we can do something about it.
In the age of data, where online media and modern CRM make coverage and prospective customer and consumer behaviour highly trackable, we have more information than we need. Data sources overflow. For instance:
- Social media
- Google Analytics
- Website conversions
- Lead source
- Lead qualification
- Sales pipeline
- Sales won and lost
- Brand recognition surveys
- Employee and customer advocacy
But without objectives and a strategy, they are all just numbers. Google Analytics alone allows marketers to track over 200 separate metrics without the provision of a roadmap on what matters and what doesn’t.
So, we have to build one. By focussing on data, and therefore measurement, in a different way, it is possible to both adopt a change of mindset, and champion a change of approach within your organisation which centres on the transparent sharing of data. By moving beyond readily accessible numbers and challenging yourself to deliver insight on whether or not your communications efforts are having the desired impact, you will reduce the amount of garbage you have to wade through to get to what you really want to know.
To do this, you need to create core principles for your approach to measurement. Our approach encompasses the following:
- Measurement is not the justification of activity. Use measurement to gain active insights into the impact of your activities, which can then be used to inform the planning and implementation of strategic programmes
- A balanced approach must be taken to the collection of data. Data must be knowledgeably and creatively interpreted in order to build a clear picture of impact
- Avoid survivorship bias. Give equal weighting to measuring unsuccessful activity as successful activity in order to grow and improve
Based on these core principles, we have developed our own system to track the correlation between communications performance and business impact – CC Insight.
Great news for communications professionals who want an affordable, accessible communications measurement tool, CC Insight is now live and available in a variety of subscription and access packages.
CC Insight is transparent, data centric and focused on identifying uplifts in awareness, affinity and action, across each channel and target audience.
Contact us for more information.