At a recent industry conference, Joyce Boland, VP of Global Applications Marketing at Oracle, discussed the need for talent in the industry she coined as “smarketers” – people who can bridge the divide between data and marketing to tell the right data stories, and communicate what the numbers mean in an impactful way to key decision makers and stakeholders. As digital research and analytics professionals, people in our field are in the greatest position to plug this gap, and the best way for us to do it is by taking advantage of the multiple data sources at our disposal to guide and counsel our clients.
Moving beyond social listening.
Several years ago, organizations began using data and insights gathered via social listening to drive business strategy, analyze potential threats and assess how consumers and stakeholders think and feel about brands. This was a major shift in the industry as technology companies provided us with a platform to aggregate and analyze the millions of conversations people have across social platforms – something that was never before available at such a large scale.
Fast forward to 2017 and most organizations are using ongoing, real-time social listening to mine for content creation opportunities, stay abreast of industry trends and monitor conversations around brands and competitors. Social listening is also being used as a research technique to benchmark what “good” looks like, and to measure the shift or change in conversation or perception over time.
While this approach continues to be valuable, a more holistic method is needed, and organizations need to start building on their social listening data with data from other sources to gain a more well-rounded understanding of sentiment, intent and behavior across consumers and stakeholders.
For instance, at Ketchum we recently used social listening to understand what consumers were saying about one of our technology clients as a brand overall. Within this particular analysis we also considered media coverage regarding the company and its key product categories, as well as data on content performance across their owned social channels to understand which tactics and content themes were driving true, meaningful engagement with their audiences. What we found at the intersection of these three data sources led us to a single strong and simple strategy that could be translated across products to build brand love among consumers.
This example is very specific, and channel, online and social listening are just a few sources we can tap into while doing research. Recently, we have also used data from sales channels, surveys, CRM systems, search and more to help our clients understand where they are, as well as what they can do to get where they want to be. For each of these situations, a bespoke approach should be created based on the aim of the project. This way, we are able to tailor our approach to ensure we are pulling the right data from the right places to make recommendations that ladder up to business goals and objectives.
Moving up the strategy chain.
While we as researchers know the value of this type of work is high, we need to find a way to better communicate this to our internal and external stakeholders. These multi-faceted research projects can cost more money, take more time and can be more difficult to explain when compared to something as simple as a social listening analysis.
The most successful strategy for “making the sell” is to focus on the stakeholder, and position the research output as key in supporting them in what they’re trying to accomplish in their role. This will not only increase buy-in, but can also help position PR and communications as instrumental in driving the overall business strategy forward.
Across the industry, PR professionals are trying to earn a place at the table with C-Suite decision makers. Using data from a variety of sources can help in this quest, pushing us up the strategy chain so we have a voice in the room with company heads and leaders of other integrated communications disciplines.
A version of this article can be found on PRSA.org.