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Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz’s use of data to intimidate and threaten users is perhaps the most evil use of data I’ve ever encountered, and it will take some doing to top him for the title of Measurement Menace of the year.

But it’s worth a deeper dive into the discussion of what you do with data once you get it. At some level, the fact that Cruz took data and used it to advance his mission, is a good lesson for all of us.

Far too many communications professionals collect a ton of data — social engagement data, web traffic and clip counts, even survey research data — that they never put to use.

After talking to communications professionals about research and evaluation for thirty years, I’ve come to the conclusion that other than a top-level report with a few observations, the vast majority of data being collected by communications professional goes unused. Sure there’s a nice little meeting where data is reported, and then it goes into a drawer and is never looked at again. This practice is a horrendous waste of money, resources, and effort for these 3 reasons:

  1. Data tells you what makes your customers act.

Anytime you ask a customer for an opinion, or get data on his/her actions or preferences, you gain a valuable data point. Companies are constantly getting data from customers but it too frequently lives in a silo far away from communications. Finding out what makes customers aware, prefer, or consider your products/services should be a key element in defining what constitutes quality media coverage or what constitutes a valuable engagement.

  1. Data can change behavior.

We all love and frankly need feedback on the projects, campaigns, and programs into which we have invested our time and efforts. Metrics provide that feedback. Knowing that something has worked or not worked informs behaviors and decisions going forward.

  1. Data helps you stop doing stupid things.

Too often, communications professional bury reports that tell them that a program, or an effort doesn’t work. Who wants to put your failures up for everyone to see? I do. Because if you point out what DOESN’T work, with luck, you won’t have to do it ever again. By moving resources from what failed to what works, you get greater efficiency and bigger bang for your budget.

 

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