The Paine of Measurement August 2017

“We’re all ‘bout that data, ‘bout that data, no hunches…”

This isn’t just a plot to implant a Meghan Trainor earworm in your head. It really is reality for most organizations. With data you can get a seat at the table, without it you’ll at best be relegated to the kids’ table.

For years we’ve been yammering on about how important data-informed decision making is to the success of any communications professional. And it turns out people were listening.

(In the interest of data transparency, I have no actual proof of a correlation between the recent uptick in the availability of communications data and my years of ranting about the need for it. ? So, just do as I say not as I do.)

In case you haven’t caught my rants, here’s your cheat sheet as to why the days of decisions made on hunches and “whoever shouts loudest” are over.

  1. The ascension of the number crunchers

Even before the recession decimated the economy, CFOs and COOs were turning to data to make decisions. Back when I was helping HP measure results, in the post Sarbanes Oxley era, I was asked to put my argument for metrics in language that the CFO would understand. So I argued that without measures of success for the millions they were spending on PR, they were liable to charges of negligence in terms of the requirements for reporting and accountability to shareholders. We got funding.

Today, number crunchers have more data and more power. Unless PR gets real good at using more of the former, they’re going to lose more of the latter.

  1. The availability of relevant data

Back in the early days of PR measurement, there was lots of business data available, but little of it had any relevance to PR or communications. Most of it was big generic anonymized databases that offered no insights as to what potential customers might be thinking. A few companies, like P&G, AT&T, and Miller, had a ton of historic data that allowed their marketing mix models to show the impact of PR. But such systems were far beyond the reach of 90% of PR people.

Today, useful numbers are much more available. For instance, anyone with a website or a Facebook page can set up a measurement system to see the impact of their outreach efforts.

  1. Expectations

Thanks partly to stories about data mining and data breaches, awareness of what data is available is at an all-time high. As a result, bosses in companies of all sizes think data provides a magic bullet to all things measurement. And so, whether you like it or not, unless you’re ready to retire, you probably need to understand the power of data and the perils of not having any.

To that end, in this, our special Data Issue, we’ve brought you:

How to Use Your Data to Be a Communications Superhero

Data News and Current Events


Numbers You Can Use

Thanks to geralt on Pixabay for the image.

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