Advancing communications measurement and evaluation

To Insight and Beyond: Gathering the Information You Need from Your Organization’s Data

We’re now well into April, which means the first quarter of 2018 is gone.

Like many companies, you likely spent some time recently combing through the data your organization collected during those first three months of the year.

Your bosses and/or members of the C-suite probably wanted to see some reports on the communications activities your team worked on during this time.

So what did you do?

Download data from the tools that collect information, turn those into charts, slap it into a report, and move on?

It’s tempting to do this, especially considering the amount of data we possess and the pace of communicators’ typical work day.

But if your reports are packed with too much data and not enough insight, you’re unable to provide your organization with the key information it needs.

It’s tough to decipher what data actually matters among the mountains you collect day over day. It’s even harder to look at this data and pull insight from it.

But with some practice and targeted use of data, you can tell compelling stories about the progress of your communications campaigns and make data-driven plans for the future.

Where should you begin?

Before any communications work begins, there should be tools and plans in place to track campaign data and activity.

At a minimum, it is helpful for communicators to have Google Analytics tracking online activity, CRM software logging customer and prospect information, and a media monitoring tool tracking your mentions.

These tools, not to mention any email or social activity you conduct, generate so much data. When you’re in the planning phases of communications campaigns, however, it is key to decide what matters to your business and how to connect this work and its data to business goals.

If, for example, a restaurant posts a promo code for a free appetizer on their Instagram to generate more foot traffic on a certain night of the week, vanity metrics such as likes wouldn’t matter. Although it looks good to get more than 100 likes on a photo, what really matters to the business is whether or not they converted more people to customers with their coupon code. In this case, it would be better to measure using a point of sale system to track how many codes were used and how much these customers spent on the rest of their meal, rather than measuring the engagement with the post about the promo offering.

Prior to launching a campaign, do the necessary setup that will allow you to track your work, including setting up Google Analytics goals, implementing UTM codes, and doing baseline analysis.

Establish how you will tie your communications work back to business goals and decide on the KPIs that will illustrate the successes and shortcomings of your work. Selecting the right KPIs allows you to ignore the data that doesn’t prove the value of communications work to overall business goals.

Your campaign is over. You have your data. Now what?

Once your campaign has run its course, you will be left with all of the data about how consumers interacted with it.

With the pre-campaign work you did, you will have some direction about the data that does and doesn’t matter during your analysis and reporting.

Begin by exporting the key data into usable formats, such as an Excel sheet, and review it. Turn the information into visuals to better convey the work you did and how it fared.

Compile this data and the accompanying information into a report.

But you’re not done yet.

Even with this compilation of KPIs, you’re not necessarily conveying the insight your leadership team needs.

A report full of charts and data can show how many conversions you were able to generate from a webinar, but it doesn’t necessarily show why this matters, how you can improve, and/or changes that you may need to make.

Analyzing for insight provides context for the work you do. Look at your data in your report from a communicator’s perspective. How can you turn it into a story?

For example, instead of simply showing the number of conversions generated from a webinar, compare this number with other lead generation efforts and/or how many leads were generated in previous webinars. Show attribution for how the leads found the webinar registration link, such as social, email, or organic search. Evaluate how many people registered for this webinar in comparison to a previous webinar you hosted that took place on a different day of the week or at a different time. This additional information provides the context you need to really gain the insight that can guide decision-making.

How are actual companies doing this?

Companies, on both a large and small scale, review and analyze data on a regular basis to gain the insight they need to make better decisions.

In 2011, Netflix invested in an American version of the British show House of Cards, which was set to star Kevin Spacey and be directed by David Fincher. With each episode costing from $4 to $6 million to produce, Netflix would spend over $100 million on the first two seasons.

This massive investment, the beginning of Netflix’s launch of original content on their platform, relied on data. Analysts delved into their data, finding that many users watched both David Fincher’s film The Social Network and the British version of House of Cards, and viewers who watched the British House of Cards were apt to watch films starring Kevin Spacey and/or directed by David Fincher. These three key factors indicated that viewers would be interested in a political drama starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher.

Since Netflix had data about viewers who were likely to be interested in the show, Netflix could suggest House of Cards directly to those viewers. Additionally, during the promotion process, Netflix produced ten different cuts of the trailer. They delivered the most fitting one to their users based on previous viewing habits, increasing the chances a specific user would commit to watching the show.

Similarly, analysts at Gartner worked with a US financial services company to study employee engagement to improve business performance. The study, which evaluated an employee’s first two years with the company, found that all the top performers had education associated with a degree, but the specific school attended or the grades earned did not indicate the employee’s level of success or failure with the company.

With this insight gained via employee data, the company was able to implement a new hiring process, which did not emphasize schools attended or grades earned but instead highlighted candidates with a history of completed college classes and/or who showed success in a job following college. In the six months following this data-driven change, the company’s revenue increased by $4 million.

Although your company may not be making multi-million dollar changes or decisions like Netflix or Gartner’s client, the data your company collects still possesses value that can improve your company and further its goals. Consider the role of data early in the planning process of campaign launches and connect it to business goals. By reviewing the data that matters, you’ll be able to extract key information that can improve your business’ performance.

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