Do you know whether or not your communication strategy is working? Analytics can tell you.
Ed Chambliss, president of Phelps, says all brands should use analytics to help guide their actions.
In this interview, Ed discusses the benefits of analyzing your communication, why you shouldn’t leave analytics to the last minute and how conversion metrics can give you a good sense of your business impact.
The PR industry is constantly evolving. What has been the most important change recently?
A few years ago, I think the answer would have been “the emergence of big data,” but now I think that’s evolved into what we can actually do with all that data. Marketers are partnering with (or hiring) data scientists to sift through all the information, letting computers look for insights and patterns that help them understand who they’re talking to and what to say to them.
We started dabbling in this area for our clients a couple of years ago and have been amazed at the nuggets we’ve found simply by defining success, and letting the computers tell us what leads to it.
Why is analytics so important for PR and marketing?
It’s really difficult to influence what people think, feel, believe and do if you know nothing about them. Analytics can be a “fly on the wall” that reports back vital clues that can help us catch a glimpse of who we’re talking to and how they respond to what we’re saying.
What role does analytics play in developing a PR or marketing strategy?
Without analytics, we have no idea whether or not what we’re doing is actually working. And considering that the goal of strategy is to affect change, analytics can validate (or invalidate) what we think is the best course of action. Additionally, post-effort analytics often yield new insights, which empowers an upward spiral of constant improvement.
What are some of the biggest mistakes brands make with analytics?
Based on my experience, the biggest mistake is leaving analytics out of the conversation until the last minute. This almost accidental inclusion of measurement (“Oh yeah, we probably should measure this thing that’s going live tomorrow.”) is detrimental not only to the accurate measurement of the work, but also the finessing of the communications before they go out the door.
I always find it interesting when a company is focused on numbers when they’re dollars, but doesn’t seem to place much importance om the numbers that show the value those dollars provided.
What are some of the metrics communication professionals should look at when measuring their campaigns?
If companies are measuring success, almost all of them will look at upfront metrics like spend, impressions, clicks, likes, retweets, etc. But if you don’t include business-focused conversion metrics such as subscriptions or sales, you really don’t know what impact you’re having on the business.
Many of our clients are already looking at conversion metrics, so we’ve been moving them toward attribution models that allow us to see the weighted contributions of each of the efforts that led to the conversion. After all, rarely do people only see one communication before they convert.
How do you envision the future of PR measurement? What will change most? What will stay the same?
Brands, publishers and consumers will continue to benefit from the micro-targeting enabled by big data strategies such as machine learning and predictive analytics. Essentially, leveraging the insights found in the big piles of data we’re all creating will allow us to better understand what individual consumers are looking for and wanting. So we’ll be able to meet those desires with less wasted effort. This will allow measurement to become even more and more refined.
Throughout all this change, one constant is paramount: We can never forget we’re talking to human beings. If what we’re communicating fails to resonate with them, then it’s all just busy work. Never forget; persuasion is an art, not a science. As such, we’re artists, not technicians.
What advice do you have for communication professionals looking to use data more effectively? Where should they start?
First, I’d say they should invest in a solid audit of their data to ensure it is accurate. Constant change and distributed tracking solutions can often lead to data not accurately representing behavior. This can stem from technical issues or something as simple as mislabeling. But if your data is faulty, then you’re making faulty decisions.
Next, I’d focus on understanding the overall conversion landscape, realizing that many parts of a typical conversion path are offline, or entirely unquantified. Map out as much as you can, being brave enough to include parts that are currently unmeasured. Then move toward how you can fill in the gaps of your knowledge.
Lastly, share your data with everyone in your organization, including agencies and partners. The benefits of having everyone on your team seeing the same picture are enormous.
Rapid Fire Round
1. I always thought I’d be…a newspaper columnist, like my grandfather.
2. My biggest pet peeve is…people who say “mediums.” Honestly people, the plural of “medium” is “media.” This is your job; you should probably know that.
3. My hobbies outside of work include…being the father of two wonderful girls, camping and baking.
4. If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be…the Dalai Lama.
5. My dream vacation would be…me, a 32-foot sailboat and the Caribbean.
6. One thing most people don’t know about me is…I’m a huge fan of classic country music.