Darren Sleeger, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, PublicRelay
Unfortunately, most of our clients have lived through the following scenario. The Head of Communications is delivering a presentation to the CEO (or the Board), showing graphs with various data points like spikes in positive coverage and then someone in the room challenges them. “What was that uptick from again?” “Really? Can you dig in deeper on that?” “That just seems off, based on what I’ve seen in the media.” And they go back to their team to get more detail.
Then it happens – they uncover that not only was that spike based on irrelevant media hits, but they’ve been inaccurately analyzing the content in their data set. Now what?
- Go ream out the staff you put in charge of not only finding, but correctly using, a media intelligence tool
- Own this problem and make sure it never happens again
We all know that (b) is the “right” choice, but how are you supposed to accomplish that, with so much on your plate? There is no way you are going to sit through vendor meetings if they are just demos of “tools” that you aren’t going to use yourself. But YOU own the outcome and YOU are going to have to go into future executive meetings and tell your stories with confidence. That means this process must entail more than just hiring a “tool” provider to solve the issues; it must get you the answers that make a difference in executive-level conversations.
Many of our clients have been in this situation and never want to go through it again. And when we dive into how the problem materialized, we uncover the same underlying issue – no one on the PR team was hired to be a data scientist – they were hired to be communications pros, helping to execute strategy in their area of expertise.
While this may seem overly dramatic, it’s an unfortunate truth. The tools most communications teams use simply collect and generally categorize content and tone from keywords found in the text. If anything is irrelevant or incorrect at this point in the process, the analysis is useless and can send your team in a completely wrong direction.
So, your teams spend valuable hours constantly training the system. Trying over and over again to get the perfect mix of keywords and Boolean strings. And what is perfection? Never missing a single article or post AND not cleaning out their relevant mentions? Is this really what you are paying your team to do? (And by the way, if your agency is managing this on your behalf the same frustration is happening on their end and you’re paying the bill.)
How important is demonstrating to your Board and CEO that you’re making strategic decisions? Is it as crucial (or even more crucial) than choosing an agency of record? Would you leave your agency decisions entirely up to your staff? If not, then why would you entrust them to run your analytics strategy and hire business partners on their own without your guidance?
Now is the time to take the reins on your measurement and analysis. Focus less on finding “tools” to track your programs and more on ways to deliver the answers your business leaders expect. This way, you can confidently make data-driven decisions that tie to the company goals. Never again will you worry about the perceptions of the C-Suite –YOU can come equipped with key insights when they start asking hard questions – and the hard questions will come. Fortunately, hard questions are easy to answer when you have the right approach and reliable data to back it up.