Begin Simply. Simply Begin. Communications Metrics for Actionable Insights


Wendy Glavin headshotBy Wendy Glavin, Marketing and Communications Strategist/Branding+Social Media 

Insights to Action: Improving PR Performance” was the theme of the Strategic Research Conference hosted by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) and PRIME Research on June 9th in New York City.

To set the stage, Mark Weiner, CEO of PRIME Research recently wrote for the Institute for Public Relations, “More and more money flows into PR and social analytics tools, APIs and services but users don’t know how to filter, transform or digest the data and apply it effectively.

The value of data is in the insights, not in the data. Only human expertise adds the benefits of content relevancy, data accuracy, and interpretive analysis and most importantly, the actionable insights and strategic guidance that decision-makers need.”

Organizations pursue data and analytics for a range of reasons, most often to build competitive advantage or improve the customer experience. Whatever the motivation, companies have found mixed success: 86 percent of executives say their organizations have been at best only somewhat effective at meeting the primary objective of their data and analytics programs, including more than one-quarter who say they’ve been ineffective. (McKinsey, 2016)

Thought-provoking analysis, discussion and case studies illustrated how data helps elevate businesses and brands with presenters Gary Grates of W2O Group, Sarab Kochhar, PhD, Institute for Public Relations, Jane Woo, AbbVie, Michael Reid of PIMCO, Marcy Cohen and Jay Mandel of MasterCard, Claire Dixon of eBay, Allyson Hugley of Weber Shandwick, Carlisle Campbell of Capital One and Andrew Bowins of Samsung North America.


Gary Grates asserted, “Our focus is reshaping employee engagement through organizational clarity. Today, the balance of power has shifted and companies no longer own their brand. There are more messages than meaning, more research than insight, more information than knowledge, more teams than teamwork and more activities than results.”

Gary’s co-author of “Organizational Clarity,” Sarab Kochhar, PhD, added, “Data analytics offers a new lens into where employees are and what makes people tied to the organization.” She continued, “Employees expect to be heard through discussion, dialogue and debate, which serve as a means of learning. This is a completely different dynamic that is all about giving power back to the people. Companies cannot dictate anymore.”

The findings recommend giving employees clarity with three broad dimensions: “The Job Dimension,” how well do employees understand their goals, “The Strategy Dimension,” how will the organization look in the future, and “The Market Dimension,” how does the marketplace look for the organization and the employee.

Tina McCorkindle, PhD, of The Institute for Public Relations moderated the conversation between Marcy Cohen and Jay Mandel of MasterCard. Corporate communications VP Marcy Cohen said her focus is to change the conversation and culture because a shared voice is an important data point. “We learned to integrate with marketing which had a different role. We felt in communications we were poised to do it best.” Now, we learn from marketing and they learn from us. Jay helped us learn about paid and earned. We use APIs to connect to systems, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others. We tag everything that is published. Now we are able to slice and dice our data.”

Jay Mandel, VP of Digital Marketing and Marcy’s counterpart at MasterCard, said “a few years ago we were trying to get what we needed; what we were looking for in marketing. We are doing a campaign and we needed to understand what we will talk about. We learned to engage with influencers. He added, “We don’t hire an agency for the day in and day out. We control of our own destiny. If you have the skill and time to go into PRIME Research’s system you can get all the research and infographics you want. We have one single source of truth for data now. We are not dividing marketing and communications.”

Jane Woo of Abbvie further expounded upon the benefits of data analytics using Net Sentiment, a ratio of positive and negative mentions of a topic. She said this is an important KPI for assessing how AbbVie compares to its competitors. It is particularly important for use at the stakeholder level.

Claire Dixon of eBay explained the company’s focus on understanding its reputation across demographics because the company prides itself on being responsible. She shared, “After discovering through surveys that people didn’t think of eBay as a data company but rather, commerce and economically-focused, we realized we hadn’t talked about it to consumers.  This was a real opportunity to link our experience and improve our reputation.”

With enhanced data-driven capabilities, eBay focused on telling a more human story, driving consumer consideration, demonstrating business strategy and accelerating culture change.

The company expanded its communication ecosystem by focusing on those who create and publish content and a more dominant group of technology platforms that distribute it.  Publishers, include traditional and digital native news organizations, video and other digital influencers and brand storytellers. Platforms, the larger sphere of influence, include social networks, search engines and newfangled mobile apps and other content curators.

Claire offered, “With this framework we were better equipped to understand what people thought and what influences their opinions. Our narrative evolved, we became smarter about our channel mix, using blogs to tell our story on LinkedIn and invest in Twitter, doubling our engagement. Then we measured and iterated.”

She concluded, “Part and parcel of doing business in the valley is constant reinvention, which is what we did.”

Allyson Hugley, who leads Weber Shandwick’s research and insights practice, emphasized that “winning is working with data and committing to advancing analytic skills. At the senior level, data preparedness is better but is still not where we need to be.

She spoke of creating different communication research experiences, such as, uncovering biochemical responses in addition to verbal cues.

Emerging technologies will allow for more seamless integration of analytics. At a B2B Gartner Conference, we asked for the use of RFID tracking to optimize event experiences. This offered predictive modeling based on where attendees went and what they did as opposed to not just what they said.

Andrew Bowins believes that we are living in an age of content pollution. With 1.65 B people on Facebook monthly; 4 B video views on YouTube per day; 310 M on Twitter; 400 million active monthly users on Instagram, “It was impossible to get a conversation going, everyone is talking too much.” (Yogi Berra)

“I was angry because I felt that we were in a communications “Deli counter” where the C-Suite was ordering projects like a deli sandwich. “I’ll take two releases, one case of executive briefings and ¼ pound of events.” Just piling content into channels, what is the value?”

“We’re all talking about change but keep saying the same things over and over again. Millions of articles, blogs and published content appear as news. Even using native advertising which have always be considered to be advertorials. But, in our newsrooms, are people advocating for us?”

The tenets of PR 101 are the same. Who are the media? Who are the audiences? But we need to change and operate in the new world with a new playbook and that change is metrics to insight to determine, how does it all add up to something?

We built the tools with PRIME Research to show what’s trending, who the influencers are and then go into the news and data feeds to gain insights. Every click of the tool gives us insights into what we’re doing so it all adds up to something.

PR Week discovered 95% of journalists go to a digital newsroom or website once a month, 70% said their expectations are unmet. Reporters see the biggest problems as: Lack of information and access to contacts, lack of access to multimedia content, no easy search solution, information was outdated, no media kit with logos, bios and information, the sites’ social media tools and look and feel.

Mark Weiner's closing remarks at the IPR / PRIME Research event.

Mark Weiner’s closing remarks at the IPR / PRIME Research event.

Andrew Bowins suggests, make it simple: Two clicks or less, make it easy to get what is needed and provide a simple press kit. The technology is here. Invest with your team and determine how to shape data and get the insights. Provide storytelling with purpose and editorial relevance.

Start pioneering and create a new dialogue.

Mark Weiner concluded with the following points:

  • Research and insights are a challenge to everyone. Begin simply but simply begin.
  • In communications research, obstacles are a matter of unwillingness rather than inability.  It’s time that we as a profession commit more fully to research and analysis.
  •  Data is the common language of business, which is not just breaking down silos across functions but breaking barriers between communications, the board and the C-Suite.
  • I encourage you to visit the Institute for PR website to subscribe to their free newsletter and to download accessible whitepapers which are constantly refreshed with important new information.
  • Go to PRIME Research’s website which features a new blog of actionable insights each week.





About the Author: Wendy Glavin is the Founder and President of her own firm. Wendy has more that 15 years experience as a marketing communications, public relations and social media strategist, having worked for a Fortune 500 company, Burson Marsteller, advertising and public relations agencies, a publishing firm and as a consultant to technology firms. Most recently, Wendy consulted for BIGfrontier Communications Group and clients in the FinTech, Finance and SaaS spaces. Wendy’s expertise spans traditional, new and social media marketing. Contact her at 



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