10 June 2020

Data communications, where technology meets creativity

Mike Robb

Writing for Communicate Magazine, Boldspace Co-founder and Managing Director, Mike Robb, outlined how effective data usage can help corporate communications professionals focus on targeted campaigns, respond to crises, and help leaders decide what is important and worthy of consideration.

Let’s be clear: the days of communications activity determined entirely by the contents of a human mind are over. The world moves too fast. Effective use of data ensures your customers or stakeholders have a better experience of your brand by mixing human intuition and creativity with data-led fact. In so doing, you will deliver more precise, targeted and efficient campaigns than ever before.

For those at the start of this journey, it is more obvious to see how data can be deployed in some cases than others. Monitoring and evaluating trends as they develop; identifying consistent behaviours of customers or journalists; tracking sentiment on issues and competitors in real-time; developing a clear understanding of what information people are actually searching for and how to adapt your communications to fit; and responding to crises as they emerge are five of the most obvious areas in which data can have a fundamental impact on your communications.

In a crisis, to take one of these examples, a response today that is not led by data is severely lacking. If a negative story breaks about your brand, the data can tell you how big that story will get based on objective fact, not opinion. Technology exists today that can tell you after 30 minutes of a story being live how far that news will spread over a 24-hour period to a 90% accuracy. If you are advising business leaders on a response without using this sort of data, you are doing your client or employer a great disservice.

Data has an equally important role to play when considering positive and proactive activity. It is no longer the case that identifying emerging topics or news trends is down to intuition – data can tell you how things are developing and where to focus your next campaign to deliver maximum impact.

Unquestionable challenges – but a nut that has to be cracked

At their heart, communicators are creative; they are words and ideas people; they work on stories not spreadsheets. And therein lies the challenge for the communicators of tomorrow, where a more diverse skillset will be required to be the best in the industry.

Once you see the light of what data can give you, the immediate challenge shifts to how to interpret it. Getting hold of useful metrics is no longer a major issue: deciding what really matters is where the real challenge lies. This is where communications leaders can play a pivotal role in any organisation – interpreting the reams of information to decide what is important, what should be considered in decision-making and how to turn it into something accessible and useful for time-poor senior leaders.

At Boldspace, we have created a data-led model that underpins our Whole World Brand View methodology – 14 consideration areas we believe determine truly effective creative, content and communications. Billions of data points sit underneath this, so we are creating technology that enables clients to distil that into a select set of key metrics, delivering a completely new and more focused view of a brand’s reputation.

Developing this capability to interpret data and make it relevant should be one of the top priorities for senior in-house communicators today: curating it, analysing it, visualising it, and fundamentally separating what matters from what doesn’t.

More than a feeling

Communications is now more than a feeling – it is, in part at least, data-led fact. Predictive analytics enables us to build strategies that have never been built before, and technology and analytic models can potentially enable brands to predict the future performance of communications campaigns before they have even begun. Data drives deeper insight that ensures more informed and precise strategy, which in turn leads to far more impactful and targeted campaigns.

To reiterate: this is undoubtedly a hard nut to crack. Reverse engineering this data and technology, and a completely new approach to delivering day-to-day communications, into an established team is not easy. But those who ignore the importance of data could be living on borrowed time.