How can communicators get the most value out of data analytics? Geoffrey Sidari, SVP of Analytics at WE Communications, offers best practices on developing a data strategy and necessary skillsets. Geoffrey also shares predictions on the future of data analytics in communications.
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HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: GEOFFREY SIDARI
DOUG: We’re talking analytics, which is a hot topic no matter what your business is, but especially in communications. So, Geoffrey, what is the value of having a single source of truth?
GEOFFREY: So yeah, we’re pretty focused on having a single source of truth for a couple of reasons. One, it provides consistency, and it provides clarity. From a consistency standpoint, making sure that every time you go back to the data, whether it’s every month, or every week, or every quarter, you’re able to tell the same story over time. And then from a clarity standpoint, making sure that you’re not jumping around from tool to tool, trying to get the best metric, providing data from one source of truth helps both our analytic team, our agency account team, and our clients, be able to understand the data faster and ask more advanced questions as they become more in tune with the data they’re given.
DOUG: As analytics have gotten more valuable and grown so much at many companies, different departments, different groups signed on for different methods, how do you sort of unwind, think it through so you can really be able to compare data across the breadth of the company?
GEOFFREY: So, one of the ways we’ve done that is, we’ve tried to try to have the different groups that are thinking about the data, change their perspective, and actually think about the question they’re trying to answer. If you take the data and the tool out of the equation and you focus on what is the objective, what is the question, what is the analysis that they’re looking to get out? There’s a tool available for that, and the individual department shouldn’t necessarily be worried about working in tools that they understand, it’s really trying to determine what they’re going to do with the information once they get it or why they’re asking the question. And then the tools today are a lot more advanced than they were just a few years ago, and then focusing those questions to a team that’s able to go deep into the technology that you’re licensing, allows you to get more out of that investment, and allows the individual that’s looking for the answer or the question to help build strategy off of, to spend more time on their craft.
DOUG: So, based on the need to build strategy of that, what type of expertise do you need to bring together? It seems like you need different types of skill sets to be able to figure that out and give the best advice.
GEOFFREY: The area that’s worked best for us has incorporated a few different skill sets. So, while the question is coming from a client or an account team that’s building a strategy or even a planner, or it could even come from the creative team or the social strategy team, the analysis that we’re doing has to be integrated in that workflow. So, we tend to see the best structure, including an analyst working together with a strategist or planner that’s then working with the individual, developing the messaging or creative that’s going to go into a channel. The teams coming together are able to not only look at the analysis, potentially pull out some whitespace or insights that they can leverage to help provide lift or additional impact the strategy they deploy for a specific campaign.
DOUG: And Geoffrey, you talk about the importance of time in using the data and information, applying it effectively, what do you mean?
GEOFFREY: Yeah, I think the most important piece is making sure you have an individual or a team of individuals dedicated and spending the time in the tool, understanding the features that are available, the support that’s available, and the ability to train on the tool to get the most value out of it. Early on in the MarTech and in sales operation days, the technology was super advanced, but the teams weren’t necessarily structured to ensure the return on that investment was realized, but then, as marketing operations and sales operations teams were built out and there were processes built out around it, the value of that data became exponentially more important to the company. The same thing with comms analytics is that the technology is advancing really rapidly. There are some technologies that are either shiny objects or look like it’s really easy to get the analysis you need. In many respects, it can be in the first few minutes,
that’s why the advancement of the technologies is so important to the industry, but to get the most out of the data and the most out of the tools, having individuals that have time to spend in them, to understand what’s happening with your brand and your conversation, the competitive brand, the competitive conversation, and the overall industry activity is the most important thing.
DOUG: Yeah, that’s a great point that you make it almost analogous to what they say about as humans, we only use X percent of our brains, I feel that it is aligned sometimes with the tools that we have in communications. So, if you can increase that, that can really be a powerful effect. Once you’ve got that best information, you know the tool, how do you turn that reporting into guidance? Because that’s where the real value is in all of this.
GEOFFREY: Yeah, there’s a couple of things. I mean, you can focus on the channel, the messaging, looking at core KPIs from the industry, whether it’s reach or engagement, but there’s a couple of areas that we really focus on. And one of the most important areas is audience. What is the audience that’s engaging with the conversation? The data is hard to find, some of the data is locked up in adtech or advertising platforms. You do have the ability to understand the affinity of certain audiences to specific conversations or specific brands. And that is, I would say the majority of our strategy revolves around that one, understanding who is the who is our client trying to sell to? Is it Gen X is a Millennial? Is it a Gen Z? What is the channel they need to engage in? What is the messaging we’re going to deploy? And then really understanding what how is that audience engaging in that conversation? Who’s helping drive that conversation? Who is an influencer or a creator? So, from an audience and we look at influencers now and then we look at channel, really to understand how the conversation will move through the different audiences.
DOUG: Yeah, now this question could be a tricky one. I’m hoping you have some data or analytics on this and just looking in your crystal ball, but what is the future of data analytics in comms?
GEOFFREY: I think there’s a few areas that are really exciting for me, as I talk to different leaders in the industry. I would say, improve data integration. So, while there is a lot of data available, more data than I think has ever been available in this space, the integration of that data. So, whether it’s existing platforms finding a way to make it easier to connect outside data to their insight platform or new are new companies that are trying to find ways to connect this data. The second that would be is the expansion of AI. AI today is an amazing advance, it is providing a lot of value for us as analysts in two ways. One, it’s helping us organize the data faster so that we’re able to do the analysis quicker, but it’s also allowing us to find new ways to interact with the data, specific to, not just the comms objectives, but we’re taking business objectives, mapping those back through the use of AI to where the conversation is and understanding where the whitespace is, and who are the individuals or brands that are driving the discussion and how. So, I would say, AI is going to continue to evolve. It’s not a golden ticket right now, but it’s adding a lot of value to everyone that’s using it. The other piece is the use of AI in other areas like sentiment, and image analysis, and video analysis, trying to understand where a brand is talked about non-verbally in the inclusion of an overall conversation through imagery and in video. And then lastly, is just really connecting comms data to marketing data. I think that’s the end objective is finding a way for comms to provide lift to ongoing marketing and business impact. I wouldn’t say it’s directly connected to the top of the funnel right now from a marketing perspective but there are elements of the data landscape within comms that are starting to make that connection.
DOUG: Yeah, one of the intriguing things for me listening to you, and thanks so much for participating, is that even with all this data and analytics and all this work is driven to make it more impactful, there’s a human element to this as well to make sure you’re getting the synergies across all the platforms that need to get the data, use it to develop a strategy, and execute it, any final thoughts?
GEOFFREY: Yeah, I would say it’s the last thing I want to close on is that while the tools are getting more advanced and more intelligent, the exciting thing is that the use of the tools are moving from the world of data science to what we call data citizens. So, the tools and the vendors themselves are ensuring that non-technical users can get more out of the data, but it still comes back to that’s good for in the moment, but when you want to go deep and really build strong strategy, you need to spend that time in the system and maybe be a bit more technical.
DOUG: Awesome, thanks so much for being with us.
GEOFFREY: Thanks so much for the time, I appreciate it.