Demystifying analytics

It's high time that communications - as an industry - takes the mystery out of analytics.

It's high time that communications – as an industry – takes the mystery out of analytics.

The dialogue around analytics has long been elusive and jargon-filled, often generating more questions than answers. So now we need to clarify what analytics means to us and how it can be applied to truly elevate the quality and scope of public relations.

It's true that many in the industry have embraced analytics. But even among this group, some only look at the social media side, others think website metrics. And there are still plenty to whom the very idea of analytics instills dread – or worse -- indifference because, they believe, we are in the business of communications, not statistics or developing algorithms.

Here's my take. Simplistically speaking, analytics is about making sense of wealth of information that's out there – from Google metrics, social media, and beyond – and applying it to PR. And we do this already. But it's at the next level up that analytics becomes really interesting and useful. Let me explain.

We know we're now living in the era of “big data.” The sheer volume of unstructured data is staggering. Of course, as PR pros, we're already tracking all this information for our clients. However, we've reached a point where there's so much information that we need a more sophisticated process for sorting through this heap to identify the relevant pieces and throw out the junk.

So first, analytics requires mining this data. Depending on how expansive your client's universe is, you can do this manually or using one of numerous tools out there. For too long, our industry has stopped here or simply given this data a cursory glance with some obvious recommendations. The real value of analytics, however, comes in applying human intelligence to turn this data into meaningful information.

To do this properly, we have to rethink what PR means. As an industry, we're used to dealing with words. But thanks to analytics, we can finally retire that tired stereotype that PR pros need be averse to quantitative information. Analytics allows us to sink our teeth into the data we collect for our clients and then transform it into actionable PR. How to do this depends entirely on the information you collect. At March Insight, we spin out graphs, charts, and reports with specific recommendations. But the bottom line is this: if analyzed with true precision and intelligence, this information will provide deeper insight into your client's world than you ever imagined.

And this is the true value of analytics. It's not about using every social media tool or inundating your clients with jargon and information. It's about taking all the information that's out there and using it to make your communications totally relevant and on the money.

Martin Jones is the cofounder of Boston-based tech PR agency March Communications and its newly launched analytics division March Insight (@marchinsight).

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