Big Data: planning trumps measurement

A global study commissioned by PR firm Hotwire says marketers are using data more for planning than measurement

Using data for campaign measurement is no longer the Holy Grail for senior marketing professionals. Hotwire’s latest research study shows that marketers now rank planning future campaigns and communications strategies higher than measurement as the prime use of social media data. Big Data, which has become a buzz word across the PR industry for the past few years has proved invaluable in providing marketers insights into customer behaviour and habits.

Until recently it was assumed that big data was used most widely for measuring the effectiveness of publicity campaigns. But Hotwire’s findings reveal that only one in four (28 percent) of marketers primarily used PR and social media data to measure the success of past campaigns.

Big Data and PR

"The use of Big Data in PR is still in its infancy. It promises much but delivers little; largely due to a lack of skills and low levels of awareness as to its value in the communications function. Over time however, we believe that PR practitioners will increasingly tap into the insights Big Data can provide and that it will be an integral part of the planning and evaluation of campaigns," says Alexis Wilson, managing director of Hotwire Australia.

The research conducted by Vanson Bourne is based on a recent survey of 100 senior marketing professionals (from CMOs to Marketing Directors) with international remit.  Over half of all respondents (51 percent) said their principal use of data is to inform future plans and strategies – providing PR campaigns with crucial insight up-front rather than at the end. With marketers now confident that their departments have mastered the tools, skills and capabilities to use data as a planning tool, it is no surprise that they have become enthusiastic users of big data analytics.

"Measurement has to be at the heart of every campaign. But measurement on its own, without a current understanding of the audience, the competition and the landscape just isn’t enough," said Brendon Craigie, CEO of Hotwire.

"Marketers are now waking up to the real benefits of data – not simply using it reactively to measure performance, but gaining invaluable insight at the planning stage to ensure campaign success from the outset – and then all the way through to completion. That is true measurement at its best."

24/7 media Vs 9-5

Even though marketers can extract data confidently, some are still reluctant to act on it in real time. "Our media consumption may have moved to a 24/7 habit but only half (53 percent) of the comms professionals are "always on".  In fact, to some marketers real time may mean acting quickly, but only during the working day (38 percent).  We may now have the tools and capabilities to react immediately, but what good is that if we still operate in a 9-5 mentality?" asks Craigie.

A fine balance

But when it comes to placing trust in our own data, marketers are a surprisingly cautious bunch. Only half of those surveyed (51 percent) completely trust data that comes out of their own department, and even less (38 percent) have complete faith in any data from their comms team.  Marketers are clearly aware that there is a fine balance between capturing data and placing it in context with their own knowledge and experience.  

"There is a healthy scepticism towards data. The research demonstrates that while marketers are keen to embrace data as part of their strategic planning, data crunching on its own doesn’t lead to that killer campaign plan," said Craigie.  "Data should inform but not drive strategy and it cannot replace creativity and experience."

The research study was released to coincide with the first AMEC Measurement Week (15-19 Sep).

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