Tech Talk with WE EVP of insight and analytics Erica Fields

"We don’t want a lot of unused tools in the stack, so we keep it very narrow and consistent."

Getting the right message to the right audience has always been important. Can you explain some of the ways technology is helping communications teams to do that with greater precision?
The first step for effective message tracking is to make sure you have clear, aligned and consistent messaging. Many clients want to track disparate messaging across brand, product and news, both globally and locally,  and that is possible, but it’s worth getting clear on what messages you are trying to track and why.

Historically, comms has tracked metrics for key message pull-throughs for specific stories in earned media and coverage. There are a lot of solutions out there that can look at that through the lens of social amplification, engagement, reach and sentiment – a macro view.

But there are new technologies that allow you to layer in additional data. For example, audience data to determine if the right audiences are engaged in your story. It’s now possible for comms to get more specific data than just demographics.

What are the benefits of this closer understanding of audiences?
It allows comms to move measurement beyond a key message pull-through metric to include an audience engagement metric. This opens the door for follow-on storytelling that meets people where they are and helps comms and brands to shift from talking to people to talking with people

Another layer comes with new solutions like Memo that can provide a deeper insight into audience engagement and message effectiveness, and also start to uncover not only who is reading your article, but how they got to it, and then where they went. This starts to get at the actions people then took – or didn’t take. This also creates an opportunity to build bridges with marketing.

Is this all linked to brands’ need to be heard above the noise, especially in the current crisis-driven environment?
That’s a question we hear a lot. How do you break through the noise in the right way and with the right intent. We believe it starts with understanding the intersection of a brand’s purpose and relevance. Brand purpose is the product or service; on the other side is audience motivation; relevance sits at the center of that. It’s a combination of audience motivation and the value of your product or service to that particular audience. You can’t make something relevant to someone if you don’t know what’s motivating them.

We start with listening – not just one a year, or every six months, but all the time. What’s important to people may change from one moment to the next. To listen effectively, you have to start with the right questions. What are our customers’ needs? What are they talking about? How are our competitors responding? You get to the core questions when you bring together experts from across disciplines like planning, creative, comms, social, digital and data. You have to listen, learn and then create.

One thing you talk about on your website is the integration of data with expert intuition. Do you need both?
The data is important. A data analyst will look at it through the black and white lens of what is it telling you? A creative may look at it through the lens of creative opportunities; the planner through the lens of understanding the delivery space; the comms specialist through the lens of story opportunities. Everybody brings a different perspective, and the cross-disciplinary approach is where the super-power is. Data moves us from “I think” to “I know.”

At WE, our purpose is to help our clients move people to positive actions. We believe that comms is more important than ever for brand building, because we’re seeing more and more that it’s about relationships and about customer values being aligned with brand values. We really believe that the best insights are uncovered when you bring the cross-section of experts to the table. It’s about creating connected story-telling, with data underpinning it so that you’re reaching your audiences in the right way and with the right intent.

How do you think about putting together a tech stack to support this approach?
Our tech stack is all third-party. We have a global tool stack, and also regional tools as well. It’s been defined through continuous evaluation of the technology and vendors in the market. Those guys are moving quickly, so we have to keep our finger on the pulse of what’s changing and what’s new. What’s the shiny thing, and what’s the practical tool? 

We’ve defined a set of best practices by which we assess technology. If you look at the social and earned tools out in the market, every vendor has access to the same data. But can we easily explore and visualize the data? Are they integrating artificial intelligence? Do they have a robust roadmap and an ability to deliver on it? And are they willing to take our input on what our clients’ needs are? We look for good partners.

Our stack includes planning tools, influencer tools, web analytics tools and social and earned tools. Talkwalker is one of our global tools. We’re also evaluating new tools such as Memo and Signal AI. We don’t want a lot of unused tools in the stack, so we keep it very narrow and consistent.

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