-Brittnee Long, performance and digital comms leader, PwC
-Sabrina Macias, VP of global comms, DraftKings
-Susan Reilly, president/founder, Reilly Connect
-Ben Chodor, president, Notified
Immediately from the start of this webcast, The New Age of PR: A Look Ahead to 2022, speakers discuss how they use data to shape storytelling, measure results and realize tangible business benefits.
More specifically, the quartet of assembled leaders underscore how comms pros are increasingly finding data useful in helping to target messaging and evaluate how those messages are landing – both in real time and in more detailed end-of-activation assessments.
“We're using data to understand our audiences and counsel our stakeholders on the right time to activate so we can maximize our opportunities,” notes PwC’s Brittnee Long. “We also use data to identify where we're doing well, provide context around why things did or didn’t work, and to help us understand the true impact of negative or positive stories. Context helps us counsel our stakeholders on what we should do next and influence the storytelling moving forward.”
Susan Reilly of Reilly Connect emphasizes the huge role data plays as her digital marcomms firm pitches for new business.
“It helps us sit at the table more intelligently,” she explains. “Data has played a real key role as we approach our purpose campaigns with different clients to help them find their true north.” She also uses data in validating and refining messaging.
DraftKings’ Sabrina Macias focuses on how access to data allows her team to analyze and optimize in real time.
“We go granular when analyzing a campaign,” she suggests. “We look at share of voice, Google search trends, app downloads and engagement to see what is resonating and to optimize response to content we're putting out there.” Additionally, Macias uses data to mine for stories and identify points of difference for the brand – particularly crucial in a sector that has grown incredibly competitive.
Webcast panel featured (clockwise from top left): Chodor, Long, Reilly and Macias.
Other departments are taking notice
While the partnership of PR and marketing has long been important to the bottom line, data is helping comms show measurable results to the C-suite.
To highlight this, Notified president Ben Chodor shares results of a recent Notified/PRWeek study that touched on the evolving PR-marketing partnership. It reveals the importance comms pros place on their ability to use data to support the marketing function and drive business results.
Long’s team uses manual analysis to evaluate the quality of coverage and show stakeholders that the comms team can accomplish more with fewer well-placed stories.
“It takes time, relationships and skill to do that,” she says. “Comms isn't always designed to accomplish the same outcomes as marketing. We don't always have the same goals, but we work closely with our marketing teams to figure out how PR can help support them. We always think about how PR is being applied in specific situations and show how it's connected and contributing.”
In a data-driven organization, Macias insists the comms team needs to create its own measurement system for placements to “get them on the same playing field” as other corporate functions.
“When people consider PR as an equal channel with a budget attached to it, data allows you to justify the spend,” she explains.
In many cases where Reilly Connect has helped clients develop KPIs for social-purpose campaigns, the agency has always sought to be “brave enough to establish and report CPEs [cost per engagement] and CPMs [cost per thousand engagements],” notes Reilly. “If you can show a CPM that's in the pennies, compared to a CPM and a CPE in marketing that's in the $3 to $20 range, it's pretty powerful, especially if the purpose and the campaign is well orchestrated and makes a huge impact.”
New avenues to success
Panelists identified key metrics they find most helpful for real-time optimization.
“For us, it's always share of voice because we're a very competitive industry and we're always tracking against our competitors nationally, but also market by market,” says Macias. Data helps her team customize comms to ensure they are connecting with specific local audiences, whether it’s consumers or reporters.
“Shared engagement is our pepper and shared voice is our salt. Velocity is a bonus metric,” explains Long. Chodor adds that sentiment is an often overlooked yet critical metric.
AI and machine learning are opening up new avenues for PR pros to collect and utilize data. “AI is an empowering tool to help make business decisions,” offers Chodor. “It gives you incredible information.”
Long underscores a very specific way AI is helping PwC: It is allowing them to track and monitor how the brand logo is showing up in events, on billboards or in movie/program scenes in a way the team was unable to track just a few years ago.
“We're seeing AI being used to create messages for social media,” she adds. “One of the bigger opportunities for AI is to help us uncover the impact of communications to the business and use modeling and analytic techniques to help our performance comms team.”
The panelists all agree that data helps them identify authentic advocates for their brands. Macias uses a combination of social listening and audience overlap to identify sources that could be natural, authentic advocates for DraftKings.
“We've used the cloud to see who's driving a conversation,” notes Reilly. “And if the client has the funding, we can do more data searching. It's not quite as sophisticated as high-level data, but we've been successful identifying some pretty powerful people with high engagement in a purpose-specific sector.”
“Sometimes you don't have to look too far,” adds Long. Appropriate advocates might be “current customers, employees, people who are already familiar with your brand is a nice place to start.”
Increasingly companies are focused on purpose. The PR function is integral to defining and maintaining that position. “Organizations can have a purpose and be profitable – it’s not one or the other,” asserts Chodor.
“Responsible businesses are good not only for people in society, but good for the bottom line – and we're helping clients do that and measure their ESG impact every single day,” reports Long. “Communications has always been at the center of reputation management. Finally, there’s an opportunity for us to lead. “
Gathering data around how a company’s purpose resonates with various stakeholders is important from a consumer-, investor- and employee-engagement and retention perspective, says Macias. DraftKings is helping direct customers beyond the company’s product to charitable efforts and philanthropy.
“We've been able to leverage purpose with CSR, DE&I and responsible gaming,” she continues. “We spend a lot of time listening to our customers and getting their feedback.”
Going forward, panelists agree that the ability to bring all metrics under one umbrella for a deeper data dive is a major objective. Chodor is excited about the potential of compiling evolved social-media-listening data in one location and combining it to drive decision-making.
“We'll see more data unlock on the channels that we're using regularly in comms,” asserts Long. “There are new measures and techniques being applied, whether it's getting readership data on articles and connecting that to web traffic or other performance. We'll see an expanded universe of data points available for comms channels.”
Click here to watch this webcast on demand.