-Rich Small, EVP, Hunter
-Tabitha Rodges, enterprise account partner, Quid
In this fast-paced world, staying ahead of the competition requires more than just intuition and guesswork. A powerful weapon that must be in a PR pro’s arsenal is predictive insights. They can revolutionize a brand’s strategies and give communicators the tools and resources to anticipate market trends and consumer behavior, improve decision-making, optimize media outreach and manage crises better.
So, how can you make informed, data-driven decisions that will set your brand apart? The pair of speakers who joined this recent webcast provide that guidance.
Looking back to look ahead
“Looking at current trends and going back to past data to help predict what the future might look like is useful,” says Hunter’s Rich Small, “not only in planning, but everyday work.”
Predictive insights can help inform media strategies based on past coverage and sentiment shifts, he notes. The process typically starts with a discovery phase of relevant topics that can illuminate “both consumer and editorial behavior.” The next phase, Small adds, involves incorporating tools “to further validate and substantiate what we're saying and make sure our predictions are pretty much on point.”
Predictive insights can also be “a game changer for planning,” Small continues, “especially when trying to figure out the whitespace for brands to enter or find a trendy topic into which you can authentically insert your brand.”
For example, when creating a specific brand strategy, Small, who works with many clients in the beauty sector, discovered skin barrier as a trending topic across multiple categories.
“It was a place that we knew we'd have to play to be successful because that's where the interest is and, ultimately, that's also what the media will want to write about,” he explains. After realizing that few people understood the subject, the brand decided to “educate in a different way or come up with some bigger campaign idea that will be a bit more disruptive.”
The webcast did not go very long before TikTok came up prominently. Small deems the platform to be an invaluable tool for predictive insights.
“It's basically Gen Z's search engine of choice, where everyone's going to discover things, where they're getting their content,” he asserts. In addition, “editors are going to TikTok to find out what they should be writing about because they know that's what their consumers are interested in.”
That means PR pros have to “get access to those data trends and get ahead of it versus waiting to discover that trend at the same time editors might.”
Navigating crisis and conflict
The beauty industry consistently faces crises about ingredients and recalls, “which is obviously impacting consumer trust overall,” Small says.
For example, he recalls a particular brand leader in the space who received the bulk of negative coverage for a potentially dangerous ingredient.
“The first step we took to help them understand how they should map out their crisis strategy and start thinking about rebuilding the trust that may have been lost was to go back and look at the trajectory of the crisis,” explains Small. During the three key phases – the initial call out, consumer lawsuits and settlement – the brand saw “a spike in coverage and a shift in sentiment,” he adds, noting they could predict a similar trajectory after future announcements.
The good news: The negative coverage was short-lived so rather than jumping into the fray, it was important for the brand to prioritize trust-building instead, counsels Small. Competitors had avoided negative coverage by “moving on with their big campaigns and talking about consumers and the way they had been in the past,” he adds, which is why the brand chose to return to campaign mode and highlight why it was the market leader.
With data-driven crisis management, it’s important to have benchmarks and an understanding of the average brand sentiment.
“If something does go wrong and you see it slip down,” notes Small, “you should know that's a time that we need to be paying attention and take some action based on that shift.”
Benchmarking is critical “to know where your brand is usually swimming and trucking along that way,” adds Quid’s Tabitha Rodges. “If there is a spike or a decrease, you're definitely more proactive to it, as opposed to reactive.”
Meaning out of the metrics
Metrics such as volume and sentiment vary based on objectives. However, it's critical for brands to understand the trajectory of those metrics.
“You need some benchmark in order to add context to the bulk of coverage or the amount of coverage you may be getting,” Small explains. “Looking at ways to add that strong data to some of the recommendations that you're putting forth will be important.”
His advice: Think about how to use the tool in a more dynamic way beyond crisis or planning mode and adjust the metrics based on what you're trying to do.
While Small typically starts with a clear search goal or hypothesis, it’s important to “be open to other ways of approaching things based on what you're finding in the data,” he suggests. “Don’t always think that you have the right answer going into it.”
Keep in mind that it may take time “to get through the clutter to come up with some valuable insights,” Small continues, especially since “editors now also have so much access to data.”
It’s worth the effort though. “There's nothing more powerful than being able to tell someone something they didn't already know about their industry, about their brand,” concludes Rodges.
Click here to watch this webcast on demand.