The comms industry needs to start taking analytics training seriously

When it comes to analytics, the comms industry has a serious knowledge gap. The way to fix it? Start asking questions, says Weber Shandwick’s Brian Keenan.

“I don’t know what it is but I know it’s important. Help me understand.”

Brilliant phrase from a brilliant client. At the time (few years ago), we were talking about virtual reality. VR was in vogue; I was trying to sell her a VR-led campaign. She didn’t feign understanding or shy away from the unknown – she admitted she didn’t know and opened herself to learning about the possibilities.

It worked for everyone. She learned about VR, I sold the campaign and we ended up winning a film award.

Today, that phrase and the sentiment behind it are needed more than ever. Our industry features so many new terms, skills, technologies – with more added daily – it’s impossible to know them all. We all have to be aware of our knowledge gaps and open to learn from experts.

Accordingly, I found myself saying a version of the same beloved phrase – “I don’t know enough about analytics but I know it’s important. Help me understand” – to Emmanuel Caisse, Weber Shandwick APAC’s SVP for Insights and Analytics. 

A simple definition of analytics is finding and interpreting patterns in data. That said, simple is the last word you typically hear associated with analytics. You’re more apt to hear what can sound like mathematical mumbo-jumbo to the un-initiated: statistical modelling, regression analysis, unstructured data and the like. Oh my.

Thankfully, experts like Emmanuel are working alongside client teams to translate the power of analytics into business solutions everyone, most importantly client CEOs and CMOs, can understand.

While much of their actual processes are confidential and proprietary (and really cool), the principles behind them are well worth sharing. 

All content should have a measurable audience call-to-action

Measurement is mandatory for proving the ROI of our work. What we measure, however, is critical to tying our work to our client’s business goals. Specifically, if we can measure how effectively our audience moves down the purchase funnel – by completing calls-to-action from one stage to the next – we can optimise for content that best moves users towards conversion or purchase.

This is “easier” for digital or online channels – did they leave a comment? Did they click through to website? Did they add an item to their cart? – but it’s also possible for earned media, out-of-home and other channels. It all depends on crafting realistic, measurable, worthwhile calls-to-action.

Start tracking and benchmarking yesterday

Analytics can certainly help us build strategy, our forward-looking approach to achieve results. It achieves this, however, by looking backwards. Analytics requires relevant historical data to set benchmarks for comparative success and to analyse data patterns that might reveal better ways to achieve that success. While third-party tools and vendors can assist in collecting some data after the fact, they cannot collect everything our clients require. Assisting clients to collect relevant data, either directly or with our help, assures relevance and usefulness for our marketing purposes (and often beyond).

Analytics requires trust – but so does everything we do

Here’s a scenario I’ve seen more than a few times: client asks agency to help drive business results. Agency asks for business-relevant data, such as sales figures or qualified leads, to ground strategy and judge impact. Client refuses.

Agency promises results anyway, hoping their campaign will work. Client becomes frustrated when campaign doesn’t produce desired results.

Now, perhaps I’m unfairly oversimplifying and/or not recognising key data security concerns. Yet, do we as agencies and clients not already trust each other with business-crucial information? If we can trust one another, I’m confident we can work together to develop appropriate security processes, checks, firewalls, etc to share data for relevant analysis.

Analytics is new for everyone, even analytics experts, as the field is constantly evolving and changing. Everyone could use some help and tips. 

Brian Keenan is Weber Shandwick Australia’s VP for planning.


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