How to Take the Fear Out of the 2 D’s: Data and Dashboards

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If there's a letter in the alphabet that sprouts legs and chases PR professionals through the hills and valleys of their nightmares, it's got to be the letter D. "D" as in data and dashboards.

In PR News' March 23 webinar sponsored by LexisNexis, "Dashboards and Data: How to Measure What Your Message Is Really Worth," presenters Margot Sinclair Savell (SVP, global measurement, research and data insights, Hill+Knowlton Strategies), Sean Swentek (VP of social media, Opus Bank), Jim Collishaw (director of U.S. sales - media intelligence, LexisNexis) and Lisa Adams (PR and digital communications manager, FMC Technologies) could not emphasize strongly enough that the starting point of any communications data program or dashboard has to be determining what represents success to your C-suite. That conversation may be painful, but it's best to front-load the pain, instead of feeling the more intense pain when you report data that's meaningless to senior leaders.

Once you have a clear understanding of what success looks like to senior leaders, you need to look at as much information as you can to get the best data. "The question then is how do you create order out of that?" said Collishaw during the webinar.

To create order out of the chaos of data, you must connect your business goals to key performance indicators (KPIs), and put those KPIs to the test. "If a communications metric doesn’t lead to a change in your behavior, then it’s not a good metric to pull," Swentek said.

"You have to consider more than the numbers," said Adams. "You've got to analyze the numbers, summarize what they mean and refocus your content efforts based on the results and desired future outcomes."

As for the other D—dashboards—you need to get clear understanding internally on what is meant by a dashboard. "Do you mean an online, real-time dashboard or a dashboard slide?" said Savell, who will also be a speaker at PR News’ Measurement Conference April 21 in Washington, D.C. "Most of the time the C-suite simply wants just a couple of dashboard slides in monthly reporting. If you choose slides then the metrics you select should all tie into business goals and what constitutes success to your C-suite. This is considerably less-expensive than an online, interactive dashboard."

The problem with dashboard slides is they won’t let you view PR metrics in real time, Savell added. If you do use dashboard slides, be sure to grab senior leaders' attention on the first page with success metrics that show your wins.

So there you have it—the two nightmarish capital D's cut down to manageable lower case d's.

Follow Margot Sinclair Savell: @margotsavell

Follow Sean Swentek: @swiz 

Follow Jim Collishaw: @LexisNexisBiz

Follow Lisa Adams: @LisaAdams08

Check out the speaker faculty for PR News’ Measurement Conference April 21 in Washington, D.C.

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI