What the Data Revolution Means for Brand Communicators

shutterstock_375746188
The Home Depot, CCO, Stacey Tanks
Stacey Tank, CCO, The Home Depot
EMERSON COLLECTIVE , MD, CCO, ALAN MARKS
Alan Marks, Managing Director, CCO, Emerson Collective

Fundamentally our profession is about people—understanding how they feel and behave, what they want and where their concerns and interests lie, and adapting the organization accordingly. It’s almost counterintuitive that cold, unfeeling data can help us engage more authentically and effectively with humans. But evidence literally is all around us.

Every tweet or snap we send, photo or video we share, location we check in to, product we buy or review, website we visit and online interaction we experience…all of it is a pixel composing the image of what we think and care about. As we know, communicators are capitalizing on data to make more meaningful connections based on what they reveal about us.

That might sound creepy, but chief communications officers (CCOs) are concerned with building trust through honest, mutually rewarding relationships with stakeholders. That goal remains, but the tools of the trade are about to get far more sophisticated and effective, and communicators will lead the way.

A Revolution Is Imminent

In fact, those tools will be so important we believe communicators are on the cusp of a game-changing evolution in how communications will empirically drive business value. The digital-driven engagement system (DES) will be the engine driving this change. As communicators we are approaching the dawn of digital stakeholder engagement; our work is just beginning.

What is a DES? It is a 21st century business tool designed to leverage data as an economic asset that creates competitive advantage and business value for the entire organization.

Think about how your engagement with products and services has changed. Whether intentionally or not, you’ve become more comfortable sharing information about yourself. Look for a pair of boots on Zappos and they seem to follow you around the web for a few weeks. Share your location and receive customized coupons and offers for deals nearby. These are examples of how marketers are targeting you.

Now imagine the same approach was applied to anticipating a need or concern of yours rather than responding to it, or to automating the process of providing the information one needs, when it’s needed and how it’s wanted, based on what data tell us about the recipient. When done right, this is anything but creepy; to the contrary, it feels like brands are being responsive to our needs. It deepens our relationship with brands.

To date, this is all built around structured data—quantifiable bits of information that can be numerically analyzed and understood. In the future, the ability to interpret unstructured data —information based in the meaning and context behind a piece of content, like a photograph or video—will bring a new level of personalization.

These capabilities will take time to develop, and there are issues to be solved; show interest online in an item by mistake and it also follows you around the web for weeks. Still, we believe it is essential that communicators move ahead in this area. A report from the Arthur W. Page Society, The CCO as Builder of Digital Engagement Systems (PRNP, Nov. 21, 2016), offers suggestions about how brand communicators might begin a journey toward that future.

Rules of Engagement: Be Human

An overarching conclusion in the report is that communicators should ensure dedicated systems and processes use data to engage with stakeholders as individuals rather than as faceless segments. A few steps ahead:

 

1. Establish Fundamentals. Inventory digital and social properties, analytics capabilities, how these are owned and structured and existing skills and capabilities that would apply to a data-driven DES.

2. Build the Business Case. By definition a DES must be integrated across the enterprise. Since communicators work across the enterprise, they are well suited to identify the business problem(s) such a system would address, specify how measurement will be done, identify required resources and engage C-suite partners.

3. Test, Refine, Measure and Evolve. Success means adopting a systems approach that transcends simply creating and distributing great content. This requires a new mindset that applies predictive insights derived from data. Getting there will be an iterative process.

In the coming weeks, Page will be introducing a podcast series on this topic and sharing case studies that demonstrate some of the leading efforts and best practices in this area

Note: This content appeared originally in PR News Pro, January 23, 2017. For subscription information, please visit: http://www.prnewsonline.com/about/info

CONTACT: Tank and Marks co-chair the Arthur W. Page Society’s Digital Engagement System Subcommittee. Contact them at: emizrachi@awpagesociety.com