The downside of data

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Data | PR metrics | Digital PR
In the age of digital PR where there are more metrics than most marketers know what to do with, it’s easy to get inundated with data. In many ways, the boom of marketing platforms and software has solved the measurement crisis faced by marketers for decades. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that data-driven PR isn’t without its pitfalls.

By Thomas Roden, senior account executive at Stone Junction

It’s very easy for marketing and PR professionals, both in-house and agency-side, to lose themselves in quantitative measures. Given that digital marketing software grants us the ability to review e-mail open rates, monitor links and trace traffic, it’s no surprise that this access to data has become a crutch for many in the industry. After all, it’s difficult for most of us to argue with cold, hard statistics and facts.

The trouble is that the most difficult thing to consistently measure — the quality of a message and how that changes the perception of a brand — gets overlooked. And when you value numbers too much compared to messaging, the best case scenario is that you generate good results, but not necessarily the type of results you want.

For example, a data-driven marketer for an IT company might focus predominately on activity that generates enquiries to the overworked team for a specific service. They might then bring on a PR agency to drive more enquiries, measuring the value of the agency’s services against leads that, ultimately, the company cannot realistically deliver.

This winds up having a detrimental impact, despite generating enquiries, because the focus is wrong. Instead of trying to sell product, the company should use PR to sell itself as a place that IT professionals want to work, which would help resolve the sales bottleneck.

If you’re a business in a more technical specialty, recruitment may not necessarily be a straightforward process, as you might be subject to the widely-documented skills gap. In this case, the messaging might involve aligning the company itself with the issue of the skills gap, highlighting the work that the business is doing to address the problem and raising the recruitment profile in the process.

These are the things that are more difficult to measure, but ultimately serve a greater business objective than just selling product. It’s about changing the wider perception of a company, which is far more qualitative than quantitative. Data can certainly play an important role in marketing activity, but it’s important we don’t neglect the things we can’t immediately measure.

Of course, there are ways to retrospectively measure these things with the right planning at the outset. In fact, we won a STEM award from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) last year for a campaign that shows the value of profile building for education and recruitment. It’s not necessarily the kind of campaign that would excite a data addict, but it shows results that would make any marketer happy.

Are you a solely data-driven marketer, or do you believe in the value of harder to measure activity? Get in touch and let us know on sayhello@stonejunction.co.uk. And if you’re wondering how we delivered an award-winning education PR campaign, and how we can achieve similar results for you, drop us a line at +44 (0) 1785 225 416.

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