To understand how some CMOs and marketing organizations are better able to blend analysis and creative, I reached out to Deirdre Breakenridge, the CEO of Pure Performance Communications. She is a 25+ year PR and marketing veteran and author of six business books, including Answers for Modern Communicators. What follows are her insights on how to blend analysis and creative for better results.
Kimberly Whitler: As the capacity to generate insight from data increases, are marketers losing the ability to convert that insight into inspiring, moving, and behavior changing action?
Deirdre Breakenridge: In order to talk about data and analytics, you have to remember that it informs better storytelling. The two should operate together. But it is a struggle we’ve always had—blending the art with the science. Today, we have so much technology than enables marketers to collect, filter, and analyze insights. And we are definitely making progress on that dimension even though there is still a lot of work to be done. If you want data and analytics to enable marketers to be able to connect more intimately with customers, the business has to be set up for both. Who in the marketing department will do this? Who are the analysts? Who are the storytellers? Who are the writers? And how do you connect the two so that the storytellers know how to leverage the analysts and vice versa? Now we are using social media to tell stories. Can we tell compelling stories through different channels? Organizations have to take a good look at their people, capabilities and technology.
Whitler: How can marketers use data to create more powerful stories?
Breakenridge: I’m a big proponent of auditing your communications. Social media has posed some challenges with auditing but it is still a critical first step. When you find the right people and the right technology and the ability to look at and evaluate the data, you can audit your brand strengths, identify the right frequency of communication through different channels, and figure out what resonates and with whom. We know that CEOs care about reputation and brand health and this is a big reason why you need to monitor and audit. The whole idea is to stay ahead…to anticipate by listening carefully (monitoring) and to head off anything that could possibly bubble up. You need to act quickly.
Whitler: Do you have any examples of how you’ve used data to inform content development?
Breakenridge: I work with Georgia Tech. We conducted an audit looking at content across their different departments—from admissions to the main GA Tech pages to the School of Engineering and so forth. Through this exercise, it was interesting to see that as engaged as they thought they were – and they did a good job of engaging with people–what they learned is that they were only engaging 34% of the time. They were missing opportunities to strengthen their relationships. This is just one metric, but it helped prioritize effort. Specifically, they identified student ambassadors and champions and engaged more with relevant content. Without going into detail, we not only understood the level of engagement, but we were able to identify the content, the nature of the engagement, and the stories that most resonated with different individuals. The school was able to send student influencers swag and then encourage them to take pictures and post. After we did the content analysis and put strategies in place, they saw their engagement increase significantly. In one of the rankings, they were ranked number two among 200 top-ranked universities.