8 keys to create a more data-driven dream team

After you identify the business objectives your content will support, take steps to build a culture that prioritizes analytics. Here’s how to get started.


Communication pros who skillfully wield data are in prime position to succeed.

Due to the rise in data journalism, reporters and editors often prefer article submissions supported by data. Internal expectations are increasing, too.

“More and more businesses expect marketing and communications teams to make decisions and gather insights by analyzing the data they collect from marketing programs and initiatives, such as direct marketing, social media, public relations and events,” Caroline Japick, chief marketing officer at Pramata, says in a Forbes article. “The days of marketing ‘artists’ are gone.”

Here are tips from experts on how to up your team’s data game:

1. Identify objectives and metrics. The first step to building a data-driven content team is to identify the business objectives your content will support. Also, nail down the metrics that will prove the success—or failure—of your efforts to attain those objectives.

“Your content team and your content strategy should hold both business objectives and metrics above all else—including creativity. Because creativity without business results equals failure,” Brandon Andersen, chief strategist at Ceralytics, writes in a Convince & Convert post.

2. Identify data sources. Whether you work in corporate communications, marketing or PR, you can don your journalism cap and tap into helpful information sources. Chase down leads, conduct interviews, and scour public databases.

Look for data that targets a specific industry or geographic region. Mine sources that provide a local slant or a viewpoint on your niche business sector.

However, don’t ignore internal data. Make inroads with other departments, including finance, customer support and sales. Someone else might already be tracking metrics that you can use.

3. Obtain support from key personnel. Executive buy-in is crucial. If leaders have your back, your colleagues will be much more eager to share whatever data they have.

To win more executive cooperation and support, Andersen recommends:

  • Share the business objectives that drive your content marketing strategy.
  • Show how their work and data will play a role in supporting those objectives.
  • Help them identify metrics that report outcomes rather than outputs. (Focus on results, not simply tasks completed.)

4. Find the right personnel. Not everyone’s cut out to be a data hero. Try to get at least one person on your team who has analytical proficiency and technological savvy.

If your communications team suffers from data phobia, assign analytics ownership to someone currently in your organization—and make sure they have the skills and support they need to be successful, recommends John Miller, vice president and co-founder of Marketo. Offer to reimburse your data stars if they take a course in statistics or otherwise try to improve their skills.

5. Schedule time to analyze insights. Collecting, compiling and analyzing data takes time and strategic effort.

Block off chunks of time to review and reflect on data, and hold team discussions on how you can improve marketing and PR practices in response to data insights.

6. Analyze selectively. Pay close attention to the data that matters most to your business, Japick says. Of course, not all businesses should pay attention to the same data. Report on data points that are meaningful to your executives.

Many communication teams tie themselves into knots trying to track every metric. If your executives mostly care about increased sales or ROI, don’t waste your time compiling ancillary statistics.

7. Heed the data. Not responding to the data is a common mistake. If you collect data—yet fail to pull insights from it—what good is it? Data should drive and shape your content creation.

8. Use the right tools. Marketing automation, customer relationship management, competitive intelligence and social media analytics tools are instrumental in collecting and analyzing data. Use tools that can help you seamlessly organize, compile and present vast amounts of data.

Most marketing and PR leaders realize the many benefits of using data to guide their efforts. However, deriving helpful insights that can influence business decisions can be challenging. The keys are to create a culture that prioritizes analytics and to dedicate sufficient time, effort and strategy to uncover substantive insight.

A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.

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