The future of PR analytics

As we’ve talked about before, analytics and measurement of communications seems to be a perennially thorny topic, with industry professionals universally agreeing that better analysis of the contribution of communications to business is essential but with no consensus on how to actually achieve it.

In a bid to try and find some answers, ADPR’s Associate Director, Sophie, attended last week’s Future of PR Analytics conference, hosted by PR Moment. The conference had a stellar line-up of PR industry pros, including Richard Bagnall, Chair of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), Felix Danzak from Signal, Jonny Bentwood from Golin, Allison Spray from Hill & Knowlton Strategies, Claire Pimm from the Prime Minister’s and Cabinet Office and Paul Quigley from NewsWhip.

Two key themes emerged from the conference. The first is that the PR and communications industry is starting to make use of AI technology and it could fundamentally change PR’s role in business (exciting!). Secondly, that the value of digital data is beginning to be harnessed for key decision making in campaigns. Both trends present some real opportunities for communications to be able to truly show its value.

AI – artificial intelligence – has been a buzz word for the last few years or so across many sectors. Organisations have known that it *could* be a complete game changer but haven’t really been sure how or why. Media evaluation companies were no exception and, behind the scenes, have been quietly developing solutions that make use of this innovative technology.

However, its only recently that the technology has caught up with business and is now sufficiently accurate that it is a genuine contender for replacing more traditional methods of media evaluation, with many of these providers now claiming a 90% accuracy. The speed and increased data sets that automation allow for far surpass what’s possible with traditional services offered by media evaluation companies.

Felix from Signal discussed how artificial intelligence is transforming the world’s data into actionable insights that informs business leaders to make the best possible decisions. This is extremely interesting for the role of comms professionals, as according to Felix, it means we can become the “arbiters of market place data for businesses.” This is because the use of these insights will be applied more broadly into the decision-making mix, taking comms pros well beyond the traditional remit of PR and into the areas of business risk and opportunity. In the not-so-distant future, AI analytics will be able to help comms teams deliver value far beyond themselves, with data being used to manage reputation, mitigate risk and take advantage of opportunity at a global level. In Felix’s vision, senior business leaders get meaningful insights, in realtime, and agencies get pushed up the value chain into critical business decision support and prediction. Sounds like a win-win to me!

In the same vein, Jonny Bentwood, Head of Data at Golin, talked about how to place data at the heart of campaigns. According to Jonny, now we are working in a world of algorithms and AI, the most successful programs have data at their core and when you pair data with creativity you get performance.

Using data to act as a catalyst to inspire compelling ideas seems obvious, but for the most part, it hasn’t been happening in PR. Comms teams should now make use of data throughout campaigns, with it helping to inform both strategy and activity.

Agreeing with Felix, Jonny’s view is that data should be seen as more than just an evaluative tool, it should also be used to be predictive – to anticipate what will happen before it occurs, alerting clients to opportunities and threats.

In terms of planning campaigns with data at their heart, using a proprietary tool, Golin campaigns are planned by mapping a client’s objectives onto the customer journey (awareness, consideration, attitude, purchase and advocacy) and each stage measured to see how successful they are. Then, the teams identify the gaps and opportunities to focus on the campaigns most likely to achieve these micro-objectives. This is truly using data at each stage of the customer journey. And, according to Golin research, there is a 50% increase in marketing efficacy by following this data-driven customer journey approach.