Dec 1, 2022 - Economy

Communicators should embrace data

Illustration of a line chart that is falling off the screen.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Communicators aren't known for being numbers people — but maybe they should be.

Why it matters: Data can better prescribe when to weigh in on thorny public debates, where to go to reach particular audiences and how to get the message to them.

Zoom in: Understanding how your audience interprets and receives information is key to effective communication.

  • "We take a data first approach to assess what stakeholders see and hear in their environment — whether through media or social channels," says Penta Group president Matt McDonald.
  • From there, brands can gauge how their reputation or narrative is being perceived, and communication strategies can be mapped out.
  • "Communicators are starting to do more scenario planning," says Chelsea Mirkin, Cision's head of insights global analysis. "For example, if you're trying to get a reputational lift among a target audience, data can inform what you say and where you say it."

Plus, data intelligence can identify blind spots in your messaging.

  • "We saw an example where a brand kept giving exclusives to a particular reporter from a top publication, but the stories weren't being read," says Eddie Kim, CEO and founder of media monitoring platform Memo. "Meanwhile, when that same reporter wrote about the brand's competitor, it would get a lot of traction."
  • "The data showed that their current narrative wasn't resonating, so they were able to tweak it and see a change in readership."

Between the lines: Data can also inform reactionary communications — like when to address misinformation or respond to a crisis.

  • "Thresholds for reaction are different depending on the circumstance, so typically we examine past patterns from similar circumstances to predict future, likely scenarios," says Mirkin.
  • Data can also ensure that you're not inadvertently spreading misinformation or conspiracy theories in your attempt to debunk it.

The bottom line: "I don't think that you can separate data from strategy," McDonald says.

  • "If communicators want to come to the table with a quantitative orientation to have equal standing within a business, they have to drive insights that will illuminate strategic choices."
Go deeper