Analytics: Taking the Guesswork Out of Communications

Written by Center for Social Commerce

Published on September 8, 2015

Analytics post photo

By Anna Hodge

It is time to quantify the value of our words.

Analytics allow communicators across a variety of fields, from public relations, marketing, advertising and journalism, to gain insights into their audiences and the influence and impact of their communications efforts.

Is this public relations campaign targeting who we intend it to? Is this article covering a controversial health related topic even being read? How many clicks did it receive? What are the numbers?

What is the numerical significance of our words?

With the start of the fall semester rapidly approaching, students must start to dig into this strategic tool sooner rather than later – particularly seniors on the cusp of their job hunts in the communications industry.

After all, analytics is trending now in the communications space. In June, The New York Times and Washington Post announced they will allow their journalists access to web traffic data and analytics, which determine how many people clicked on certain articles, where they come from and how long they lingered on the page.

Analytics takes the guesswork away for communications professionals, allowing them to understand, through data, who, when and how to position their campaigns. This past summer, as a WCG Corporate and Strategy intern in W2O Group’s New York office, I had the opportunity to participate in an intern project where nine other interns and I created a paid, earned, shared and owned media campaign for a non-profit organization. The analytics enabled us to identify influencer gaps (what influencers is the client failing to target?) and align the outreach of our campaign with relevant influencers (who will help spread our client’s message?). We then used these insights to complement our digital and creative assets and bolster our media and engagement strategies.

Strategies like this are growing across the industry. Stacey Miller, a senior social and media relations manager at Cision, a leading global media intelligence company, explained the value of analytics on Technology Advice’s Expert Interview Series this past May.

Communications, public relations and social media professionals, she says, are all tasked with measuring their efforts and determining how much ROI they are getting from sending out content on social media, or sending out press releases to global online audiences.

“You’re getting clicks, reads and maybe some traffic,” Miller says. “But what are the insights from those interactions and from those metrics? I think what’s going to become more prevalent is that you’re going to get these public relations metrics and you’re going to get these social analytics – but you’re going to need to know what they mean.”

This understanding can begin now, in the classroom.

There are tools already available, right at our fingertips. Twitter’s analytics tools allow users to measure engagement, scale tweet impression rates and track followers. Over the past year, Facebook created analytics capabilities, allowing organizations to view traffic data and gain insights regarding who is viewing content. Perhaps the most drilled-down and in-depth of them all, Google Analytics provides a seamless research process for users interested in web traffic data, web user behavior, the geographical location of site visitors, age demographics, and even their wider online interests.

By leveraging analytics, communicators get a step up to the forefront of transformation in their fields. Communication strategies relying solely on instinct and experience are no longer enough. Journalists must reference analytics and web traffic data to better understand readers and their content preferences.  Public relations professionals can no longer assume their press releases are reaching top influencers– they must utilize hard data to bolster outreach strategies.

Numbers are proving the value of our words. We just need to get behind them.