Last week, SHIFT and NATIONAL Public Relations (SHIFT’s parent company) had the honor of representing the public relations world at the Measurement For Growth Google Analytics™ Certified Partner Summit. Along with NATIONAL Vice President of Marketing Technology Jonathan Litwack, I had the privilege of learning from Google where state of the art marketing measurement will be headed in the months and years to come.
While virtually all of the event was under NDA, let’s look at the big picture.
Are we data-driven?
This question is harder to answer than we might think.
Having data is not the same as using data.
Using data is not the same as relying on data.
What it means to be data-driven is that we make decisions with data first – not experience, not instinct, not gut. Here’s a simple test to determine if you’re personally data-driven. How often do you use Google Maps (or equivalent traffic and mapping apps) on your daily commute?
When I’ve asked people this, some scoff immediately. “I know how to get to my house,” they’ll say, and I have no reason to doubt that. However, I use Google Maps on every commute to see what kinds of traffic surprises await me on my 23-mile commute. I know how to get to my home. I don’t know what the road conditions are on that path. I am literally data-driven.
Apply a similar test to your marketing and communications. Before devising a launch plan, a crisis comms plan, or any communications plan, what data do you check? What systems do you consult?
If the answer is, “We don’t”, now is the time for a different answer. Companies which do not drive their businesses with data will find themselves at a significant, soon-to-be insurmountable disadvantage versus competitors who drive their businesses with data.
Where Marketers and Communicators Should Be Going
Again, without violating any non-disclosure agreements, look at the big picture in the world of marketing technology. Look at how fast the landscape is changing.
Analytics and measurement are table stakes, table minimums in high-growth sectors of the economy. If you don’t have the basics of data analytics firmed up, you’re behind and need to catch up quickly. In the Google Analytics™ ecosystem, this means implementing Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager™, along with best practices, as quickly as possible. Data is the new oil, but like oil, it has to be extracted and refined to be useful.
Machine learning and advanced statistics are the areas where companies need to invest now in order to catch the wave. If you don’t have developers and data scientists assembling solutions and insights from your data and analytics, get up to speed quickly. Make investment hires in these areas, because the most difficult part (today) of machine learning is training the machines on great data. In the Google Analytics™ ecosystem, start running tests with Google Optimize™ to dip your toes in the statistical testing waters.
Artificial intelligence and deep learning are where cutting edge companies (mostly tech companies) are betting the future – and because they’re providing accessible tools to everyone, every PR professional should be making use of them.
At SHIFT, we leverage the power of IBM Watson’s natural language skills to understand what PR coverage is about at massive scale. We use Google Cloud to turn audio into indexed text for pitching and content creation. We’re exploring new options with Microsoft Cognitive and Amazon AWS to bring even more insight and intelligence to core public relations programs as well as create content.
All these capabilities rely on solid foundations in data, analysis, insight, and strategy. So, if your business isn’t ready, how do you get started?
Where to Start
If you haven’t done so already, take the free Google Analytics courses from Analytics Academy to ramp up quickly on the basics of Google Analytics. These foundation skills are essential for implementing best practices in marketing and communications analytics.
From there, consider learning a data science language like Python or R. These languages will help you achieve proficiency in machine learning and advanced statistics today, building your data science capabilities.
Finally, if you’ve checked the boxes on data, analytics, data science, and machine learning, sign up for nearly every developer portal among the major tech companies – Google Cloud, IBM Watson, Amazon AWS, and Microsoft Cognitive – to gain access to the most advanced, cutting-edge artificial technologies available today – and at pennies on the dollar for development projects.
The future of PR is already here. Reach out and grab it!
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology
This blog post is also available in MP3 format, thanks to Amazon Polly: