Data-Fluency: A Requirement for Everyone in Media, Marketing, and PR

While I was on the agency-side, I contributed a guest post for the popular blog Copyblogger on the fact that copywriters need to understand data. Their editors changed my headline to be more provocative than I had originally written (they threw in the “get out of the business” if you don’t understand data part) but they have a point. Copywriters who aren’t data-driven may soon find demand for their skills fade because the business world continues shifting from “tell me” to “show me” – where ability to prove one’s results with solid data is equally important as having traditional proof points such as references and a strong client list.

While the post linked above is a few years old, I linked to it on purpose because I think I was a bit ahead of myself with data-driven copywriters, particularly for content marketers and media. But now, we’ve started to see that come to fruition: copywriters are becoming amazing at using data to get better. We’ve seen smart folk on the brand side such as Buffer use data to get better at their content marketing and media brands such as BuzzFeed employ a data scientist to increase sharing of their stories. Both of these brands are doing amazingly well.

After recent travels to speak to professionals across a variety of marketing disciplines, I have been thinking a bit more about fluency in data and I think it’s reached the point where data is everyone’s domain. Basically, in any facet of marketing, media, or PR, data is your responsibility, even that of traditionally more creative areas like copywriting. It’s a meta skill, like writing a persuasive email, giving a presentation, creating a narrative, or anything else you’d expect a communications person to be able to do. Anyway, with the fact that you can now easily get feedback on your activities, to not do so is to ignore a powerful mechanism to improve and says a lot.

What I think is especially strange (or concerning, depending on who you ask) is that some people in communications still think digital is hard to measure. My blood pressure almost always increases when I hear that of course. Digital is easier to measure, you just need to understand what metrics matter and have the right tools setup at the start.

Why should data be a meta skill? Let me throw some questions at you:

  • What have you done to improve your website conversions this month?
  • Do you even know what percentage of your website visitors convert to sale or lead?
  • Which of your online marketing tactics provided the most return last month?
  • What was your most successful piece of content created last month? How do you know?
  • How many (and how effective) were the organic shares of your blog content last month?

Did you know all the answers? If yes, you’re probably an analytics Jedi. If no, or someone on your team doesn’t know, you should bring them up to speed. Knowing the answers to the questions that matter for your brand (above are just samples to get you thinking) are necessary to focus on what matters.

There are too many potential tactics and ideas you could implement digitally, like paid search, email marketing, display, etc. It is actually what you don’t do that defines your digital marketing success. And data is the key to focus your efforts on what’s working. You can’t consistently improve results or be at all strategic in your marketing and PR if you don’t know what’s producing (and why) and how to report results meaningfully to make a case for more budget and iterate/refine. Thankfully there are plenty of resources to get you started on making data-driven decisions today.

Related reading

Flat business devices communication with cloud services isolated on the light blue background.