Towards a data-driven media communication approach

Over the years, communication strategy has become more scientific in its approach. The use of technology, tools, data and insights has become a key part of communication strategy. ‘There is an app for that’ conversations are no more avoidable for those who keep track of the comms tech space development.

During my stint in journalism, there were few tools and reliance on data to understand communication strategy’s effectiveness was almost a novelty. However, even today, few journalists attach with us the epithet of being a “dispatch house of information’” One of the many gaps is in the way is the approach towards the function.

The Creativity Faucet technique

As communication strategy and reputation management consultants, we need to systemically find creativity.

Any business environment primarily undergoes two scenarios – Business As Usual (BAU) and Business Not As Usual (BNAU). BAU is the period when there is an active inflow of information from the company. It can be through brand, product or service launches, and corporate and marketing campaigns announcements. This is the period when most communication professionals reach out to the media. But what about the BNAU period? Efforts in BNAU are the sustenance pillars of an organisation’s reputation building strategy.

My recent discussions with a few young public relations professionals highlighted finding a credible story not just to tell but sell as one of the biggest challenges they face during their interaction with media. One of the ways one can resolve this is by proactively using the Creativity Faucet concept proposed by author Julian Shapiro. When you sit down on the drawing board, your initial ideas are mere imitations of your weakest ideas. Put it on paper and keep discarding them until you reach a set of original ideas. These are the stories media has not easily heard about your organisation, and the probability of engaging a journalist is far higher if packaged suitably.

Data, data everywhere; not one to use?

Communication professional today has to add data and analytical skills to their fold. Communication and media planners must use data at their disposal to chisel the strategy today. Most communication teams have access to a vast volume of data every month –from media tonality to size, from media mapping to journalist tracking, from traditional media to new media. It’s time we optimally use these data.

With the emergence and acceptance of media tracking solutions, most organisations today know the effectiveness of their strategy every month. I have observed that this data is sometimes only scrapped for leverage points such as SOV, MAV, AVE, etc. Some of these are not even relevant today and have been unequivocally denounced in the Barcelona Principles. Few communications teams also track media coverage spread across priority markets, regions, and the media universe vis-a-vis completion brand. With the rapidly changing environments we operate in, is this enough?

Media engagement strategies can benefit from the existing data if it is analysed in detail. For instance, what’s your media engaged success ratio vis-a-vis. your approved media universe? What is your competition’s effectiveness on the same matric? Are there new journalists on the block who aren’t writing in the core genre you operate in but touch upon themes you wish to highlight? Does one know when the pitches are read, responded to, or discarded by the journalist? Which is the most effective communication channel to approach a journalist? Does the journalist or media have a preference when it comes to storytelling? There are several such questions that can be easily answered with data.

During my brief stint writing about big data, one of the quotes that stuck by me was: Data is not the new oil. Its value is not based on scarcity. Data increases in value the more it is connected. It’s time to break the silos of data and utilise them.

Lest we forget

One of the most significant signs of change inertia I see amongst communication professionals is built on the premise that communication building is more art than science. Hence putting a process and planning can only streamline and not deliver results in the ever-changing operations landscape. But we must not forget that any planning is procrastination in disguise if not actioned upon systemically and passionately over a period of time.

This column has been shared as part of the Global Alliance Education and Training Month – 2022

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Supreeth Sudhakaran
Supreeth Sudhakaran is Deputy General Manager in the Corporate Communication and Brand Team of Aditya Birla Group. He was earlier associated with Godrej Industries Limited, leading owned media platform - Design Dekko, research-driven narratives, hybrid media engagement, and brand communication mandate for the Godrej Agrovet Ltd.

Supreeth is a journalist by education, he started his career working as a desk editor at the digital arm of the Dainik Bhaskar Group. He later worked at senior editorial roles with several leading general and trade media publications such as the Indian Express Group, IPP Media India, Haymarket Media Group, and Geospatial Media, writing and editing stories on various niche subjects including marketing technology, printing, packaging, publishing, and geospatial science. His first stint as a communication professional was with India’s largest PR firm, Adfactors PR Pvt Ltd., before moving to his current role.

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