Diane Bégin is a data-driven marketing specialist and Vice President at ruckus Digital and APEX Public Relations in Toronto. She guides us through the challenging world of data in marketing and PR.
As data becomes plentiful – even overwhelming at times – agencies are hiring specialists in data-driven marketing. Their role is to work through data complexity and find a clear way to impact client campaigns.
Diane Bégin answers that all-important question: is there a role for creativity in this brave new data-driven marketing world?
Does all this data turn marketing into a science?
How new is it for a PR or marketing agency to have a data analytics specialist on staff? Is it the way of the future?
As communicators, we’ve always had to understand metrics to pull insights from them (e.g. media impressions, Google Analytics, etc.). As communications platforms expand and analytics tools get more complex, more agencies are hiring folks dedicated to marketing analytics.
We all still need to have an understanding of analytics to to show value in our work and how it impacts clients’ bottom lines. However, having go-to experts to help make sense of the data. Whether you have someone in-house or externally – the data specialist is something that is here to stay.
We are inundated with data, but not all of it matters, so having data experts to make sense of it will continue to grow in importance.
Is marketing now truly a science, in that data can be measured and analysed, and then lead to action?
I wouldn’t call marketing a science, but effective marketing does have science and marketing working hand-in-hand.
Science in mainstream earned media, for example, goes back to the days of one of the founders of public relations, Edward Bernays (Sigmund Freud’s nephew). He used Freud’s work to change behaviour through campaigns. Just like data science is interdisciplinary (i.e. it’s not just scientific methods), I would argue that marketing is also interdisciplinary.
Understand a client’s objectives to use data-driven marketing
An obstacle to effectively using data is understanding it. How can marketers develop strong data interpretation skills?
The foundation is by starting with your client’s business objectives – what do they want to accomplish? Whether it’s 100,000 new credit card sign ups or a favourable ‘net promoter score’ ranking for a municipality, you need to determine objectives.
Then work backwards to determine how your efforts will contribute to that. With an understanding of those business objectives, you know what to care about and can see if the data can answer those questions. (Or to start your conversation with your go-to data-driven marketing expert.)
Anyone who’s worked with basic data knows how important quality is. If organizations have lots of data but it’s poor quality, is cleansing the place to start?
Yes, quality is key when working in data. How can you determine any insights if the data is flawed? I’d rather start from scratch and get it right than ever use poor quality data.
Apply the RACE formula
What are the key next steps to begin making data-driven decisions?
The evolution of the RACE formula (research, analysis, communication, evaluation) applies here. The formula was established in 1963. We now look at all four elements and constantly iterate our approaches based on feedback from our environment. And the environment must be rooted in qualitative and quantitative data.
Recent research by our agency under the CMO Lab banner revealed the importance of integration in planning, through to data-driven evaluation. This is necessary across paid (social media, digital, OOH, etc.), earned (relations, influencers etc.), shared (social media) and owned media (website, intranet, etc.). Together we call them PESO.
The data shouldn’t be looked at in silos but rather as a whole. We are in a better position to provide holistic reporting on the effectiveness of all activities with relevant KPIs and benchmarks (i.e. not just a random number we’re trying to hit). This is possible through aligned planning and measurement to business objectives across all PESO platforms,
Agility is always key and tactical elements like A/B testing will also always continue to be part of ongoing programs.
The age of predictive analytics
2018 is said to be the year of predictive analytics. Data will help practitioners create predictive models that tell which consumers are going to be the best targets. Data-driven marketing will show what kinds of actions we can take to potentially turn consumers into clients. How can marketers leverage predictive analytics? What kinds of tools, data, and insights should they be seeking?
Things like search data, weather triggers, or creating lookalike audiences to get tangible data on predicting the consumer journey are part of what we’re doing. But there are new things coming out every day.
Instead of specific tools, data and insights, practitioners should stay informed about new tools. Do this through, for example, regular work group discussions, industry events, online articles, etc. And you can’t know it all, so find a good group of folks to keep you on top of your game.
Diane Bégin on a continued role for creativity
Given the rise of data and use of artificial intelligence in marketing, is there a role for creativity in this automated world?
Of course, just like any other changes that have impacted our work as communicators, there is still always a role for creativity.
We have no idea yet where automation can take us. Those who are keen and eager to tap into its potential will continue to see gains within their work.
What kinds of skills should marketers and PR people of tomorrow be equipped with?
They should be comfortable with the notion of constantly being uncomfortable.
Things move quickly and you have to jump in every day and be willing to solve problems in a new way. The environment will always change from the last time you did something similar.
About digital expert Diane Bégin
Diane Bégin is an online content and social media specials who supports clients in internal and external communications in Toronto. She has a Master of Arts in Communications and Technology from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Diane has solid experience in video production, speech writing, event planning, government relations, and communications planning. You can find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.