Christa Conte
SVP, Head of Digital Commerce Practice & Co-Chair, PR Council Digital Community

Public Relations has come a long way over the past decade — from the simple and tactical support around news releases written solely for an editorial audience, to the development of full-fledged influencer campaigns built on analytical research and data.

Technology has propelled the discipline into one of the most effective and efficient functions to build brands and businesses today. While almost everyone acknowledges the impact of earned, measurement and evaluation are still cause for handwringing.  What do the industry’s top digital experts recommend? See their responses below and learn more by joining the “Using Data & Analytics to Demonstrate Comm’s Value” webinar hosted by the PR Council during 2019 Communications Week.

What has been the single greatest challenge you’ve faced in communicating value throughout your career?

  • Antoine Harary, Global Managing Director at Edelman Intelligence: The biggest challenge in measurement is often getting clients and comms teams to align on specific measurable objectives. What are you trying to change? Who are you targeting? It means knowing the state of play and having a clear sense of the job to be done. Everyone needs to go on the same journey so that we all end at the same destination. It’s simple and incredibly complex at the same time.
  • Steve Bauer, Senior Vice President & Partner at FleishmanHillard: In a word: relevance. My role is to help our clients build and strengthen relationships with their key stakeholders. In the ever-evolving world of digital communications, it takes a consistent and dedicated effort to keep up with the pace of the changes in the latest tools, technologies, and techniques to help clients accomplish their business and communications goals. I work with clients across multiple sectors and verticals so there’s also a need to stay up to speed on the changes and trends in different industries, as well. For me, the need to keep learning to stay ahead of what’s next is also what makes a career in this field so motivating and rewarding.
  • Chuck Hemann, Managing Director, Analytics / Head of Digital Analytics at W2O Group: It’s really challenging to isolate down to just one challenge because the analytics landscape has changed so fundamentally since my career began in this industry in 2004. Back then, the biggest challenge was gaining support for spending on rich analytics and measurement. It was most often the first thing cut from budgets, and the rigor around measurement was weak at best. Now, companies in all industries and sizes are investing in analytics. The biggest challenge in 2019, and likely to be for the foreseeable future, is figuring out which data to use to make the decisions your business needs to make. There is so much available data that it’s sometimes very difficult to isolate the sources that would provide an answer to your question(s). The amount of data is going to continue to grow, so knowing what questions you are trying to address BEFORE you go collect data will be key.

What was your favorite “a-ha” moment when a challenging client/campaign finally stuck and showed the results you wanted?

  • Antoine: A few years back, our team was working with a global premium spirit brand. They had a large partnership with a movie star that had been highly successful for a couple of years. However, the client had a feeling the partnership was running its course. Sales were not as strong as before, even though every campaign and PR activation with the actor was generating huge media coverage and social activities. While working with them, we were able to demonstrate that the conversation generated by the partnership strayed from the original purpose of reinforcing the brand values and evolved into a commentary of how glamorous the ambassador was. Data confirmed the value a new ambassador would bring to the brand, so the brand could make the change with confidence. It was a risky move, but it paid off: The new partnership aligned more consistently with the brand essence and sales increased.
  • Steve: I support several senior clients with executive visibility initiatives. One C-level executive, in particular, was skeptical about the value of social media but reluctantly agreed to work with us to establish his presence on LinkedIn and Twitter. After a series of one-on-one goal-setting exercises and coaching sessions, followed by monthly results meetings to evaluate the impact of his social presence, the executive became a true believer in the power of digital and social and is now one of the top evangelists for the power of social media in the company.
  • Chuck: My “a-ha” moment is actually a moment that I’m continually reminded of as we present data to clients. In our industry, there is a commonly held belief that we need to find the business changing insight with our research. That, if we don’t find the insight that fundamentally changes our business or marketing strategy that the research was a failure. That couldn’t be more incorrect. Large companies do not change business or marketing strategy on a dime, and one piece of research is almost never enough. Instead, the industry needs to focus on using research to guide short-term, more tactical optimizations. . Those are things like changing copy, changing imagery, altering channel investment, and launching new test & learns. Analytics leaders in PR need to make the questions we are trying to address with our research much smaller.

What is the one piece of advice you wish you received early in your career to prepare you for the changing comms landscape?

  • Antoine: No level of urgency justifies sloppy research. Taking the time necessary to get your data and facts right is never a bad investment.
  • Steve: Don’t be afraid to take smart, calculated risks to break through the clutter. If you don’t fail, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. When you do fail, embrace it as a learning experience.
  • Chuck: Be patient. It has taken 15 years for research and analytics to y take hold within large enterprises; some are still resistant. Change in the marketing and communications industry doesn’t happen overnight, so we need to take the time to bring along or educate our clients.

To hear more from the digital experts above, please join us for the PR Council’s Webinar during 2019 Communications Week on Wednesday, October 16.

About the Author

Christa Conte is SVP and Head of Digital Commerce for Hotwire, based in New York. She has 15 years of experience working on strategic communications programs for B2B companies across the marketing/advertising, retail, e-commerce and financial services sectors and serves as the co-chair of the PR Council’s Digital Community.