How I Learned to Embrace Data



Posted: In: Blogs Industry Insights & Trends

“Not only does the vacuum give me a coverage report of where it cleaned, but also the time it took to clean!” I shouted in excitement. “That means I can get data around how dirty my apartment is and areas with the most foot traffic!”

“I’m not surprised this excites you so much,” said my colleague Rachel. “You love data!”

She was right. When did this happen? I’ve always been a clean freak, so of course I’d love Neato Robotics’ vacuums. But my enthusiasm for data caught me by surprise because I wasn’t always like this…

These days, I find myself continually quantifying my life: How big was the sample size for the study touted on that whitening toothpaste commercial? What other data points could have been gathered to give more insightful findings? How much weight did I push last week at the gym? Is there a correlation between sleep and strength?

After digging a little deeper, I realized there were a few moments in my career that led to this new state of data-mindedness.

My first job in social media sparked a passion for data.

At the time, I worked at a boutique social media agency where my job was to monitor online engagement for our clients. One of my projects was measuring sentiment around new film releases including compiling weekly sentiment reports.

The first few reports were absolute garbage; I made qualitative assessments of the tweets I’d monitored simply by reading them and reported on the total number of tweets, followers, and likes of high- and low-performing social content. When I decided to report on the week-over-week change of Twitter followers and Facebook likes, I saw my manager perk up.

From there on out, I shifted to reporting week-over-week change, percentages of negative/neutral/positive social posts based on a sample pool, and possible correlations based on outbound messaging. This went over extremely well, because I was finally speaking management’s language.

Asking for more resources? Executives want to see the numbers.

The second moment that ignited my passion for data was during my time at social media analytics platform Klout. Given that it was a startup, justifying use of resources was paramount. After proposing a project to my C-suite leader, I was given a valuable piece of advice that has stayed with me to this day: If you’re going to ask for resources (whether monetary or human capital), bring data to show why what you’re proposing is worth the investment.

Before proposing the project a second time around, I tried to quantify everything. I figured out how much time and energy the project would cost our team and compared it to potential ROI of client retention, client satisfaction, and brand recognition. In the end, I was able to pull together a proposal convincing enough that I was allotted the resources I’d requested.

The last stop along my data-minded journey occurred while I was job hunting.

My resume used to be a list of achievements and responsibilities. A month into my job search, I wasn’t seeing a satisfying response rate from hiring managers and recruiters, so I started looking at top-performing LinkedIn profiles for people in similar roles. What did they have in common? Data.

Instead of listing responsibilities, these profiles read more like baseball cards rich with statistics! They included revenue generated quarter to quarter, team growth year over year, and customer retention percentages. These metrics prove value and success instead of listing off responsibilities. I completely revamped my resume and profile and saw better results immediately. Again, quantifying my efforts with data completely changed the game for me.

So how can you become more data-minded?

As a PR Engineer, I’m always thinking about how I can help AirPR customers look amazing in the eyes of their bosses. Here are three tips to help you become more data-minded too:

1. Prove the value of PR and communications efforts by backing your work with data that ladders back to your organization’s business objectives. This will help you demonstrate ROI. And be sure to avoid common PR math mistakes, like reporting follower numbers instead of month-to-month or year-over-year growth.

2. Communicate campaign results to C-suite executives in easily digestible bits so they can quickly scan and comprehend the information. Rebekah Iliff, our Chief Strategy Officer, calls this the 70% Noise Reduction Rule: Write your email or asset, then cut 70% of the noise. This will make the data you do include shine.

3. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of data that’s available to us now that the PR industry has caught up with the Big Data movement. Instead of freezing up in fear of the amount of information you have to sift through, keep it simple: begin by identifying the point you want to make or the question you want to answer and let the data prove or disprove it.

Read “How to Speak Geek” next for tips on how communicators and PR professionals can better mesh with technology and engineering teams.