Data Needs Context

Using data for communications campaigns can feel a lot like stepping on a scale. Seconds — which feel like minutes — pass by as the scale ponders whether to give you good news or bad. Of course, whether it’s good news or not likely depends on what the scale told you yesterday.

Even then, all the scale is telling you is your weight at that moment in time; nothing about your overall health, how you got to that darn number or what to do about “fixing” that number.

Communications campaigns are often drowning in a sea of KPIs.

Dashboards swirl with impressions … engagement rates … conversion rates … followers … media hits … and many other intriguing but overwhelming data points. Audience analyses show layers of demographics … purchasing behaviors … interests and hobbies … political persuasions and psychological drivers … and many, many more. It can often feel like a lot of noise without a lot of clarity, or simply put, actionable insights.
Data Needs Context
As data becomes table stakes for communications campaigns, the “noise” is getting louder with seemingly endless iterations of metrics and more advanced and sophisticated modeling approaches. Yet for nearly every campaign we support we still hear the same two basic questions: “Is that good or bad?” and “What do we do about it now?” As much as executives want to understand their metrics, they really want to know whether they are on track to achieve their overall objective — and what needs to happen to get them there. The “noise,” like tracking metrics, often only tell us how much activity there is and how people are responding to that activity. These are both important elements, but motion is not momentum. The scale can tell you what you weigh, but not how you got there or what you might do to change that pesky number.

That’s why our team approaches every analysis by answering these two basic questions — “Compared to what?” and “So what?”

For example, if you’re running an ad campaign, a $10 cost-per-click could be outstanding if you are targeting a niche, policy influencer audience; or it could be abysmal if you are reaching a wider audience, such as registered voters in the U.S. Similarly, achieving more than 100,000 social engagements on your topic can be good if you are trying to achieve a local legislative victory. It may not be as good if you are trying to improve the national perception about your brand. Other factors are also important, like is the sentiment positive or negative; was your number last week 1,000 or 1 million; or is this even the audience that you want to be engaging on the topic?

Context matters.

Whatever your ultimate goal, your data needs to tell you how you are doing on that journey and provide insights on how to arrive sooner and more efficiently. Otherwise, all you have is a fancy dashboard or pretty report — or a scale that tells you what you weigh. Don’t get me wrong, we love to report the incredible results we achieve in dashboards and reports (we are a public affairs firm after all), but to build and execute truly successful campaigns you need to harness the power of context. Campaigns succeed when data creates actionable insights. Ready to take your data to the next level? Contact James Baril.

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