The underlying goal of any communications effort – to educate stakeholders and compel action - has not changed much over the decades, but emerging digital tools and technologies have caused a significant evolution in the strategies and tactics to achieve success.
With wider accessibility to the internet and a pandemic having forced many people to work remotely, digital integration is more an essential necessity than a competitive opportunity. The challenge for communicators is how to fully tap into the potential of digital to improve the performance of strategic campaigns.
This is especially the case when it comes to leveraging data-driven decision making that draws on performance data measurement and insights to inform each stage of a communications efforts. Two critical questions can set the stage for success:
- What should be measured? This is the first question that should be asked at the beginning of any campaign, and the answer should directly support the overall campaign goal. For example, if the goal of the campaign is to grow an email list, you should measure and optimize against the cost per acquisition (CPA) – the total spend divided by the number of sign-ups (e.g., $100/20 = $5 CPA). If you are trying to improve client perceptions, several platforms offer “brand lift” studies that anonymously survey users who have seen a specific set of ads and compare to a control group who have not seen the same ads.
- How can insights be applied across various online and offline channels to improve overall performance? This second question frames up the approach for leveraging existing assets to capture actionable data insights to improve overall campaign performance. Below are examples for three common channels:
- Website: Do you routinely review which pages of your website are visited most, as well as the length of time visitors spend consuming your content? These are two indicators for identifying the content your audience values most and provide insights that can guide content strategy and development for the website and other communications channels.
- Social platforms: If you use social channels to communicate with your audience, are you testing different content types (e.g., text-only, text and images, polls) to understand what best captures and engages your community’s attention (e.g., click-thru-rate, video-completion rate)? Knowing this information, in addition to understanding other factors that impact engagement, such as posting times and competition in the news cycle, will not only help improve your social media metrics, but can also enhance earned media efforts and other outreach activities.
- Email marketing: If you engage in email marketing, are you A/B testing headlines and body copy to understand what drives the most actions (e.g. opens, clicks, forwards)? Are you segmenting your audiences based on their actions with specific content? For example, if you find that emails with listicles elicit higher engagement, you may consider testing similar content on other channels.
We continually see a focus on testing leading to noted improvement for clients’ communications efforts. In one case, paid media A/B testing revealed that certain images drove twice as much engagement by our target audience. As a result, we have begun testing this insight on other platforms, (e.g., organic social media) to improve performance across all channels while maintaining a unified aesthetic theme for the campaign.
It is important to remember that simply capturing data does not make it valuable--what matters is how you use it to continuously improve your approach and achieve your campaign’s goals. Remember, the best way to drive success for your campaign is to effectively ingest data and optimize your efforts accordingly.
John Randall is a Senior Vice President in the Public Affairs and Crisis practice at BCW, specializing in digital strategy and execution.