“But we’re not Excel-people!”

In an email conversation with a blog subscriber, we discussed the adapting to a digital first world. The subscriber told me about how challenging it was to get colleagues who love the alphabet to also love numbers. And, in my experience of working with many different types of organisations, this challenge is not uncommon. I love the power of the written word, too.

Math and code — they’re languages, too.

In fact, they’re the Esperanto of our time; a unifying set of global languages without borders. The language of information technology is defining for our generation. Thus, the time has come for communication professionals to step up and embrace the power of datadriven PR and marketing. But where to start?

I suggest investing in a data warehouse.

What’s a Data Warehouse?

‘Data warehouse’ is computing terminology, and it has nothing explicitly to do with public relations or marketing. Here’s how Wikipedia describes a data warehouse:

“In computing, a data warehouse (DW or DWH), also known as an enterprise data warehouse (EDW), is a system used for reporting and data analysis and is considered a core component of business intelligence. DWs are central repositories of integrated data from one or more disparate sources. They store current and historical data in one single place and are used for creating analytical reports for knowledge workers throughout the enterprise.”

In other words:

Data you collect as an organization goes into a huge “Excel-document” for future analysis.

Not all data is created equal, though. For example: You can’t combine your social media data with the data you collect on your website since these two data sets are structured differently. This is why there are different types of programs tasked with restructuring all incoming data before storing it in your data warehouse.

Then, there are also different types of programs that will allow you to analyse and visualise your collected data. Otherwise, you’d just be sitting there, staring at lots of numbers in a massive spreadsheet. So, that’s essentially what a data warehouse is.

But why is it necessary for public relations and marketing to invest in a data warehouse?

Big Data for PR and Marketing

There are many advantages for communication professionals to collect and store all public relations and marketing data in one place:

Analysis. It’s more valuable to analyze various data sets together.

Time. Analyzing data via a single interface is more time-efficient.

Compliance. Regulations like GDPR will affect PR and marketing, too.

Then, which types of data sets could be relevant for communication professionals to access? A few examples:

  • Social media data
  • SEO/SEM data
  • Analytics data
  • Email data
  • Sales data
  • CRM data
  • Market research data
  • Budget data
  • Time report data

And the list goes on.

Is your business sensitive to weather fluctuations, maybe? Why not import some geographic data, too. The point here is that it’s always possible to increase the value of your combined data sets.

Be mindful of your harvest strategy. Data quality (not data volume) will determine the quality of your analysis.

As communication professionals, it’s not our job to set these data warehouses up. It’s not our job to make sure that they are secure and up and running. It’s not our job to manage the software that takes care of restructuring and analysis. But it is our job to decide what public relations- and marketing data sets should go into the data warehouse — and how they should be analysed.

There are also laws and regulations to consider when collecting data, especially if you’re storing personal information — and especially in Europe. Make sure to be compliant.

The Future is Datadriven

I often hear this:

“It’s so difficult for us communications professionals to demonstrate ROI!”

“There’s so much data, but how do you make sense of it?”

“Our management doesn’t really understand the importance of ‘digital first’!”

All PR- and marketing-departments must learn to appreciate the value of a clean data set. Otherwise, one of two things will happen:

Scenario #1: Your data gets lost — forever.
Scenario #2: Your data gets stored away in silos, never to be accessed again.

Social Media Monitoring

What’s the value of social media monitoring? Most organizations invest in some form of online monitoring tool. Some of these tools are on the expensive side, too. Most organizations are monitoring what’s being said about themselves and their competitors. Some use monitoring tools to be able to detect issues early, like tsunami buoys acting as early warning systems. And that’s all well and good.

The real power of analysing social media data is social media intelligence.

The term social media intelligence is used by Whispr Group, a social media intelligence firm in New York and Stockholm, where I was the COO and lead strategist between 2010-2013.

Here’s the thing:

The real power of social media monitoring lies in the analysis of historical data. And to analyze historical data, you must store your data sets in an accessible way.

Imagine if you could analyze relevant data from years and years back. What otherwise hidden secrets and patterns would you find1?

Big Data Marketing

For many communications professionals, ‘datadriven PR- and marketing’ is indeed a scary concept. I used to hate spreadsheets, too. To some extent, I still do.

But despite new channels, new tools, and new behaviours, what constitutes strategic communication haven’t changed. The basic tenets are still the same; it’s still what you know and love. And setting up a data warehouse is a one-time project, and then it mostly runs by itself. (And when it doesn’t, your new best friends over at the IT department will do their best to fix it for you.)

You get to do the fun part — diving into the data, creatively looking for answers, and coming up with new ideas and insights.

Photo by David Werbrouck on Unsplash.


  1. Most social networks and monitoring tools have their own native insight dashboards, but these are often more or less useless for any type of serious analysis. These tools don’t know anything about your business strategy and all they can provide are generic reports that look the same for everyone.