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Data Analytics Is Transforming Communications: Three Opportunities it’s Unlocking for Organizations

April 29, 2021

There’s a lot of talk today about “analytics,” “data science” and “machine learning.” How these are defined and how they are applied differ depending on who you’re talking to, the field they work in and what their expertise is. For communicators, behind all the jargon is a tremendous opportunity that’s transforming not only how data and intelligence is gathered, but how it’s analyzed, synthesized and used to shape communication strategies

These advancements couldn’t come at a more critical time. Over the last year, organizations navigated the ramifications of the pandemic, a long-overdue reckoning on racial injustice and intense political polarization. Expected norms were overturned. Stakeholders’ expectations shifted rapidly. It was also a time of exciting change, as the question of organizations’ social impact was front and center in a way we’ve never seen before

As communicators and researchers, we’ve always been passionate about evidence and putting insights at the heart of our work. But if anything, the last year served as a clear reminder about why now is not the time to guess. For many seeking to break through the noise, it underscores the importance of maintaining a deep, nuanced understanding of issues, stakeholders’ perceptions, motivations and behaviors, and the landscape that’s shaping issues and stakeholders.

In this environment, it’s essential for organizations to be informed, nimble and decisive. Here are three opportunities that data analytics can unlock for your organization so you can be armed with the intelligence needed to conquer this complex landscape and stay ahead.

  1. Forecast the potential impact of reputational threats—and get in front of them. 
    Every organization has a unique set of issues and expectations that define its reputation. By analyzing online conversations through the lens of those distinct reputation drivers and applying advanced analytics, you can move from simply monitoring for issues to a more predictive approach to issue and reputation management. This creates the ability to spot and track movement early in the digital landscape, forecast the issues that could impact your reputation and assess the likelihood your stakeholders will react and engage based on past behaviors.
  2. Spot white space opportunities early in the digital landscape to engage and move your audiences. 
    As communicators, we’re hard-wired to always be searching for proactive opportunities to help our clients stay ahead of the curve and spot the white space where they can lead. Applying data science to social listening data can give you an unrivaled edge in identifying the emerging trends early—the ones that are likely to be increasingly covered in the media and talked about by audiences online. This intelligence can help you plan communication activities to align with where the conversation is moving and what your audiences are likely to be most interested in.
  3. Uncover hidden insights by bringing the “art” to data “science.” 
    Whether you’re looking to find that single insight that can spark a campaign, better understand your audiences or assess the issues impacting your organization, data science alone will only get you so far. The opportunity to unlock deeper insights and see the forest through the trees comes with marrying data science with primary opinion research, digital research and subject-matter expertise. The “art” of human analysis—bringing a deeper understanding of a particular industry or issue—is key.

These are just a few examples of how data science is transforming communications, with more on the horizon. Whether organizations are looking to better track their reputation, anticipate emerging issues or spot untapped opportunities in the landscape, these new capabilities will play an increasingly integral role in informing and shaping strategy. They can enhance how the landscape is analyzed and help us to better understand audiences’ perceptions, motivations and behaviors—giving organizations the actionable intelligence needed to act and communicate with conviction.

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