Digital & Social Media

Data-Based Insight Can Lead Us to Bold Foresight

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Making decisions is a part of life. To make the best choices, we typically try to anticipate their consequences as best we can. Only by looking back with the magic of hindsight are we able to evaluate their ultimate success or failure. But what if I told you that we’ve entered a new age—one so predictive, we can take the clarity of hindsight and apply it to the future, that we have the ability to gain true foresight and make the best decisions?

That is the power of data and insights. It’s much more than just numbers. It’s much more even than the ability to track and measure the results of past endeavors. Data and insights are incredible resources that can give us the gift of knowing what’s likely to happen with a degree of surety not  previously possible—or even knowing how to make something happen that may have never happened before.

The ability to turn data into insights and action is essential in business today, especially in the field of communications. They are the keys to moving the dial demonstrably on engagement and behavior, and delivering measurable impact. That’s why it’s so important that we demystify them and truly understand their capabilities and applications if we are to realize their full potential.

And that potential is simply amazing. We’ve been able to shape campaigns and client strategies to be more effective than ever before. We use social ethnography to not just listen to target audiences, but actually walk in their shoes and see their lifestyle. We determine what resonates strongest with them prior to launching a full-scale campaign, resulting in an approach that instantly connects. We use social analytics to dissect stakeholder conversations, so clients can proactively make changes to products and services before they’re even introduced to the marketplace. We’ve been able to gauge media consumption and behavior to more effectively engage stakeholders—and develop solutions inspired by intuition, but grounded in data.

For example, we were tasked with improving social engagement for a major automaker. We needed to identify the topics, timing and types of communication to be executed. Data analysis led us to a very specific formula: Use Facebook as a primary channel, post messages on Thursday mornings and make the central topic vehicle features supported by personal photos. And it turns out, the analysis was right: Once the formula was put in place, engagement rose by a resounding 87 percent. This level of detail and foresight would not be possible without the power of these resources.

But remember, they’re only one part of the equation. Someone asked me, in this age of data and insights, is there any room for the Don Draper’s of the world – someone who seemingly thrives and succeeds on instinct alone — or is this type of thinker obsolete?

Research, data, analytics, insights…they cannot replace talent, instinct and creativity—Nor are they meant to. Their role is to supplement and fortify talent; to give our instincts and creativity direction. Their purpose hasn’t changed since the day we rolled out the first spreadsheet. But they have become exponentially more valuable.

Here’s my message to the Don Draper’s of the world: You’re not obsolete. Don’t be threatened by the numbers. Instead, opt in. Commit yourself to embracing these new tools and learning how they can sharpen your natural abilities and make them even stronger. With the gift of foresight, you will do more than just succeed—you will know you are making the best decisions for you, your stakeholders and your organizations.

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About the author

Dave Senay

Dave Senay has held a variety of key roles during his nearly 30 years with FleishmanHillard. He is an avowed globalist, having spent much of his tenure on the road, collaborating with colleagues around the world. Senay joined the firm in 1984 as an account executive, rising to become FleishmanHillard’s third CEO since its founding in 1946, a position he held until 2015. Along the way, he served as general manager of the St. Louis headquarters office and as regional president for the U.S. Midwest, for Canada, and for EMEA. A former PR jury president at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity and chairman of the Council of Public Relations Firms, Senay is a relevant leader who continues to shape the industry in which he has spent his entire career. He currently serves as a special counsel to the firm.

A FleishmanHillard employee.