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Insights + Inspiration…by Kiersten Schroeder

Digital Data Points: The Best or Worst Thing to Happen to Communications?

In my more than two decades of marketing, I’ve witnessed a shift in “proving” communications effectiveness. One of my very first clients relied on bi-annual audience surveys to determine if communications efforts were impacting perceptions on issues, if messages could be recalled or repeated, and what emerging opportunities or concerns communications could address. It became an invaluable tool to assess attitude shifts over time as well as the effectiveness of our overarching communications initiatives. But this kind of survey work is not inexpensive and as digital communications have become more and more the norm, we are seeing a shift toward individual KPIs. In other words, a black and white proof point of an individual tactic.

Let’s get this right…these data points have a place and certainly serve an important purpose. They can be used to test content, refine a message, or take the pulse of an audience. And in many cases, can help test the effectiveness of a specific tactic. Let’s take, for example, engagement on a social post. This shift toward KPIs by tactic can result in two scenarios that can have a major negative impact on your communication effectiveness.

First, a shift away from strategy and integration. The very best and most effective communication campaigns have tactics that build on each other. Online activities driving offline engagement and vice versa. The strategy comes in how they work together and how they work harder by working together. Let’s say I have a print and radio buy at the launch of a new product. I support that with digital native ad content that tells the story behind the new product and paid social media. Should I be measuring each of those tactics individually, as in, how many people clicked through the digital ads to my website? Or should I be looking at overarching awareness of my new product and, over time, sales? Really, the answer is both.

Second, and related, losing site of the importance of the aforementioned awareness. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is plaster your name or your product all over the place—magazine cover wraps, social takeovers, direct mail, billboards. You start to show up everywhere your target turns. But a lot of those tactics can’t be measured with black and white proof points, like click through rates or views. Does that mean they aren’t important? No way. Having that awareness is mission critical to supporting your overarching sales efforts. And over time creates a runway for more specific calls to action. You have to balance the stage in the product or service lifecycle, along with the marketplace and customer dynamics to develop the best and most integrated mix possible.

Have data digital points become the beginning and end of your communications planning and measurement? Drop me a line and let’s chat on ideas to bring more integration to your upcoming plans.


CLUTCH is a hybrid consultancy and agency focused on helping B2B businesses find and realize their peak potential. As business acceleration experts, everything the firm does is designed to drive the growth of revenue and opportunity. The firm combines a mix of strategic consulting, marketing communications and lead generation, and learning and development services to consistently produce business results for clients.

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