Blog post #78: Data and the disruption challenge

Friday 07 October, 2016
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The lines between communications and business development are blurring. In an age of disruption, where companies can go from challenger to global leader (and back again) in a matter of years, communications agencies are in an incredible position to support companies through the rapid changes affecting their business.

We can do this by turning clients’ existing data into insights that lead not just to exceptional communications assets and creative brand campaigns, but into growth and change strategies that inform product and service development, and drive real business results.

On our recent tour of Brussels, Frankfurt and London, we looked at these blurred lines, and shared some great examples of work by United Minds, part of award-winning Stockholm communications agency Prime Group, a Weber Shandwick company. The team of strategists have expertise in management consulting, market analysis, statistics and data science, trend analysis, consumer behaviour and communications consulting.

We talked about projects where we are using data and insights to carve out completely new business streams for clients, including Prime and United Minds’ four-Cannes-Lions-winning House of Clicks work for Swedish property portal Hemnet. What started as a communications brief turned into a way of developing their business in a new direction, thanks to our access to and smart use of Hemnet’s own data.

While Hemnet are in a great position, with a majority of the home property portal market in Sweden, other clients are in less advantageous positions, including those who are expecting erosion of a massive portion of their market over the next few years and are working with us to find ways of evolving their business to beat that shift.

Most companies have access to data that they could use to inform marketing and business strategy. But brands don’t always recognise the value of their data. Or they may be aware they have an untapped resource, but they don’t have the time or ability to explore the possibilities on their own.

That’s where being a trusted partner comes in. Our clients already trust us with their reputations and communications. And we can add even more value if we encourage clients to be a bit braver, and they allow us to question their briefs.

One of the things we picked up on our tour was that a lot of these projects are actually journeys: we’re effectively taking clients on a journey from where they are in terms of their communications and their business, to where they can be.

And because every company is different, it’s not a set process. Sometimes it’s a long and painful process.

But it is worth it. There is such an amazing amount of insight in brands’ pre-existing data; when we help them harness it, they will understand their customers and audiences – and even their own business – better than they ever have done.

There’s an additional point here: the communications industry has never been very good at proving effectiveness, but the ability to evaluate and measure the impact of the work we do is massively enhanced by the use of data.

Data is rapidly becoming a pervasive part of marketing and communications. And it’s clear that communications agencies are becoming self-confident enough to take on business development.

Our prediction is that we will see more experimenting, testing and temporary solutions in business development. And communications and public affairs will take an increasingly sophisticated and strategic role, and will be judged by the value they contribute to the business.

Smart use of existing client data is a great way of creating the value that communications will have to add – and will be evaluated on – in the future.

That’s the power of data plus comms: we can go beyond using data to generate awareness and engage audiences, to using it to transform brands and even business models, transforming the role of communications on the way.

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