Communicators should get smart about data – McKinsey


At this year’s EuroComm, we’re delighted to have two exceptional communicators from McKinsey in our line-up of speakers: Rose Beauchamp, Head of Client Communications, and Cabe Franklin, Global Director of Internal Communications. They will be talking about how data can improve how we work, allow us to better engage and enable us to build credibility with senior leaders.

Ahead of their session at EuroComm, IABC EMENA board member Alex Malouf spoke to Cabe and Rose about the power of data and how communicators can make data work for them.


data managementSo, let’s start off with a simple question. What does data mean to communicators?

Cabe: What we will talk about is the surprising power of data, and some easy ways to start using data to inform decisions – whether you’re improving the reach of a channel or running an ongoing campaign. We’ll talk about how data can be used and analyzed throughout a campaign, rather than in the way many communicators still use it, which is for a wrap-up review at the end of an effort.

Rose: The goal of the talk is to share some ideas on how to see data as part of an agile process – whether you’re launching a campaign, assessing a channel, or running a whole department. It helps that both Cabe and I are former management consultants as well as communicators. My role involves  supporting communications work in our client projects, where organizations are undergoing a major change, while Cabe’s role is focused on internal communications at McKinsey.

What we both understand is the need to look to improve what we do whilst we are doing it. Our management consulting experience teaches us to get out there, find the data points and look at that data while we’re still in the midst of the project – rather than wait until everything is over. Our aim at EuroComm is to inspire people to see what they can get out of the data and demystify what this means. Many communicators still have this vision of endless Excel spreadsheets, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

What do you mean by data collection and analysis?

Rose: Firstly, we need to change how we approach data and reframe the issue in terms that we’re comfortable with. Let’s stop thinking about data collection and rather talk about dialogue. To give an example, one of our clients has just launched a new communications channel. This new tool includes a very useful feature which we all understand, the like button. It featured a mix of personal interest stories and management stories. In the first day after going live, the personal interest story had over double the likes compared to the management story which was featured on the same page, despite the personal interest story being at the bottom of the page.

His audience liked this story more – twice as much as the other one. This essentially is a data point which will help my client understand what type of content to include next time.

Cabe: Data was a great help when I first started in my current role, because it can help a comms leader make decisions based on objective results rather than tradition or hierarchy. In a lot of organisations, senior leaders will think that if a subject is important to them, then it’ll be important to everyone. It becomes an ‘I’m the boss, let’s do it my way’ conversation. Data changes that, and gives us the room to do our job better.

Communicators become a source of insight about our audiences, and rather than being told what to implement, senior executives start to come to us earlier on, asking for our advice and inputs. Data ultimately helps us earn our seat at the table as it helps us understand how information resonates inside the organization.

What advice would you give to communicators when it comes to data measurement and usage?

Cabe: Firstly, don’t worry about benchmarks. There are so few good ones out there which work, and even fewer which work across industries. The only rule when it comes to data is you should focus on learning what’s working and improving from your own past numbers on whatever your own core KPIs are. And it can be as simple as counting page views if that’s all you’re set up to do.

Rose: I’d add, be curious about data. Data allows us to go beyond asking our colleagues who sit next to us, or our manager, what they think. Data gives us the chance to get a view of an entire group, department or organization. Even if you can go and get the views of just ten people, this is still better than having nothing in your hand. And, as Cabe has mentioned, keep asking how to get better at data measurement and analysis. These small and incremental improvements will make a big difference to how we’re able to do our jobs.

In essence, then, you’re saying that data doesn’t have to be complex or cumbersome?

Cabe: Data collection can even be analog. It can be stickers that people put on a yes/no question on a poster in the canteen. There’s nothing fancy or complex about stickers, but you can take that information and turn it into interesting statistics, especially if you track it over time. Data also comes in handy when measuring change, and this doesn’t need to be complex either.

It can be as simple as enacting a role-playing scenario where someone exhibits the behavior you’re trying to change – for example, letting someone into a secure area without asking to see their badge – and seeing how people react. And then playing this out over a number of times in the office in the space of a month to observe how people’s behavior changes as you’re running a campaign. It’s analog, and time-consuming, but it’s still data collection and analysis that can inform decisions.

Rose: Using data to develop insights doesn’t need to be a chore – it doesn’t need to feel like you’re doing the washing up. There’s lots of ways to collect information, and getting feedback is itself a way to engage employees.  You can incentivize people to tell you what they think, by something as simple as offering chocolate for every survey response.  By designing your feedback mechanism creatively, you change the experience of what you are communicating about.

Data measurement can be rewarding too – it helps you understand where you’re succeeding and improving. If we miss this essential part of our role, we can just end up churning out copy without understanding the impact we are having. Think of data as having more of a conversation with your colleagues and clients, rather than just grinding out numbers. Change your mindset and you’ll have fun, trust me.


To hear more from Cabe and Rose on the importance of data and how you can use it to your advantage, come to IABC EMENA’s 12th EuroComm conference, which will be held in Rotterdam from 18-19 April 2016.


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