An interesting meeting today with a customer-engagement research company prompted a discussion on the use of data and PR. 

I know.  Obviously a good idea, and most of us at least pay it lip-service: of course we use data in our daily work to target communications, shape content and measure impact.  Lots of examples in the link below on how to apply data to, say, media relations. 

But it got me wondering more about the use of data in how we actually run our agencies.  So this is more a set of questions than a commentary.

My assumption is that most agencies collect different kinds of data with varying levels of discipline and consistency.  Each set of numbers is usually confined to a silo with the agency - client service, HR, finance, etc. 

I can count five ways most agencies collect data:

  1. Client satisfaction.  Periodic reviews with quantitative scores and qualitative feedback. How are we doing and how likely are you to recommend us?
  2. Employee performance.  Annual (some are dumping this) reviews against performance objectives and, often, promotion criteria.  How am I doing?
  3. Employee engagement.  How well are we doing from our people's perspectives?  How likely will they stay?
  4. Project feedback.  Smart consultancies don't wait for the annual satisfaction survey; they ask for immediate feedback following a major project or engagement milestone.  How did we do?
  5. Business performance.  Run rates, ratios and p&l analysis.  Are we making enough money and spending wisely?

And I can think of few other areas that most but probably not all of us measure at least loosely: 

  • Social channels and engagement.  How is our Twitter feed performing? Who's visiting our website and what are they looking at? 
  • Thought-leadership content.  Who  saw our latest report / index / monitor?  What did they do with it? 
  • Business outlook. In real time, what geopolitical / macroeconomic / sector / competitor developments are impacting client confidence?  To what degree? 

And I'm sure there are others. 

The question is not whether there is any data being collected, but whether we can or even try to discern correlations between the sets.  Patterns between happier, satisfied clients and highly motivated individuals, for example?  

Of course see connections anecdotally, but are we using data to predict future opportunities or avoid problems across the entire business? 

I think the services we provide are by and large data-driven, at least in theory.  But I suspect that the way in which we run our businesses are only data-assisted.

Any success stories out there to share?