Applying data to uncover insights, inform strategies and demonstrate results is not just the rule of thumb anymore, but paramount to success. With ever-growing access to data through multiple sources, embracing its ability to inform and guide your communications strategy opens the door to more meaningful engagement and fruitful opportunities to leverage trends and optimize efforts.

In between the beginning and end, though, is a busy period of implementation, engagement and outreach. Which should also be fueled by data. Keeping data front and center, and using it to not only plan and report but also course-correct and affirm what you are doing – what every communications plan needs to demonstrate success, reinforce its value and affirm its relevance.

Three things to keep in mind when using insights to drive your plan from start to finish:

  1. Use data to unlock and enhance your strategic approach

Depending on available data from your internal team – e.g., product marketing, medical affairs, market research colleagues – you’re very often not starting from scratch when it comes to data and insights. It’s good to have a start but it doesn’t mean there isn’t homework to do. The good news is that there is an abundance of available tools – some already built (Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, etc.) and other sophisticated subscription software (Sysomos, etc.). And the more you play around and explore, the less daunting this task will seem.

Using a communications lens, map out what you are hoping to achieve and how you need data to define (and refine) the strategies you will take to get there.

Some important elements to keep in mind:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What do you know about what makes your audience tick?
  • Where do they go for information and to engage on various topics?
  • What is already “out there” in the landscape – media coverage, message boards, social media and so on?
  • Who is influencing or driving discussions? Are there any informed, yet untapped resources of knowledge?
  • Consider the disease category you’re navigating and the business

2. It’s OK to course-correct (i.e. you have to optimize)

Once your strategy is set, use it as a guide to develop a content strategy and channel approach that will work best. Embrace its fluidity and the reality that things are bound to change and ultimately – that it’s a good thing to discover and learn from. No one has a clear path from the start, so changes will be needed with the influx of more information.

It’s important to measure your outreach activities and engagement efforts along the way (grounded in the strategy you set and benchmarks you established) to make sure what you are doing is working. Taking the time to assess and, if needed, change what you are doing can often seem daunting or a sign of failure. Rather, it’s proof that you’re authentically engaging in the environment and with the audiences you’re trying to reach. You’re adapting to your environment and responding to feedback that the data are signaling. These changes aren’t always drastic in scope. It could just be shortening a piece of video content to better optimize engagement, diverting efforts to earned media in local markets vs. national publications if engagement is higher and message pull-through is stronger. The possibilities and learnings are endless, and its font of potential is something to embrace instead of shy away from. 

3. A data-driven benchmark paves the way for measurable outcomes

A comprehensive analysis that goes back to the strategy, the lessons learned along the way, and the incremental changes or successes is critical when reporting your results to your clients or internal colleagues. Whether preparing an interim update or a final report – returning to the initial questions you asked yourself during the discovery phase, how your insights drove your approach, and what you were able to accomplish in light of your insights will strengthen your results reporting. It also ensures you’re speaking the language of certain internal colleagues or client contacts who might not understand the nitty gritty of communications tactics, but appreciate the importance of driving awareness or affecting behavior change in a specific target audience. And how your communications efforts played a vital role toward measurable (and meaningful) outcomes.

Using insights and analytics to set the tone for your content or narrative, optimize your channel strategy and engage with your target audience(s) makes your communications efforts more effective, relevant and authentic.

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