Face Your Fears


Data is central to our decision-making process.

I’m not sure we need/want to know that.

Both of these statements typically happen in the same conversation with executive and marketing leadership when discussing data use by their organization. Public, private, agency, nonprofit, government, university… the type of organization doesn’t matter, the sentiment is the same.

We say yes to Google Analytics. We say yes to basic social media metrics (counting likes, shares, etc.). We say yes to email and direct mail marketing tracking. We even say yes to media tracking and valuation.

But the broader market still stops short of embracing analyzing marketplace sentiment and perception as essential. For those in the business of managing risk and delivering ROI for clients or their own organizations, this seems dangerously shortsighted. There, I said it.

No one wants to be told they are putting their head in the sand. No one wants to be the person delivering that message.

But the reality is that audience sentiment and perception is being shaped every day, every minute online and to look away and to not consider the readily available information at all, seems a lot like not looking at the weather forecast before setting out on a boat.

Why sail blindly into a storm when there are resources at your disposal to successfully navigate around it? But instead, you might think, why rock the boat with data that might not cast the ideal light on your efforts?

The fear of the unknown makes us assume a negative outcome from data sets we don’t understand. We discount the knowledge because it is new and unknown.  Addressing your fears with knowledge is the best way forward.

Here are three top fears our team hears again and again and how to take them head-on.

1. I Don’t Trust Your Data 

Audience sentiment and perception analysis is not done in a black box. It is one of the more transparent measurement approaches as it allows for a deep dive into exactly what data sets are included in the analysis. Using a single source for data (Crimson Hexagon, BrandWatch, Meltwater, Cision, etc.) creates limitations in the data set that is used. Robust sentiment and perception analysis need to be drawn from multiple verified data sets. A single data point can’t skew an entire outcome (positive or negative), so ask the questions to better understand how the analysis reaches across web generated data to offer an informed and true multi-datapoint driven observation.

2. Social Media Data is Bogus 

Even though many marketers spend time developing content for social media channels and even tracking “engagement” by users across platforms, the instinct is to invalidate social media derived data sets. Topic, brand, and competitor relevant data is being generated across social media every day. The volume generated makes it impossible to “hand track” this information, but the ability to look at it in aggregate is nonetheless critical for organizations across B2B, B2C, and B2G. Again, a single comment or post cannot skew an analysis. Consider why your organization “feeds the beast” of social media but doesn’t quantitatively evaluate its impact or consider why your organization believes your customers are “not on” social media when they are there and able to be found.

3. I Can’t Be Seen as Ineffective 

This is the heart of the matter. Overlaying campaign information, event dates, mailings, applications, etc. with audience sentiment and perception data from the same period can be incredibly insightful for organizations to identify causal relationships. It can also bring to light that you are having more or less impact than you believe you are having on the market. It can show where you rank in the market in relation to competitors. It can reveal topical specific knowledge that runs afoul of your current plans.  We get better at what we do by challenging our assumptions and being willing to fail. The potential “hit” you may feel from new relevant knowledge is the loss of ignorance and the beginning of a new strategy.

Where Do We Go From Here? 

We used to cut clips, fax releases, and mail press kits. Technology made it possible to make all of those tasks digital. We used to network with people without LinkedIn and Google stalking them. Now we feel “armed” with a little information before diving into a meeting. We used to deploy detailed, highly expensive survey mechanisms via surveys, focus groups, and other tools to gain a glimpse at the conversation customers were having. Now the internet offers a nearly endless set of digital breadcrumbs.

Measurement will always continue to be essential to organizations. Whether seeking greater insight on customers or competitors or evaluating a campaign or news cycle impact, the need to look at data that captures the sentiment and perception of audiences will continue to grow.

The opportunity to lead that demand is now.