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How data is changing the face of public relations

‘Use more data’ is an oft-repeated cliche in the communications community. But what does this really mean to communications professionals? To find out, we spoke to Christopher Daguimol, Regional PR Director at ZALORA Group.

[More on this topic at Marketing magazine’s 3rd annual PR Asia 2015 conference, happening 26-27 November in Singapore.]

Marketing: We keep hearing people say that PR needs to utilise more data. What does this mean to you?

Daguimol: The reality is almost everything that happens in developed societies can now be tracked by computer – from purchasing behaviour to social media sentiments, we now have better insights on the consumer. This gives PR practitioners a powerful tool to look at patterns which can help in crafting their storytelling and focus their PR activations. Focusing on data can help the PR industry to be more strategic and accountable to measurable outcomes based on real market insights.

Marketing: For an e-commerce company, how much of your PR strategy is formed by ‘gut feel’? Have you ever had a situation where the data tells you one thing but you disregard it?

Daguimol: I think gut feel is still largely based on experience and logical links – so it’s not entirely devoid of any thinking process. Gut feel is an educated guess, and at e-commerce companies we work side by side with data scientists every day, which gives us easy access to insights.

When you receive data, one of the things you need to do is to dig deeper and understand why it is so. For example, when your data shows that more people are shopping through their mobile phones at a particular time, you try to understand why, you don’t stop asking questions with data, instead it should prompt you to ask more relevant questions.

So working with data can support your gut feel; or, based on your gut feel, you can now cross check it the data – both should always go together.

Marketing: When you’re talking about data and PR, is it fair to say you’re usually talking about seeing customers’ media consumption habits – or is that too limiting a view?

Daguimol: To put it simply, using data for PR campaigns can help us craft the right message for the right people using the right channel and this gives us a higher chance of engaging them. By navigating through information that shows us patterns, habits, past results and even sentiments we are able to craft messages that are targeted and relevant. Data is beyond looking at consumer habits; it can also be about what drives them to hit the buy button, what do they like about a product, which colour do they find attractive – overall it’s about understanding what makes them tick, or, in our case, click. Data is also about having measurable results that we can review after every campaign.

Marketing: Does data change the definition of PR?

Daguimol: I don’t think so. PR will always be about engagement and storytelling. What changed is how we engage and craft our stories. With Big Data, PR professionals should be better in their targeting and coming up with engaging content. Today’s consumers are technologically savvier and is more connected than ever before. They are active in interacting with brands cross different channels and devices and they expect brands to connect to them too. It is an imperative for us to make use of technologies to understand consumers and more importantly act, react and adapt according to their wants and needs.

Marketing: Can you give us examples of how your work as a PR person has evolved to incorporate data?

Daguimol: Working in Fashion e-commerce we do a lot of influencer engagement for our brand (ZALORA is our eponymous private label) and for the brands we carry. In our search for building a database of credible influencers we are able to track purchases linked back to specific influencers. For example we give influencers a special code to give to their fans – we can track the purchases made using the code and measure the real impact of that influencer. This gives us more reason to work with the influencer as we know he or she is effective in endorsing the brand. We can also track success of PR events as we can check how the brand we just launched perform before, during and after the event or campaign.

Marketing: If PR is becoming more data-driven, how do you attract professionals who are skilled in analytics?

Daguimol: Public Relations as a profession attracts a myriad of people given that it’s a profession that is multifaceted and encourages you to become a jack of all trades – you need to be good in almost everything, but it doesn’t mean you’re a master of none. I was fortunate to have worked in a big agency like Ogilvy where I worked with PR pros that are also doctors, former journalists, teachers, film producers – where we combine our expertise and backgrounds to help our clients and deliver results.

Making PR measurable will be exciting for an analytically-minded individual. It also gives the person a unique chance to use data to create meaningful conversations and reimagine communications of major brands. Positioning PR as the career that will offer them these things can make PR an attractive career option for them. After all we go beyond producing and/or  looking at data – we find creative and effective ways to use it.

Daguimol is a speaker at Marketing magazine’s 3rd annual PR Asia 2015 conference, happening 26-27 November in Singapore.

To book your seats for the conference contact Carlo Reston at carlor@marketing-interactive.com or +65 6423 0329, +65 9727 0291

For sponsorship opportunities, contact Johnathan Tiang at johnathant@marketing-interactive.com or +65 6423 0329

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