Is corporate communications really embracing data and insight?

In a recent conversation with a large FTSE 100 retail bank, one of their communications leaders told me that the capability gap that concerned them most was in data analysis. This is now their main hiring priority. And in a recent discussion of the findings of the latest Arthur Page Society report, “The New CCO: Transforming Enterprises in a Changing World” (, Jon Iwata, IBM’s SVP of Communications and Marketing (and co-author of the report) remarked that he had hired a data scientist for his team and was shortly to hire a behavioural economist.

 There is no doubt, and there is no shortage of commentary on this, that for the corporate communications/PR function to flourish it needs to lead with insights that are based on robust data and reputation intelligence systems.

 In fact a number of corporate communications leaders, well aware of the need to build capability in this area, have set up, or are in the process of setting up, Strategy and Insight teams, which have strategy, planning and data analysis as key skill areas. They are, to a degree, basing their ‘model’ on that of marketing as well as political campaigning, ensuring that data and insight are integrated into strategy, planning and narrative development.

 But how widespread is this? Is it a trend of just the actions of the enlightened fear? We are not aware of many communications directors that have built the analytical capability into their team that can understand patterns in data and insight, though some have external partners that can. Though how many of these are there in reality?

 We would be interested in finding out more about this. If it is a widespread trend, then it augurs well for the future of the function since rigour, or the lack of it, has long been its Achilles heel.   Those communications functions that fail to further develop this capability run the real risk, particularly in consumer facing industries, of losing relevance and influence.

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