Essential in the skillset of communication professionals: data skills

With 2022 in sight, the time for lists and annual overviews is upon us again. In this regard, I share the skillset of the communication professional of the future. Why are data skills absolutely indispensable in 2022 and what can you do to improve this skill?

Ten years ago, when I worked as a consultant in the Clipit sales team, the communication consultant/PR manager had to be able to tell the right story. The marketer, on the other hand, devised good promotional campaigns and already provided insight into the ROI of his activities at the time. This was more difficult for the communication/PR department, because they work with abstract concepts such as reputation.

Data skills for strategic insight

Digitization enables communication/PR managers to accurately measure the impact of efforts and campaigns, with a focus on KPIs such as PR value, reach and tone of voice. Not only the marketing professional, but also PR, branding and communication experts must now have the necessary data skills.

With the right data you become even better at your work and you offer valuable advice to the board. Because one thing is certain: if you as a communication professional offer strategic insights – substantiated by data, you are indispensable for your company.

Add context, explain and benchmark

With so many different channels (TV, print, online) and a lot of available media data (such as sentiment, reach, engagement, reputation), data skills help you to make more in-depth analyzes of your brand coverage. You want to know in which topics you are mentioned, how the competition is emerging and whether a campaign has performed better or worse than the previous one. And where that comes from. As a communication professional you have to provide context and interpretation.

You can recognize patterns by looking at your own data. If the data shows that a certain story is picked up well or disappointingly by the media, you can make optimizations in your communication. You know what works well and apply it again in the future.

The question is always how far the data (basic) skills of a communication professional should reach and where you leave it to an expert. In practice, we see that this differs slightly within every industry and organization. Do you focus on management, the big picture and the conversion of data insights into strategy? Or do you also turn the knobs yourself? In all cases, knowing the different (im)possibilities of owned, paid and earned media data is a basic requirement.

Valuing sentiments and trends

Of course you don’t just look at your own organization and your competitors. As a communication professional you also throw out your feelers in the rest of the world. Recognize broader trends in society. By monitoring various relevant themes that media write about, you get a better picture of your industry.

If you know what is going on in society, you can respond to this with your message or campaign. If you are wrong, it will cause reputational damage to your brand or organization. For example, it was not smart to ask artists to perform for free during an event (Formula 1 Zandvoort), while that sector may have been hit hardest during the corona crisis. This can damage the reputation of your brand or organization.

Communication professionals must therefore be aware of trends and indicate which are relevant or which will not last.

Claim your spot in the boardroom

What about our reputation and to what extent do our proactive PR activities have an impact on this? Do we get enough exposure in the media with important topics that are relevant to us? Are we on the right track or do we need to adjust our strategy? All questions that the board wants answers to.

So communication professionals need to develop data skills so that they can answer these questions based on data and not gut feeling. Only in this way can you offer extra added value for your company. The data required for this is often up for grabs, so what are you waiting for? Look for connections so that it is not just data collection.

The strategic insights you gain from this data are relevant for various departments. It is an excellent opportunity to integrate (performance) marketing data with PR, branding and communication. And to give a complete picture of the impact you make as a company. Think of owned media data such as your website analytics to determine the impact of PR on website visits and maybe even conversion. Or paid data, to see whether earned media and advertising optimally reinforce each other in conveying your message.

So claim your place in the boardroom, because you are the one who gives your company advice based on reliable insights from media data in combination with your professional knowledge and experience.

Start improving your data skills tomorrow

Gain overview and insight into your data flows

Explore and map out the available data flows within your organization. For example, within the owned, paid and earned media structure.

Test! And start small

Formulate a business case and get specific data insights within your organization/industry aimed at your goals. From there you can further optimize and shape plans.

Find a data buddy

Find a data specialist that you will work with. Let him or her brush up on your knowledge and help shape the route for your data-driven approach.

Define your role and that of your team in data-driven working

Which role do you want to take on and which data skills are appropriate for this? Are you in control yourself, or do you prefer to gain general insight and interpretation to focus on creativity and strategy? Define which data skills are needed for each role and base your training program on that.

In short, what about your data skills? Do you have a complete picture of your organization, its place in society and can you provide data-driven advice about this?

Source: Frankwatching by

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