It’s a funny thing. When it comes to communication, we as professionals have a lot of experience in either external, internal, digital or a mix depending on how long we’ve been in the business.
But we tend to forget that one of the finest competences we can have as communicators is the ability to translate our results and transform the data into language that our own organisations can understand and leverage to explore new possibilities, change the ways we run our business, reevaluate an activity or evaluate the quality of an effort. We need to nail the language of both our co-workers and the C-suite and then – and here comes the hardest part – we need to be brutally honest about what we see in the available data.
I have three rules for translating the work I do at one of the biggest trade organizations in Denmark: 1) Speak Danish, 2) Be honest, 3) Bottom-line it:
1. Speak Danish…
…or English, Spanish, German or whatever your mother tongue is. The key is to find a common language with those you are trying to convince, enlighten or educate. The point here is that it isn’t enough to just gather data and measure success and then talk about it in the way you would with a fellow digital nerd. You need to translate the numbers and findings, both quantitative and qualitative, into a language which is palpable. And please…NO abbreviations. Nobody outside of media/communications/marketing jobs knows what KPI, CPM, CPC, ROE, ROI, ATL, BTL etc. mean.
2. Be honest
Data doesn’t lie. But unfortunately translations of data do. I’ve worked with agencies, co-workers and bosses who have preferred to cherry-pick the data with the highest numbers to showcase them as a success: “Oh don’t mind the data for the time spent on website or the demographics of the people we reached – look at the impressions/likes/reactions – they are through the roof!’. Yes. But was likes or reactions really what we set out to achieve? Did it in the end help the organisation or is it just a vanity metric? Be sure to align expectation with any business partner – internal or external – and when measuring success and evaluating data during or after an activity be honest about the results. That’s part of the beauty of digital communication – we actually get to reevaluate or change course because the data will guide us – if we dare to be honest about what it’s telling us.
3. Bottom-line it
“Bottom-lining it” draws on both 1 and 2. When we master the art of speaking honestly in a language the C-suite understands, we need to apply the data in the right context. In my world, there is no such thing as a social media “strategy”. Social media should be a tactical tool in the overall business strategy to achieve the organisation’s business goals. This also means that we need to be excellent in applying data the right way and translating it into business value – or – as I said: bottom-lining it.
Tina Mellergaard is the head of social media at the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, where she is responsible for the overall strategy and over 50 social media accounts. As a member of the Public Affairs team she operates in a constant mix between digital lobbyism, data mining and traditional storytelling.
A version of this article was originally published on Communication Director.