Why Modern Communicators Should Lean into Data to Elevate Their Function in the C-suite

Today, business leaders are challenged to manage and meet greater—and sometimes conflicting—stakeholder demands. At the same time, digital adoption continues to accelerate across all employees within the workforce, with consumers and employees no longer getting their news from a single source and no longer trusting certain channels as much as they once did.  

Savvy communicators have a responsibility to utilize technology and data to not only strengthen engagement with their organization’s key audiences and stakeholders, but to also supercharge their leaders’ strategies and drive better reputational and bottom-line outcomes. Deep audience insights can drive more effective channel strategies and more precise message personalization. Real-time intelligence measures interest, opinion shifts and impact by knowing who is consuming what and where. Both can help build trust within your organization.  

The importance of adopting a data-led approach moved from a nice-to-have to a key tool in the toolbox during the pandemic when the entire world shifted quickly. PwC had been on a digital upskilling journey and our Communications Team was applying new skills to reach audiences with increased speed and engagement, and across even more channels than ever before. Then, everything changed. In order to proactively adapt, we leaned into data even further so our teams were equipped to lead through such drastic, sudden, and global changes. 

Our Comms team consistently studies the market with fresh eyes and utilizes the performance and digital communications hub we created within our Communications function to evolve and accelerate an insights-driven culture. We hire and work with data scientists and digital and analytics specialists who crunch numbers housed in our newly created centralized data repository. We study these numbers when developing roadmaps to reach our audiences through each campaign and power a digital upskilling agenda to continue driving adoption to boost our team’s digital confidence. We get to know our audiences beyond their title, geography or business function and develop personalized communications to reach them on the channels where they spend most of their time. We use insights to guide business leadership through enterprise transformations and societal crises and unrest. Said simply, we position ourselves as data-led, strategic thinkers and stewards for the audiences we serve…not just writers, media relations professionals, or channel and messaging managers. In turn, data—not words—help us create more powerful narratives to build and protect our brand in ways that we were never able to before.  

The Mindset of a Modern Communications Team 

Modern communicators can, indeed, be pacesetters. They utilize data and analytics to place the needs of their audiences first, and they scale their knowledge and findings to the C-suite to inform strategies, not just execute against them. Adopting digital tools your team can use to reach your audiences is only one small piece of the puzzle. These three steps can prove crucial to accelerating your journey towards embedding a data-led and tech powered approach to your Comms functions: 

  • Invest in upskilling your people: Many communicators got into this profession because they love to write and exercise their creative thinking. This isn’t a profession typically associated with crunching data.  It is important to view this shift as one of our biggest change management and upskilling exercises within the profession. Therefore, as leaders, we should invest the time in helping our teams not only use the tools, but also understand why a data-led mindset is critical—not only to the business, but to career development, personal wellness, and flexibility. Done correctly, using data and analytics to complement communicators’ professional judgment and experience can change the trajectory of the value of communications to the C-suite.  
  • Build a thorough tech stack: No one piece of technology can do it all, and that is okay. Make sure your tech stack is aligned with your full communications journey—not just measurement or media relations tracking. A great suite of tools can provide audience insights and analytics to inform strategy and campaign creation through execution and impact assessment.  
  • Educate your business leaders: Data and insights help modern communicators pair storytelling with analytics. This combination may feel foreign to some of your leaders who may associate communications with qualitative, not quantitative insight. Educate them about the metrics that matter and how the communications team can drive greater insights that can inform business strategy, strategic change and transformations, and audience engagement. Doing so can help you counsel the business, set expectations, and demonstrate greater bottom-line success. 

Let us level set a bit…this will not happen overnight. Likely, it will take years. We’re still on our journey, and we’re learning every single day. You should trust that every seed you plant can drive change and every piece of data you glean can make a difference. Communications and strategy fit hand-in-glove, and modern communications teams should conduct themselves as if the whole enterprise depends on embracing this. Adopting that mindset can help you serve as more modern, strategic, and impactful counselors to your business partners and clients today and in the future.

Megan Disciullo was recognized for her work on this project. the first-ever runner-up of our 2022 Page Up Innovation Award.