The Art of Analytics: Evolving Your Team

For the past few weeks, we’ve been exploring the complexities of using analytics to answer strategic business questions. In an evolving digital environment where an abundance of data can actually complicate things, rather than clarify them, we’ve given you a look at how W2O Group approaches honing the right tools, skills and thinking to cut through all the clutter. We’d like to close out this three-part series by delving into a key differentiator, the analysts.

We’ve said it before. We’ll say it again. The quality of findings and insights are all about the people conducting and guiding the analysis. And since we don’t focus on one single type of analytics at W2O, analysts need a broad range of capabilities and expertise in order to ensure insights gleaned from data are actionable for clients. They need to extensively understand public relations and communications, how data feeds and informs them, the business context and industry of each client, and the abundance of potentially viable tools to use.

This style of analysis isn’t exactly a major concentration of study at a university. So how do we select, onboard and develop our people in order to sustain the consistency and quality we’ve incubated over the years?

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It’s about teaching judgment. After recruiting analysts with diverse backgrounds across research, communications and business, the objective in W2O training and ongoing learning is aligning the team around a way of thinking and balancing forensic and exploratory approaches.

That’s done by focusing on the client first, and teaching analysts to operationalize key research frameworks with a core curriculum grounded in these key areas:

  • Client/Industry Background: What are the tactics and strategies that clients can deploy in order to meet their responsibilities? What exactly do those responsibilities look like? And what broader business context does the team need to know?
  • Tools: Some tools allow the team to export a large sample of data. Some are better applied to some channels over others. What tools does the analyst need to know operationally? How do they think critically about how (or if) they should be applied, given the question being asked? How do they practice evaluating new and existing tools on an ongoing basis?
  • Measurement Frameworks: How do you design and activate a measurement framework? Specifically, how is it shaped from the overarching business objectives, the client’s objectives and resulting research objectives? How are the research questions shaped?
  • Visualization/storytelling: Analysts must think critically about the format and narrative when formalizing their insights. What are the differences in showing your data in a table or chart? How do you create and visualize a network map? What’s the story arc that needs to be conveyed?

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In such a fast-moving industry, knowledge management becomes increasingly important. At W2O we house all these courses and supporting materials (like cases) in a wiki-based platform. It allows the team to tweak and adjust, and also prompts debate and discussion around what approaches, tools and frameworks work best.

It’s all in an effort to keep teams pushing the needle and continually re-assessing new ways to come to the most actionable, relevant insights possible for clients. When it comes down to it, analytics today is as much an art as a science, but we’re excited about keeping a healthy mix of both with whatever is next in a space that keeps allowing us to be smarter and make better-informed business decisions.

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If you’re struggling to make sense of the reams of data coming your way, or how to figure out what business objectives the right data efforts can help you reach, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to us, we’d be happy to talk. If you have an insatiable curiosity and love to play with data, you’ve piqued our interest! Check out positions we have available.

This blog series was authored was by Meriel McCaffery, Corporate & Strategy Senior Manager and Abigail Rethore, Corporate & Strategy Group Director. It was made in Los Angeles, Austin, New York, and London with experience and insight from our colleagues Lucas Galan, Head of Analytics Productization; Meredith Owen, Analytics Director; Kelley Sternhagen, Analytics Director; and Paul Dyer, President of Analytics and Insights. Connect with them to learn more!

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