I had the opportunity to attend NJ MarCom’s Masterclass and Summer Networking Event recently at Fairleigh Dickinson University. W20’s Principal Gary Grates spoke to an audience of communications, marketing, public relations and advertising professionals on how social is changing the business model. Below are a few key points gleaned from Gary’s presentation.

We Must Fail Fast

We live in an era of 24/7 news coverage, content swarming us like crazed bees, and companies trying everything to break through the noise to get our attention. As Gary put it, “there’s a tsunami of information coming at us every day.”  Because of this, we must adjust our way of thiniking. We must innovate, experiment and reinvent ourselves and our offerings every day. We will fail. There’s no debating the fact that we will fail. The key is to fail fast. As an organization, it’s important that we don’t dwell on our failures.

More importantly, it’s important we don’t stick to our guns when we’ve failed. What’s that famous Einstein quote? “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In order to remain innovative, client-centric and differentiated, we must pick ourselves up quickly and try again. If not, we risk getting lost in the noise.

Social without Authenticity is Useless

Social is infiltrating business after business. Every day, a new company attempts to jump on the social media bandwagon. For many, this means starting a Twitter, launching a Facebook page or starting a CEO blog. Companies are determined to increase followers and secure likes. What companies forget to think about is the authenticity of the platforms.

Take CEO’s blogs for example. Shockingly, companies still feel it’s appropriate to have executive communications write the blog, or have an agency of record produce the content. This tactic fools nobody. Employees laugh off the blog as phony, a tactic that isn’t fooling anyone to think it’s authentically from the CEO. It’s viewed as a waste of the employees’ time. After all, if the CEO can’t take the time to write it, why should the employee take the time to read it? PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi has this figured out well. Nooyi has a large following on her blog, primarily because of the authenticity that comes with it. Nooyi blogs about her travels across the world to PepsiCo locations, her experiences meeting employees and the ideas that come from them. This authenticity resulted in an organic following being built to the blog. With that example in mind, it’s crucial businesses not only create, but authenticate its social channels.

Analytics without insight is just data. Insights without action is just noise.

Too often, companies are communicating with an audience that just doesn’t exist. Companies are distributing content and shaping strategy around hunches and assumptions about its audiences. Well, the time of guessing and assuming is over. Today, your key audiences are telling you what your strategy should be. This is where the opportunity lies to invite analytics and data into the communications process. Before delving into analytics, however, Gary challenged the audience to first answer one question: “What are you chasing?” When they understand their goal, they can ask the right questions to guide the data gathering and analytics with a clear purpose. As Gary began sharing our models and tools, eyes began to widen. People were surprised that companies could not only understand who’s driving the conversation about them, but where, how often and in what capacity. Furthermore, there was disbelief in the room that companies could also understand the influence that is behind the conversation. This surprise and disbelief led to Gary driving home a key point to the audience — the idea of “managing the future with the mindset of the past.” Companies can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s beliefs and tools. It’s time for companies to acknowledge the existence of analytics and the role it can play in problem solving.

As questions popped up left and right, and Gary fielded each one of them, heads began to nod. People started to realize the power of analytics and the necessity it brings to a communications strategy.  The biggest push back was “isn’t data just data – it’s nothing by itself?” The person made a quality point, and it’s something we advocate every day to our clients. “Analytics without insight is just data. Insights without action is just noise.” While analytics is of the utmost importance, we must ensure it’s integrated into a larger picture.

It’s safe to say that Gary left the room buzzing after his presentation. Those who hadn’t been exposed to models like ours, thought leaders like Gary or the power of analytics, were wowed at what’s achievable in today’s world. As I looked around to eyes widening and heads nodding, it was once again reaffirmed that WCG is steps ahead of those around us.