This month I’m highlighting the need for analytical skills. Employers want to recruit candidates who know how to look at data, make sense of it, and use it strategically.
Understand what data can do
To convince a hiring manager that you are comfortable working with big data, stay focused on the specific ways in which it is helpful. Andy Getsey, EVP of Technology Practice at Grayling sums it up well:
“I’ve always thought that PR analytics are best used for insights and strategic planning first. Finding themes and trends with their own momentum, understanding the particular media and social ecosystems in a given category, understanding the apparent strategies of key players, getting a feel for the timing and cadence of each competitor and content contributor, figuring out where any particular theme or story arc is in its development, creating new ones to propel a story on to the next phase and finding the right people to tell the right part at the right time.”
Get your hands dirty
Reading about analytics tools without actually gathering any data yourself is like looking at a recipe and never making any food. Even if you are preparing to work in a company where there are whole teams of people to process measurement and metrics tools, it will serve you to understand the fundamentals. Start by gathering your own data. Google Analytics, Hootsuite Analytics and Moz Analytics are places to start. You can use these tools to assess traffic to your personal website or blog. Services like 80legs can help you to get comfortable with the basics of big data.
The smart analyst is a good listener but, perhaps more importantly, they also know what to block out. Stay focused on value-driven measurements rather than vanity metrics. Look beyond how many visits there were to your website in March and find out how many visits were driven by PR activities. Look for numbers that demonstrate engagement. What kinds of and how many people are interacting with your messages; sharing, commenting, liking, etc.? What data can measure the depth of your market engagement and the quality of your content rather than simply your “share of voice” and the broad scope of your reach?
Analytical skills are hard skills, not something you can simply pick up over time without a concentrated effort to learn the software and gain experience working with it. There are many online classes and professional development opportunities geared towards building these skills and I would highly encourage jobseekers to take advantage of them. See here for more on how big data is intersecting with communications careers.
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.