The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that people don’t know where or who to turn to for reliable information.

So in this era of information bankruptcy, any strategic communicator is in a powerful position if they can offer expert professional judgement and insight backed by data, as this builds trust and confidence in our counsel.  

So at a time when the world revolves around (carefully handled) data – why are data scientists simply on the payrolls of Silicon Valley companies? Incorporating us boffins before you build a marcomms strategy means you speak the language of increasingly data focused clients (including in the fast growing tech space) – helping them escalate important issues which require critical investment in comms to the top table. 

As many agencies are already moving to an integrated marketing communications approach – I chose to join Edelman Data and Intelligence (DxI), back in April precisely because they had a mature, integrated comms model which was invested in Data and Intelligence. Indeed, many of my colleagues across disciplines and capabilities – were already switching from immediate crisis responses to using data and insights to arm clients with the information they needed to map out and communicate fundamental shifts to their operations to key stakeholders.  

Holding up a mirror in these times isn’t always pretty – but it’s critical when it comes to switching high stakes comms from the reactive to the proactive.  

Unleashing design thinking and predictive modelling (or moving from situational awareness to situational understanding as they call it in the military) means creating a no bullshit picture of real-world context for any business or communications challenge; supported by detailed insights on the behaviours, values, preferences and personalities of target audience groups.  

This process supported by strategic reassessment of comms priorities as companies faced the reputational fallout of reshaping operations on trust – actually moved comms higher up the food chain and to the board table in many instances.  In the military we referred to this process as turning hindsight into foresight.  

Tough times actually make comms more important, particularly in this pandemic where it’s been proven that short-term nudging tactics don’t change behaviour in the long-run. So why take a risk?

Regardless of budget or scenario, it feels as though panic campaigns when clients face unknowns and simply react – in times where trust is critical - must be ditched in favour of sharper, fast-paced contingency and scenario planning now we’ve faced into this unprecedented Covid crisis. This crisis has also shown that understanding human behaviour is key. An organization may label people as investors, activists, buyers or any other “audience segment” but in order to truly connect with these audiences, we must recognize that first and foremost they are, in fact, people. As such data with empathy starts with understanding your audience and segments at a core behavioural and emotional level.

Given how busy myself and my colleagues in DxI are at Edelman: it feels clear to us that clients are increasingly recognising this as well and are using data, intelligence and insights to make communications increasingly authentic and relevant.