by Kristan Nicholson
Besides being a devoted husband, father of two girls and member of the 40-something-man band “The Love Handles,” Mike Buckley is also VP of Global Business Communications at Facebook.
On the final day of the PRSA 2014 International Conference in Washington, D.C., he tells the crowd of more than 800 communicators that “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share, to make the world more open and connected. The ONLY way we can do this, to service our 1.3 billion customers, is through the use of data, math and analytics.” And every PR person in the room cringed. “Gasp! Math?!”
He asked how many people in the room majored in math, data or analytics in college and maybe one person responded. But we all measure results, right? This proves that we can use data without math; we just need to embrace it and not be afraid of it. We can become analytical without being a math expert, as simple analytics can have tangible benefits and drive business results. We must correlate our press results with business metrics. Test small audiences, look at K factor (the virality of a story), review social chatter (small clusters of people who are responsible for majority of chatter), and communicate with that group.
Buckley continued to tell us that data equals power; data equals intelligence; data keeps executives from panicking. And there are three laws of news cycles: Understand the cycle; shorten (or extend?) the cycle; and get ahead of it. None of us can manage what we can’t measure. None of us can advise what we don’t measure. And if we (PR pros) don’t do it, how can we ever get a seat at the table?
Every other executive function does their jobs grounded in data and analysis, and we need to pick up our game. Several ways we can do this is by having lunch with someone in our company responsible for analytics. Marry PR with their art. Push our clients to spend money on analytics. Fight for the right to test. And most importantly: approach everything with an ethical framework. Always do the right thing.
Mike concluded with a story, which seemingly challenged everything he’d just told us. He started by saying: “The biggest lever on Facebook reputation has to do with the experience people have with their product.” Their best day was the launch of their “Look Back” video. When Jesse Berlin’s dad made a video standing in his living room with tears flowing down his cheeks begging someone at Facebook to help him recover his late son’s “Look Back” video, it didn’t go viral. It didn’t have a K-factor. And data would never explain John’s pain. Because regardless of the fact that data can tell us so much, predicting business outcomes will never replace human action. And there should be days when data simply shouldn’t matter. Mike’s team retrieved Jesse’s video for his dad and THAT is what it’s all about.