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Start Small to Make Data Work for You - 7/9/2013 -

Here are some good tips on how to use data to bring cohesiveness to your association’s advertising program.

By Anne Zender, MA

"Big data” is a buzzword, but using data to bring cohesiveness to your advertising program doesn’t have to be a big project. Starting small can be the way to begin, according to Todd Von Deak, founder and president of TVD Associates, and Brendon Shank, associate vice president at the Society of Hospital Medicine. "You need something to tell the story; that’s where the data can be really helpful,” Shank said.

Von Deak and Shank spoke at Association Media & Publishing’s annual meeting in Washington, DC, in June, where they advocated an iterative approach to collecting and mining data on cost, click throughs, and other kinds of data. "If you look at your big pile of data, you will start running the other way,” said Shank. Von Deak suggested organizations start with an iterative process: "Just get started.”

Von Deak and Shank made the following recommendations for organizations seeking to use data to better understand the return on different kinds of communications:

Identify low-investment, high-return activities that can be of value to promote internal products or to advertisers. Examples include call-out boxes, cross-promotions on the web, extra lines on mailing labels or e-mail signatures. Even what the speakers call "editorial shirt-tales” such as two sentences at the end of an article can be vehicles. Take a close look to make sure you understand the cost to produce these promotions, as well as other costs. For example, e-mail is thought to be low cost, but there may be a price to pay in audience fatigue if they receive too many messages. Also take a close look to understand the benefits, such as member engagement, Shank and Von Deak said. "The more you can quantify through data, the better off you’ll be,” Shank said.

Know what questions you would like to answer. It’s important to ask the right questions and consider what stories the data could help you tell--for ad sales, member demographics, and so on, Shank and Von Deak said. In addition, asking the right questions will help you assess how your channels are performing, and be agile in responding, they said.

Map your data. The Society of Hospital Medicine, a Philadelphia, PA-based association of hospital-based healthcare providers, started tracking various measures in a spreadsheet by various category, product, channel, and platform (for example, comparing e-mail versus print). "We kind of started off small, asking small questions,” Shank said. Even something as simple as an Excel document can be the first step to warehousing your own data, he said.

Have a plan for moving forward. Once you know what stories you want to tell, supported by data, it’s important to share--with colleagues, advertisers, and others. Shank and Von Deak also recommend having a "departmental champion” to promote the program and help others understand it. Stakeholders (not just the IT department) should own the data, they said.

Anne Zender, MA is editorial director for the American Health Information Management Association. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for covering this Annual Meeting session for members who were unable to attend.


 

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