Combining art and science in creative communications

19 October 2017

Communicators need to harness a combination of science and art in order to create successful campaigns, said Ruth Yearley, Ketchum’s insight and strategy director, and Paul Hender, head of insight at Cision, at last night’s Cision panel event in London.

In front of an engaged audience, the pair agreed comms professionals should use data smartly and be aware of what they are measuring and why in order to achieve the best results. They also acknowledged that human instinct is needed to turn data into a story which engages their target audience.

A lot of ground was covered during the session. Here are just some of the key points that PRs should know:

1. Creativity is required to engage effectively with the audience

Yearley opened the debate with an impassioned speech about how instinct was being vilified in the industry, to the point that people defined as “creatives” were now asking whether she had data to back up her “whims.”

She said: “Data alone as a source of insight without the injection of the personal, without the instinctual unearthing of the unspoken knowns, without the empathy, will always be less interesting, less engaging and engender less connectivity with our audiences.”

2. Data is needed in order to make informed decisions

Hender countered that earned media needs to speak in the language of the C-suite: data and measurable results. He described his work with Microsoft’s comms team to interpret data which can be presented to the company’s executive decision makers.

He noted that Microsoft had been targeting the wrong type of audience and that the company needed to target other media. “Without data it is very difficult to make that business case internally,” he said.

3. Assessing the relevance of your measurement is vital

Both Hender and Yearley agreed that data is only as useful as the way it is used, with the industry often using the wrong measures to justify things or to get fast results.

“Facts need to be dug into, stretched and bent and added to before they become anything near an insight,” Yearly said.

Hender added that the pressure to quantify meant that communicators often measure something without assessing whether it is relevant.

4. Successful campaigns get the balance right

Both panellists articulated that communicators needed to employ both art and science to be successful. Yearley cited campaigns by Spotify and Kleenex as examples of data being used creatively to produce engaging stories.

Hender recalled personal experiences which have showed him that complementary skills produce the best results. “This is an important point about the debate we are having today. It’s not about one or the other, it’s about how the two can work together,” he said.


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