As we enter the final quarter of 2019, are you finding yourself in a use-it-or-lose-it budget situation for your communications team? In other words, are you facing pressure to come up with timely and important projects on which to spend your comms budget before the end of the year, so you don’t get a smaller allocation in 2020?

You’re not sure how this happened. It could have been avoided with careful planning. And it’s too late in the year to organize and execute a large new campaign to spend that unexpected budget surplus. Besides, you lack the amount you would need for another major expenditure.

Your use-it-or-lose-it situation means you need a smart solution, stat. After all, the clock is ticking off the minutes, hours, days and weeks until 2020. That means it is also time to start thinking about setting goals, corporate communications plans and budgets for the new year. 

Have no fear. There is a way to solve your 2019 budget problem and help with 2020 planning at the same time. How? Just look to the past to determine the future. 

Back to the Future

In my opinion, the best way to spend your remaining 2019 budget is by using it to fund a media analysis program to measure and evaluate your progress so far this year. This will help you substantiate the success of your 2019 communications efforts and provide a strategic roadmap for 2020. 

You can find out what worked, what didn’t and why. You can discover what strategies and tactics should be continued or replicated next year, and which ones should be dropped. You can also uncover competitive intelligence and missed opportunities, in addition to achievements.

In other words, you can make informed, data-backed decisions for 2020 based on what you learned in 2019. 

A media analysis of the year’s efforts will also put a stake in the ground by setting a benchmark, with baseline findings that can be compared to the results and outcomes of comms programs throughout the new year.

This solution also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate to your company leadership that 1) you can be resourceful with your budget and 2) you understand the importance of data to drive efficiency and improvement.

Media Analytics in the Planning Process

Media analytics help determine the awareness and perception of your brand in geographical markets, your target audiences’ reactions to your messages and the effectiveness of your thought leadership efforts, as well as your executives’ positioning. You can also see which strategies and tactics connected with consumers and why. 

Specifically, your analysis can determine which messages are resonating in the media, which media channels are used most frequently by your target audiences, who are the influencers leading the conversation on topics that are important to your business and if your content was amplified across channels.

In other words, by mining your 2019 media coverage and conversations, you can evaluate public perceptions and reveal competitive insights to inform a 2020 communications plan that responds to strategic change. This data can also help inspire ideas to refine your company’s messages and create compelling and creative approaches for the new year. 

In addition, analytics help you listen more closely to the market and your company’s customers, pinpoint trends in consumer opinions, power your content creation, drive your company’s thought leadership efforts and formulate tactics for 2020 campaigns. 

Of note, your 2020 communications strategy should include monthly media analytics to recommend adjustments to your plan throughout the year. 

Planning Starts Now

You can hit the new year running if you plan now. This is the time to start, rethink or reinvent a new analytics program for your company, as well as a 2020 corporate comms strategic plan. 

As I mentioned above, start by conducting a media analysis in the final quarter of 2019 to provide insights for 2020 and establish a baseline of data in a benchmark report. This enables you to track changes over time next year. Without a baseline, you have nothing to measure against.

Second, determine your business and communications goals in 2020. This is a lengthy process that requires senior leaders, department heads, comms, marketing and PR teams to eliminate silos and collaborate – all the more reason to start now.

Third, brainstorm and create your 2020 campaigns and programs, based on the 2019 learnings and your business and communications goals.

Fourth, connect these goals to a new or revised 2020 analytics program by developing a thoughtful and updated methodology, scope and metrics, influenced by your 2019 findings. With the advent of artificial intelligence, methodologies can be organized differently than in the past due to the hundreds of thousands of conversations that can now be synthesized. When coupled with machine learning, complex language such as sarcasm, slang, industry jargon and misspellings can finally be understood. If properly executed, an in-depth analytics program provides relevant, meaningful and actionable insights to shape and drive strategy in 2020.

Smart comms, PR and marketing managers recognize that more needs to be done in 2020 to connect business data and media analytics to understand the full impact on brand awareness, perception and reputation.

So, what are you waiting for? Start your corporate communications planning process now. It also might help prevent another stressful budget scenario in the last quarter of next year.

Summary

The last quarter of the year is a time for assessment, followed by the establishment of new goals and strategic planning for the year ahead. The best way to do that – and to utilize your remaining 2019 budget – is through media analytics.

Measurement provides an important roadmap for your senior leaders, empowering them with informed data-based recommendations to drive creative, positive outcomes in the new year. 

Media analytics should not be an afterthought, slapped on at the end of a popular campaign. Measurement should be part of every comms plan in 2020; it is a critical discipline for the communications industry and core to every communications program.

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To help you kick off your planning process, stayed tuned for a special report from Zignal Labs about data analytics trends and predictions for 2020 and beyond.