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HomeOpinionsFrom hoping to knowing: Proving the ROI of creativity

From hoping to knowing: Proving the ROI of creativity

Creative ideation and brilliant thinking are only half the story. Creativity grounded in analytics – before, during, and after – is key to proving ROI

Barby Siegel, Zeno Group

 

Who doesn’t love a big, bold creative idea. Yet, how many times have we heard this refrain: “Great idea, but will it move the needle? Sell more XYZ? And what is the ROI?”

Perhaps the broader question to ask is this: Are we any closer to cracking the code on ROI, especially communications that puts earned media at the core? To that, I say yes.

We live in a new world of communications – a world where the work we do drives real business outcomes. We must hold ourselves accountable to delivering work that does just this. Impressions are out. Impact is in.

Return on investment can no longer be “return on intuition.” In other words, you come up with a big idea in the shower, sell it in, and hope it works. Those days are over.

At Zeno, we take a data-first approach we call Performance Communications. We use data analytics and audience insights to test creative ideas and prove our case before we execute. Then we optimize performance in real time. We use an extensive suite of tools to put the science into the “art and science” of creative storytelling.

For years, the world of attribution was the sole domain of advertising. Draw a straight line from paid media to measurable action, whereas the link between traditional PR and business results was vague – left to our imaginations. Today, earned media is a business driver with a place in the attribution discussion – tracking the path and power of earned content.

Recently, a simple back link in an earned media story drove a dramatic increase in a client’s Google search engine ranking. This naturally increased organic web traffic to one of their product pages, translating into almost immediate revenue.

Creative ideation and brilliant thinking are only half the story. Creativity grounded in analytics – before, during, and after – is key to proving ROI. By breaking down data silos internally and across channels, we see the impact of our work, all while testing new models and approaches for reaching audiences with compelling content. Now, we can deploy the rigor of analytics that our advertising colleagues have been applying for years.

Pure analytics, though, is not enough. Overlaying human analysis to the numbers opens the door to an entirely new set of actionable insights. It provides perspective and context – the qualitative intelligence that explains the “what” and the “why.” This provides insights that lead to more hard-hitting content and purposeful creative.

As you think about integrating data to sell in bigger and braver creative ideas, consider the following:

Control your destiny. Push for media outlets and influencers to use unique URLs or backlinks that drive back traffic to landing pages on the client’s website – a simple “follow link” can have an almost immediate impact on a client’s business in terms of search engine ranking and, in turn, purchase intent.

Ground data in primary research. The two most common excuses for eliminating primary research is that it’s too expensive or it takes too long. Consider how meaningless our work will be without research – just a shot in the dark. Understand that primary research can be scaled up or down and turned around quickly with the right infrastructure in place. Research provides context, segmentation, and actionable insights – it is essential to correlate data with qualitative assessments.

Be brave. Big creative requires bravery. Apply that same fearless thinking to analytics. Do not take “no” for an answer. Push your teams and clients to get to the data that proves creativity-driven communications does indeed net measurable, business returns.

Early in my career, a mentor taught me the importance of standing behind your ideas – not switching gears as soon as the client begins to waver. Today, we can do even better. We can uphold our creative with defendable data and true ROI.

Barby Siegel is CEO of Zeno Group.

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