The data divide - Why communication professionals must act now

John Croll
By John Croll | 30 April 2021
John Croll

John Croll, founder, Truescope

The Asia-Pacific Communication Monitor is a multi-market academic study led by the most recognised researchers and experts in the field, and provides valuable insights into the current challenges and predicted trends of the public relations and communication industry. The APAC edition of study spanned 15 countries and territories, and garnered information from more than 1,100 respondents.

The recently released key findings may not come as a complete surprise, for example, compared to two years ago, communicators are more comfortable with social media and basic technologies.

However, what the findings do tell us is that we have a data literacy gap that communicators must bridge. More than three-quarters (77.6%) of communication professionals surveyed said data competence is important yet only 45.1% considered themselves as having a high level of competence.

Coupled with this is a lack of competence in technology generally with 75.0% saying technology competence is important, but less than half (46.6%) rating their competence as high.

The issue?

Our friends in the marketing department, whose systems are built using data and established technologies are able to demonstrate their return on investment more effectively, meaning they are able to command greater budgets. Which is why it’s time for comms professionals to harness the power of “CommsTech”. It’s clear that practitioners must identify and adopt new technologies, dial up automation and embrace AI to remain relevant and respected to a business.

What is “CommsTech”?

It’s big data, it’s analytics, it’s a little bit of data science but most importantly, it’s a more specific sector that will enable communication professionals to establish data led campaigns or insights that can move the needle and effectively measure the impact. Outputs and outcomes are ubiquitous and homogenous, but there is now a need to translate this to commercial value.

As Professor Jim Macnamara PhD, FAMI, CPM, FAMEC, FPRIA says, “Communicators don’t need to be data scientists but they need the knowledge to help give them the confidence to ask the right questions.”

And there it is…

The data literacy gap in full effect.

Where does the responsibility lie to drive the upskilling required across APAC?

I personally think it’s a mixture of sources and information that is needed. A responsibility lies within the Institutions who need to equip the next generation of communicators with the skills they need today and beyond to succeed.

However, the gap needs to be filled in the middle and upwards too. Fortunately, most successful practitioners are fuelled by an innate curiosity, however we must also look to employers and companies to help elevate the discussion, expectations and broader profession to drive the industry forward.

The goal needs to be to educate communication professionals to arm them with the knowledge and ability to ask the right questions to data analysts and data science teams. So learning to adapt thinking and language in order to generate the right insights will be key.





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