Ep 138. ‘Deep Dive’ with Steve Leigh: using research to improve your brand reputation

Ep 138. ‘Deep Dive’ with Steve Leigh: using research to improve your brand reputation

Today I’m delighted to have on the podcast, Steve Leigh, from Sensu Insight.

Steve started Sensu in 2022.  After many years trialling this approach to reputation management, he left his role as a director of a large, independent PR agency to work on his business plan and ultimately start Sensu. Steve helps in-house PR agencies, and C-suite teams make sense of reputation, sales and audience behaviours, and how all of these things impact communications and market issues.

Join us as we ‘Deep Dive’ into PR measurement and evaluation, how to use research to improve your brand’s reputation, and much more.

Let’s dive in!

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Full transcript (unedited)

Emma Drake 0:03
You’re listening to the latest episode of the Communication Strategy that Works podcast with me, Emma Drake. So today I’m delighted to have on the podcast with me Steve Lee from Sensi insight. I had the pleasure of speaking to Steve. On this topic today around research and brand reputation tracking a little bit about Steve, he left his role as a director of a very large, independent PR agency to set up sensor insight in 2022. And he helps in-house PRs agencies, and C-suite teams try and make sense of reputation, sales and audience behaviours and how all of these things impact communications and market issues. Now, he had already tested this approach, he uses it at Senzu. He’s been using this approach for a number of years. And today we talk about so many different things. We cover PR and communication, industry evolution. We cover PR, measurement and evaluation, brand reputation tracking, honesty and transparency, the list goes on. So without further ado, let’s dive in, though. Hi, Steve, welcome to the podcast today. Thank you so much for coming on. Why don’t you start with telling us a little bit about you and how you started sensor insight?

Steve Leigh 1:26
Yeah, sure. Thank you. Well, going back to my university days, I was never going to work in comps or inside I was going to be a lawyer. And then after I graduated a combination of recession and having shoulder length hair, meant that it was bit harder to get a training contract than I thought. So I was faced with the prospect of having to go back and live in Darby with my parents. So that was motivation of to get a job. And I started working in PR for a computer games company, just as PlayStation was launching and computer games became interesting and reasonably cool. So spent a couple of years doing European press for games launches, which was great fun, and got to travel around a bit and play computer games for a living and take journalists out and things like that. And then decided to stick with PR and then moved into consultancy, moved over to Manchester and got a job in a big independent consultancy and kind of put my teeth there and then moved on to B to run an office of a network PR agency brief stint at Weber shanwick, and then on to another big independent where I was a director there helping to run their team. And then about 12 years ago, 1213 years ago, it was a bit of a time of churn for PR people who are long enough, in the teeth will remember it. But there was a recession happening, social media was starting to become a thing. And PR people were wondering if they were going to be relevant anymore, because who’s going to read a newspaper when you can go to Twitter and Facebook and things like that. So it was a time really for PR people to kind of question what they were doing and why they were doing it. And could they do it better. And my take from that was that what digital gave us was an opportunity to perhaps measure the impact of PR better, you know, we’ve talked for years and tried to convince clients that PR delivered word of mouth and even though it was hard to measure, they definitely needed it. And all of a sudden you could see word of mouth, you could see people responding to news articles, you could see people reviewing products or talking about their experiences. So all those things which were the school gates conversation, or the watercooler moment, suddenly became visible, trackable and measurable. And my idea was to kind of do something with that and make that more strategic. The agency or weathers I was with at the time, weren’t that interested? So I decided to go out on my own sort of palette with some like-minded practitioners and began to create that kind of concept principally around kind of how do you measure reputation? How do you track the impact of PR and communications since then we’ve broadened out and doing lots of other things. And then a couple of years ago, we’ve we sort of launched that as Senzu Insight mainly because when we first started doing a lot of the tools were quite cumbersome and quite expensive. So it was only really something that big corporates could afford to hire us for. And since then, obviously kind of technologies come on. There are lots of solutions available to do what we do. We’ve developed a few of our own as well and it’s become a bit more democratic. So anyone really can be doing this kind of stuff, but not that many people do still. So sensor insight is kind of a way to package the last two 12 years of all our knowledge and capabilities and insight, mix that in with my particularly comms experience, so that we’re, we’re helping advise people and steer people with what does that data mean? What should we do? So actionable insight. But then also bring it into the cost range of, you know, sort of a small PR agency or mid-sized PR agency, or, or kind of in house PR team that might not have massive budgets, but want to do things more effectively and wants to use their money wisely or retain clients, whatever it might be. So that’s kind of how I got to

Emma Drake 5:37
hear. Really, I mean, it’s, that’s fascinating. I mean, we we’ve, we’ve worked together briefly, on projects, I think it’s, it’s really great that this type of work is becoming or has become more accessible like you say it was, it was something that I think perhaps was seen to be only those brands with really big budgets or something that consumer companies did, or, you know, it’s, it’s become integral to everything really, hasn’t it understanding the impact of our work as professionals, and understanding whether something is actually working, as well as getting insights on how people think and feel, I hadn’t really thought about it like that until you’ve explained the story of social media, it’s a really good way of looking at it. So all of a sudden, we knew we knew all of those things. And we do now and even more, so don’t wait, it’s a fascinating journey really, isn’t it? If you think about it.

Steve Leigh 6:31
Yeah, it isn’t. It’s, it’s, I think SEO transformed the way that marketing directors, in particular, think, you know, they suddenly started doing marketing where they would be given live KPIs, and they could see actually where their spend was going and amend it or, you know, change the filters around it to make it more effective and really optimise it. And then they started asking the same questions of their other expenditure. And PR, was traditionally I think, a sector of marketing that was poor on evaluation. It’s got a lot better. And there’s a lot of education and movement within the industry to improve it. But it’s still say there are large pockets, where evaluation isn’t a core part of of the agency proposition. And there’s more work to be done partly because of time, partly because of budgets that are available, and partly just because that you know, the bravery to ask a client to pay for it.

Emma Drake 7:27
Well, I think I think I think that for me, that is the thing that is the are We are people genuinely brave enough. And I think transparency is a huge topic for us, isn’t it as professionals? And you know, but there are still I think you’re right, there are still pockets of people that would rather hide behind, not knowing for whatever reason, which is fine. But I think that has changed, the needles shifted on that definitely quite a lot, I think, isn’t it? Because to get better? You need to understand how you’re doing and there’s no benchmark otherwise, is that?

Steve Leigh 8:04
Yeah, I mean, we kind of operate on sort of three sort of commandments really, in terms of sort of what we do. So the first is that the impacts of PR, whatever they are designed to be, should be measurable. So whether that’s impact on reputation, impact on behaviour, impact on commercial outcomes. So it should be measurable, everything that you do should be measured in some form that needs to be affordable and proportionate to the budget. Because whenever you do measurements and research, you could spend an absolute fortune, but you don’t need to. And as long as you’re making the effort to have insight around what you do, it’s perfectly acceptable to make that feasible within the budget that’s available to do it with proportionate to the task. And then finally, that that insight should be used constantly to inform performance and impact. So one of the big frustrations I had I think, as a practitioner, was when you’d get a piece of research or you get a piece of insight and it was delivered by a statistician. So it became a big report very thorough, well research statistically bang on. But no one knew what to do with it. The practice does. statistician certainly didn’t know what to do with it and the comms person wasn’t great at interpreting it or knowing what that meant. So that importance of sort of knowing that the gap between the two so you know, that you shouldn’t be afraid of insight. I think PR people will be massively surprised about the impact their work has I think they’d be massively pleasantly surprised. That’s very true. Yeah. And they can learn from it, you know, they can fine tune everything they do and clients that’s what a client wants. A client wants to know that you have got their best interests at heart, that you’re basing what you do on evidence and an experience obviously, but that you are constantly refining improving what you’re doing. It takes a lot of time. The fear out of the process that and the uncertainty out of the investment for them. And also in you know, we’re heading into kind of what’s probably going to be a very tight year for PR and tight year for PR budgets. And if you want to, you know, protect that budget ring fence, that budget even grow it, you have to prove that it’s having an impact. So again, it’s really, really important more so now than ever. And if you’re a client, and you’re, you know, you’re running a, you know, 200,000 pound marketing campaign or marketing budget across the year, you know, and that’s, that’s kind of like a reasonably modest level for a medium sized organisation obviously gets big bigger than that, to spend a few 1000 pounds, making sure that that’s wisely spent is a perfectly logical and rational thing to do. And if it’s presented in the right way to clients, or to budget holders within an in house environment, then people say it’s absolute good stewardship and good due diligence.

Emma Drake 10:57
So I think I think part of that is probably around people, not really understanding how to have those conversations internally, with, you know, the boss or the the wider team. And, you know, when you’re looking at resetting budgets and things like that, and suggesting something that we’re asking people are really finding out what’s going on. I imagine, you know, there’s, there’s a range of companies that might go about this. And I know you work with very big companies, but also, at the beginning, he was saying, actually, it’s about making it accessible. So lots of different people can approach this task, but you must get lots of different types of briefs. And do Do people really know what they’re asking for? Do you think do you think, you know, what’s the sort of most common thing you get asked for and actually had? How do you sort of go about on picking that and getting to a piece of research, that’s actually going to be what people really need and want?

Steve Leigh 11:48
Yeah, so I think that this kind of typically two kinds of briefs are starting points. One is where there’s an organisation that knows they want a PR service, or they want comms services to run a marketing campaign or make some sort of change, whatever it is. And they’ve done a brief and they’ve got some data to support that, usually, it’s likely to be quite top line, and probably not been done specifically for that purpose. And also, in the case of PR, often what you’re having to do is kind of take marketing data and translate it into what does that mean for a PR strategy. Because obviously, you know, you’ve got to engage in with media in a totally different way, you can’t be too commercial, you’ve got to kind of join the conversation, rather than try to bully your way into the conversation. So again, in that case, it’s about knowing what the wider reputation drivers for that sector are. So you’ve got to try and look into the minds of the journalists and see what is it that’s driving their agenda, and into the minds of the consumer or the customer and think, Okay, well, what’s top of their list. So, if you’re a b2b service provider, then probably you know, buying a firm of accountants or lawyers, whatever isn’t what’s on their agenda, what’s on their agenda is surviving till next year, trying to cope with the increased costs of doing business. And you’ve got to learn what it is that’s driving their agenda to then sort of communicate more effectively. So that’s one type. And then the other type of brief is more often, when you’ve got a client that knows that they’re about to do something scary, or they need to make a big change. But they don’t quite know what it is they need to do that. So the project we worked on recently was a good example of a small organisation, a relatively small organisation that needs to there was just wanting to do a health check, really, they knew they wanted to be more effective, they wanted to develop, they want to have a five year plan. But what they needed was a roadmap. So they needed to ask those questions of the right people in the right way, and get that information so that that limited resource and time that they’ve got wasn’t wasted, it was directed exactly into the things that were going to make a difference. And, you know, without naming names, it was a charity. So again, the the implications of getting that right or getting that wrong are quite significant, because they’re trying to help people and improve people’s lives. And again, you could apply that to any situation. So we often work with employers, brand teams, for example, who are needing to kind of recruit more IT people and are really struggling or organisations that are about to do a merger or rebrand, or whatever. So normally, that they’re at some sort of major fork in the road, and they need to make the right decision. So with each of those situations, it’s about using data to kind of offer a guiding hand and to reassure them that they’re investing their time and energy and budgets in the right direction and in a way that is going to work for them or more likely to work for them or not. And also they can then track the impact of check that it’s working fine tune and improve and make sure that in a year’s time in two years time they’ve achieved their objectives.

Emma Drake 15:00
I mean, yeah, I think that’s a really good example of someone we worked on together, isn’t it and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. And actually the Insight it’s giving them to be accountable to stakeholders and also track and especially spending that money wisely. You know, they are really crucial things, aren’t they, especially going in the UK and going into, uh, you know, the economic situation that we probably are going into, as we’re having this call today. But, you know, it’s not all about management is it? It’s not all about sort of that side of things where, you know, we, we want to refine the strategy, we want to do a sense check, we want to do a bit of balance, or we’re just about start a campaign, we need to make sure we start in the right place, and we’re measuring the right things and talking to the right people. There’s, there’s really this sort of other side to this, which is how do we proactively build respect and goodwill with a group of people or for a particular topic? Or that sort of broader way you could use research? Well, let’s, let’s pull that back. So what are the ways you can use research and the sort of listing those ways that you can use research? And let’s explore the sort of brands one after that?

Steve Leigh 16:08
Yeah, okay. So typically, what we look at it so with our starting point, actually, is probably not the research method. It’s kind of What’s the objective? What are they trying to achieve? The reputation goal, the commercial goal, or whatever it might be. And we begin by, we have kind of like a, a framework of reputation, we work to have various methodologies around that the anchored in academic theory, actually, and it was remote when we started up this style of working, I remember going away to the lakes for a couple of days, sitting in front of a log fire sometime in November, reading some very thick academic journals to try and teach myself this stuff. But it’s vital. Really, it helps go back to that point of well, what are we trying to do? So organisations will often say, right, well, we need to improve our reputation. It’s like, okay, well, what do you mean by that? So, for example, are you unknown? Are you not known by people? In which case permission is visibility? Or it might be you’re known for the wrong things? So for example, let’s take an example out of the air, the post office, you know, they’re known for selling stamps, but are they known for selling insurance? And if their growth areas insurance, and they’re not known for it, guess what, you’re not going to sell any? So you know, it’s about building the right kind of profile, the right kind of visibility. And then there’s an element of trust. So you know, when you go out and talk about this aspect of you do people out there saying, well, that’s a load of rubbish. And they’re useless at this, don’t go to them? Or are the opposite, are they saying how great you are, and so on. And again, understanding that and being able to kind of alter that perception and influence that perception is really important. And then there’s a huge number of other attributes that almost like become a mental checklist in terms of the health of a brand. So again, you know, these are kind of things which would be true across to a larger or lesser extent across all successful brands. So if people listening to this sort of picture, their their ideal image of what a successful brand is, and then sort of run through these checklists, and they can sort of tick them off in their head. So being successful, so that might be financial performance, or it might be success. In other terms, if you’re a not for profit, for example. Delivering Effective products and services, having great leaders that are put their finger on the pulse and able to adapt to changing situations being grated into engagement. So not only communicating, but listening and adapting to what your stakeholders are saying. Or being a good corporate citizen, you know, sort of being actively involved in your communities or delivering something that’s beneficial to society through your core products, or being good for the environment, whatever it might be. And again, there’s a whole checklist of these different attributes that form part of that academic theory. And all of that is measurable, and all of that is trackable. So the two principal ways in which we tend to kind of like go about that kind of tasks. Having defined that with the client and set what our objectives are, and so on, is this traditional research. So, you know, stakeholder surveys going and asking people effectively, whether that’s qualitative or quantitative research exercises. But all that can really give you as a snapshot at one point in time, it tells you what people think of you now, in response to questions you give him, not telling you really kind of like the direction of travel that you’re taking, what’s influencing them, what shape that perception, how that perception might change in the future, and so on. So going back to the point I made at the beginning, in terms of kind of like that digital window into word of mouth. What we do and what we’ve sort of developed a methodology around is gaining insight from digital content. is a compensation. And that’s a really useful tool because a you can go back historically, you can look at pre and post event, stuff, you can go back we’ve, we’ve done a project that is in the public domain for World Economic Forum where we went back 10 years looking at a particular topic. But typically, we’d go back a couple of years for a client to give us a year, benchmark and then a year comparisons then look at change from and that gathers everything from news to social media, to forums, to Reddit, to review sites, whatever’s out there, really that’s in the public domain that we can access. And then you can grow and gain great insight from that. So going back to that reputation framework, you can see whether the visibility of the brand has changed relative to the topic or relevance to competitors, you can see what services or products are associated with that brand, and how that’s changed over time. You can see the sentiment and emotion around that conversation. And you can build dictionaries around particular attributes. So I talked about a few there, but more obvious ones would be value for money or, or range of products or quality of products and services, or expertise and things like that. So looking at the language with how that brand or that product is talked about. And what that gives you it helps to answer the question of, well, why do people feel that way? So you’ve, you might have got your score from your traditional piece of research, but and it’s low or it’s high? Well, why do they think that? Well, they’ve been exposed to content about you from the last couple of years that that seeped into their consciousness and formed that opinion. But also, why do people feel differently about other brands, and you can start to model what good looks like and then build an aspiration for a comms campaign or change campaign that will model that picture of success. So all these different tools are at people’s disposal to the extent where we can build those now. So people can see them in a live dashboard and actually track them in real time. And again, you know, that just gives you incredible insight that’s at your fingertips, really, that isn’t really sort of hugely expensive, you know, it’s well, within the budget of most campaigns, or most most budgets really. And again, it’s then understanding the dynamics of that, say, for example, difference between identity and image. So the importance of measuring what an organisation believes about itself, and what its stakeholders believe about it.

Emma Drake 22:36
Because that’s a good one, isn’t it? That’s that’s the, that’s when we talk about all that I talked about a lot is, you know, the belief that organisations have, and the perception that they create and the gap there, and what that gap is,

Steve Leigh 22:53
and where the gap is kind of points to the solution. So if you’re an organisation with a very strong identity, so that you know, your workers, your internal audiences, believe in the product, believe in the services know that you’re experts know that you’re great. And the external audience doesn’t believe that, then the the solution is one of communications, it’s just tell your story better. It’s the flip way round, and everyone outside in the world thinks you’re amazing. But the internal reality is that they know that everything’s held together with sticky tape, and that everyone’s stressed out and overworking and all your most talented people have just resigned

Emma Drake 23:31
ways, doesn’t it? I suppose. And I think this is really interesting, because of their work in construction in the built environment, and there’s more and more emphasis being placed as there should be on creating social value and, but not just, you know, in a tickbox framework kind of way, but actually, do people genuinely believe you’re doing the right thing are is their impact in your organisation? So are the people providing those outcomes diverse, inclusive? You know, it goes broader than just Have you have you built the school? You know, have you created X amount it is beyond that if people want to believe you know, and and the people working in the organisations delivering those are making those changes that but it’s it’s picking and picking that is part of it as part of that it’s been brave enough to start to unpick it because it unravels and you’ve got to sew it back together again.

Steve Leigh 24:29
We talked about I talked about reputation drivers before and one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the time I’ve been doing this kind of work with organisations is the importance of that softer element of brands. We do a lot of analysis around him by employer brand and Gen Z now. They value things like diversity and social impact of the organisations they choose to work for and they choose to shop with so highly. It’s transformational. From the, you know, the generations prior to them. And obviously, I think everyone’s sort of catching up a little bit with that train of thought. But definitely, there’s a lot of talk about what how Gen Z are different. They’re different customers, they’re different employees. They are just changed by everything that’s gone on and the technology they’ve grown up with and the culture they’ve grown up with. And they expect something different. And if you don’t keep up with that reputation driver, then you’re going to get caught out because Gen Z soon are going to be the dominant force within the workforce. They’re going to there’s more of them working in in the rest of the generations, right? Absolutely.

Emma Drake 25:39
Yeah, it is the workforce. That’s the thing is it’s the incoming workforce, and the and the workforce covered and current workforce. So it’s really important. And I think, I think more organisations are going to need to take that litmus test, to look at themselves. And we talked about, we’ve talked broadly about external perceptions and things like that. But actually, that involves taking a really good look at what’s going on inside the organisation, doesn’t it?

Steve Leigh 26:08
Yeah. It’s interesting. We’ve, from a comms perspective, we’ve, we did a greenwashing report at the start of the year and the PR agency, Alfred London, picked up on that and partnered with his on doing a second piece of research around the comms industry. And that found that lots of comms professionals are choosing to green Hush. So they’re, they’re kind of choosing to kind of like not tell the ESG story behind the brands they’re working with, whether in house or agency because of the fear of that brand name being named and shamed or, you know, sort of pulled over the coals by influencers influences or,

Emma Drake 26:50
or is that because that story is not great, or they’re choosing just to keep quiet about it?

Steve Leigh 26:55
I think that they kind of like almost, it’s like a brand, cancel culture. And it’s, it’s this fear of kind of alienating that, that sort of Gen Zed, that kind of, you know, sort of psychology, but increasingly, I think there’s, there’s a need for comms professionals to start to take the lead on that and educate brands and organisations and also the audience they’re communicating with the imperfect is fine. You know, it’s all part of a journey. And as long as your intentions and your vision is good as a business, if you can communicate that effectively, it doesn’t matter that not everything is perfect, as long as you’re not trying to pretend it is. So again, there’s what we’re saying within the conversation is when we track these sectors in these conversations, is there’s a demand for more honesty and transparency and being real, to steal a social media phrase that I learned from my children. Rather than it’s not

Emma Drake 27:56
that deep, is the one phrase I get, it’s not that deep and be real. Yeah.

Steve Leigh 28:01
Definitely. And to kind of like, you know, kind of taken a more honest approach to comms rather than more marketing, you’ve got to present a glossy image type approach. Obviously, there’s some sectors where that’s terribly difficult because they’re inherently unsustainable, but it’s challenging. Yeah. But in building instruction, where I know you kind of work a lot, that they’re almost kind of you have to be more honest, you have to be transparent. There’s so many ways now in which the impact and the environmental impact of the work you do is measured, Oh, absolutely.

Emma Drake 28:34
And manufacturing is that the green claims code and all sorts of consumer protection, construct green construction products, code, there’s all sorts of things now that you have to be very mindful of, and I still come across so something this morning, I’m not naming any names, but this organisation is actually very good at what it does in that space, both from a diversity and inclusion perspective, inside the organisation, and actually how they’re trying to change a very, very old construction company and update it. But you still see those words in there. And I think, you know, we, there’s almost sort of, if you’re going to do a bit of a bit of an understanding of what customers think and feel about, about what you’re doing, you’ve also got to change the way you talk about it a little bit so that you’re not going to press buttons by saying the wrong word. And it what it’s not quite greenwashing, but it’s just using the wrong language. Excuse me, I think there’s it’s just being open and having open and honest conversations with with customers about that sort of thing, really.

Steve Leigh 29:41
And it’s being a bit braver because I think most communicators will have experienced over the last 10 years. That’s the fear of social media and what that can do for brands if you you know, you fall foul of it or you you know, you’re named and shamed in something, and the scope of what brands are expected to do now is massively different. I mean, when the hostilities started in Ukraine, there was this rush to distance them, businesses to distance themselves from trading in Russia, having Russian suppliers, any Russian presence. And if you didn’t do it quickly enough, you were on the front page of the sun, you know, and all of a sudden, you know, marketing directors and communications directors, you know, who’s who’s, you know, biggest challenge was kind of like, does the widget work properly is the train running on time, all of a sudden had to have an opinion on geopolitical crises and be savvy on that. And that’s just the world we live in, things move so quickly, that today starts. And by the end of the day, you could expect it to be, you know, tested on your attitude towards trans workers, you know, sort of environmental issues, you know, and the only way to kind of be fleeting for a is to be genuine and, you know, have some values that actually stick to and apply to whatever the situation is. And that sort of hopefully gives you a shortcut to the right answer. And the second is through insight and monitoring, you’ve got to be able to see whether that phone call that you’ve just taken asking you about why have you got this policy for your staff, that we think it’s awful, whether that is something that’s going to derail your brand, or it’s just a minor distraction that you can quite comfortably deal with on Monday morning. And we live in a world where we’re constantly having to make those judgement calls all the time. And the need to back that up with data, the need to back that up with insight is just getting more and more strong, because the world’s moving quicker and

Emma Drake 31:42
demands are high, we can’t be expected to sit like say we were working with a much smaller operating context that the operating context is boundless now, isn’t it? I think that’s, that’s really what you’re saying. And I agree with you on that. Obviously, let’s just talk about skills for a minute. Because obviously, there’s some very specialist skills within your organisation. And with you. And I think you made a comment, when we were talking about, you know, how data how research used to be carried out in a strapless eye. So I started off I worked in a credit card company, and the in house in corporate communications for so long ago, it was the credit card company that invented the balance transfer. So that thing that happens all the time, they were the first people to do it. So the Challenger, Challenger, finance brand, basically. And, you know, research was using a data led marketing function. But yeah, doing some perceptions. Research then was, you know, it was Moree. It was it was huge. It was months of work, it was huge amounts of data. There was specialist, you know, you had to employ all that stuff. And I think it’s, it’s some skills we have to have now in terms of interpreting data, understanding, understanding and interpreting data. I know this conversation has been rolling on in PR and comms for for a while. But I think it’s even more important now, given this sort of broader operating context. And I suppose for your perspective, what are those? Aside from the obvious of, you know, understanding data and, and insights? What sort of skills do you think people should be looking at, to help push this forward internally, if they say if you work in house in a in a marketing or communications team, say PR team there, what sort of skills to do, you’d be looking at brushing up on and to commission and understand and really be on top of this sort of

Steve Leigh 33:48
work? Yeah, I think there’s an element of data literacy that all practitioners should be given. Should be and I think there’s actually a document on this that we worked on as part of the PRCA innovation committee. If you go to our website, you’ll search the blog, you’ll find it on there, if you just type it into a search tool, you’ll find it and that’s a really good starting point in terms of what are the basic things I need to know. And that really is about just understanding what’s possible, so that you know where to look and what you can look at and to advise clients, and just some basic, you know, sort of knowledge around data literacy so that you are comfortable working with figures or understanding interpreting data in a way that you can then offer good advice on it. I don’t think there’s a need for practitioners to become statisticians. I think once you understand the basics, you can then sort of lean on the tools or lean on other people. But definitely, I think in larger organisations, there’s a real luxury there about having an in house research team or an insights team that you know, the massive agencies have in the massive inherited that massive and Most teams will have access to, but most don’t have that most practitioners won’t. And that again, that’s kind of where I see our role. We’re kind of the outsourced research team in that we can we work with organisations, both in house and agency where we come in and offer that role. And partly, that’s because practitioners don’t just need the number, they need to know what they do with that number. So what do I do on that? Or how do I use that to inform my thinking again, so we can offer a bit of a connect there. But also, a lot of the tools that exist, are quite one dimensional. So they’ll do one thing really, really well. But then they won’t do the other stuff. So and it will those subscriptions to those tools, you know, mount up, you know, they might not be hugely expensive in themselves. But when you’ve got 10 of them, then you know, guess what it’s getting cut first, when budget calls happen, they are getting cut, and then you’ve got to know how to drive them. So you know, you can choose to train yourself on it. But realistically, you’re busy doing a job you’re working, you know, trying to get the the actual results that then will drive the outcome. So what our role is really, it’s kind of like a you don’t need to buy the subscriptions, will pick the right tools to do the job. Or, in fact, we’ve developed our own tools where there are gaps in the market or in software. Thanks to our Head of Development, Aldous, and a partnership, actually, we did with them, our local university, we did a KTP with them with one of those as well, which is really valuable. But then you’ve got to know what to do with it. So again, it’s kind of, you know, no one can be a practitioner, and also learn all the skills and keep on top of them, it’s just not feasible. So, you know, in my mind better to work with a research team, if you’ve got one. And if you haven’t got one, find a partner who can help you get the insights you need. Because it’s a is probably the more cost effective way of doing it. And B, you kind of then can concentrate on the day job that then drive the results that hopefully show the impact. So that’s sort of sort of where I would steer people towards, you know, go and ask that question, go and find out what’s out there, by all means. But then, if soon as you feel that you’ve gone beyond the comforts of your own capabilities, don’t, you know, don’t feel that you’ve got to kind of become a master on everything, and then just give up and get support, get the help you need. Suppose you need the level of insight and knowledge to then be an expert customer. So you know what you’re buying, you know why you’re buying it, and you know what it can do? Yeah. And then beyond that trust, trust people who specialise it to get on with it. Or if you’ve got a brilliant tool that matches your needs, exactly, then perfect, you know, learn how to use that. But chances are what you’ll need all of that will change and vary over time.

Emma Drake 37:51
Absolutely. And I think I think that you’re right, it’s that it is quite a specialist skill. Still, I think that’s what we’ve identified. And I quite often talk about skills on the podcast, and being a good customer being able to brief well. So understanding the operating context of the business, so you can breathe really well. Not just be asked to do something sort of shuffling paper around to make it happen. Informed clients. I mean, the best briefs come from the best clients, don’t they think that’s always the case? Really? So and the best relationships lead to the best clients? I think so. So yeah. Yeah,

Steve Leigh 38:27
there are good training courses out there, a Mac is a good place to start, there are some really good freelancers as well that offer this kind of training, we have our own sent to the academy that, you know, we offer courses through as well. But there are courses increasingly out there that can fill these gaps in so you know, alongside your press release, writing your media briefing training, you’re, you know, everything else starts to sprinkle in a few of these data literate or measurement courses or understanding courses, just to kind of build your team’s awareness really, and then there’s no alternative to kind of like go or substitute for actually them, you know, using it in real life scenarios, because that’s when you really learn it’s a bit like learning to drive. You’re barely competent when you get that driving licence it but it’s then the more you use it.

Emma Drake 39:16
Yeah, absolutely. Definitely. It’s a really, it’s a really good tip. And a really good tip to end on. Actually, it’s been fascinating having you on the podcast today. And those links that you’ve mentioned, I’ll put the links in the show notes today. So people listening can grab those links from the show notes today. But say it’s been fascinating listening to your work, and yeah, really great to have you on. So thanks so much for coming on, Steve.

Steve Leigh 39:45
Sure. Thanks for having me.

Emma Drake 39:46
If you enjoyed today’s episode, don’t forget to check my show notes for those links that I mentioned, where you can also subscribe to my podcast. Leave me a review and there are also links to my training courses that you may be interested in. Don’t forget if you really enjoyed this episode please share it with your own networks.



By |2023-11-09T13:05:06+00:00November 2nd, 2023|Podcasts|
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