Media and the Data Minefield: 4 Solutions to Modern Media’s Greatest Challenges

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Personalization was a topic central to debate and discussion at this year’s AOP conference in the UK. With attendees like the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan and other leading global media outlets, the event was focused on opportunities and the challenges publishers face in driving revenue, increasing pageviews, developing audiences, creating new streams for monetization and engaging the “always-addressable” consumer.

We already knew the UK is ahead of the curve when it comes to personalization. Most of those at AOP agreed, without question, that media marketers want and need personalization to meet and compete with consumer demands. What the vast majority also agreed on: they still don’t know how to make personalization a reality.

I had the opportunity to speak about user-centric personalization and the questions that the audience posed were connected by three key themes:

  • They don’t have the data to make personalization possible, or the talent to make sense of it

  • They can’t get organizational buy-in and face departmental unwillingness to adapt or give up siloed data sets

  • They are not confident there is a vendor that fulfills the personalization promise

These obstacles are ones that everyone at Sailthru is quite familiar with hearing from prospects. The personalization and omnichannel technologies market is in the midst of an identity crisis. On one hand you have legacy email service providers who are the largest players in the field who do not have the technology needed to truly deliver on the promise. On the other hand you have truly high-tech, next-gen solutions that offer the ability to natively collect first-party data from all channels and fully personalize the experience; however, it takes buy-in from multiple departments to implement. In most cases this is consistent of the technology adoption curve, where evolved technologies are beginning to “cross the adoption chasm”.

When it comes to publishers, Sailthru has spent the better part of a decade answering these concerns and helping brands move past them. We know how to work with clients to create internal alignment; we consult on developing strategies that completely transform user engagement; we provide not just the technology, but the guidance needed to succeed.

Here are four solutions from that knowledge base that a CMO–or any marketer–can take back to the workplace in order to put into personalization into practice.

1. Bridge the gap between Marketing and IT. One of the first steps is connecting the often disparate Marketing and IT departments. When it comes to new technology, Marketing must use IT as a resource even before any vendor evaluation has taken place. These departments must collaboratively identify the business goals and infrastructure needs for a personalization/omnichannel technology and a vendor checklist that both sides participate in. Before going to RFP, a complete data blueprint must be established so that all sides understand where data currently sits. This is key for evaluating vendors and IT is critical for sniffing out any potential red flags before a deal is signed.

2. Think “Proof of Concept.” Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nor is an omnichannel strategy. Your organization has to plan to implement and deploy over time, using data gathered as the proof of concept needed to extend across all channels. Sailthru clients start with email personalization and then extend to onsite, mobile and social once there is a baseline for lift and they have the long-term data to prove value over time. Your plan needs to map back to your business goals and objectives and you need to ensure that your vendor of choice has the ability to consult on this as well as to easily “turn on” new channels, take in your historical data and give you a longtail view of customer engagement… all in real-time.

3. Launch an education series. When it comes to business decisions that directionally affect the jobs of many, education is necessary. You need to bring everyone up to speed on the technology, the value proposition it holds, best practices, risks involved, and anything they need to know in order to continue to do their job effectively while supporting the mission. Include components like distilling reports from industry analysts, guest speaker series, internal webinars, and components that have historically worked in change management for your specific company culture. Make no mistake, taking on personalization is a shift from a legacy mindset to a true data, analytics and testing based culture and all teams need to rally around this shift!

4. Create an analytics Center of Excellence (COE). This point is one of the most crucial for the short- and long-term of tackling a new project like this, where data is such a big area of concern in an organization. By bringing in people from multiple teams to create a COE, everyone has a stake in the game. We’ve seen this tactic work at many organizations–especially large companies up to the enterprise. You can’t ask any department to just give up their data. But you can bring people together from departments that both contribute to data, and access it, to find the right way to implement, manage, measure and optimize new technologies.

If you have other solutions for helping make personalization, or any high-tech solution, come to life at your organization, please share in the comments below!

— Marielle Hanke, Senior Manager of Client Analytics & Optimization