T-Mobile’s Tyler Olsen on the Shift Towards Data-transformed PR Strategies

Katrina Dene, Head of Communications

April 5th, 2023

Communications teams, like any other business function, set goals and report key performance indicators (KPIs). Access to accurate metrics is essential in reporting impact, but access to data that informs strategy can be transformative.

Such is the belief of T-Mobile’s Tyler Olsen, who leads reporting and analytics for the Un-carrier’s Communications, Responsibility & Events team. We sat down with Tyler to explore the evolution of data-informed communications and the shift towards data-transformed media strategies.

Tell me a little bit about your team at T-Mobile and how you approach communications.

Tyler: Our communications team is led by our Chief Communications and Corporate Responsibility Officer (CCCRO) Janice Kapner. The team is responsible for internal and external communications, corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and internal and external events.

While many may view telecommunications as a utility, at the Un-carrier, we believe it’s so much more than that. We’re always searching for ways to reimagine how we serve our customers. Everything we do is aimed at serving our customers in a way that makes their experience more transparent and easier as a consumer.

In action, that means simplifying fees, taking a stand against inflation taxes, and giving our customers incredible perks like Netflix and Apple TV+ on us, and sweet deals every Tuesday in our T-Mobile Tuesdays App. For the communications team, we have to understand what customers want and also understand what people hate about traditional telecommunication companies so we can bring change to our industry. Whether we’re speaking to customers, employees, or the general population, the communications team is the center of storytelling for our brand.

How do you connect data to communications decision-making?

Tyler: I come from a finance background, which perhaps is a nontraditional path to a career to joining a communications department. After I got my Masters in Business Administration, I joined the communications team after being part of T-Mobile’s leadership development program. While most of our team focuses on strategy and execution, I work on the data and reporting behind the scenes. 

My team and I are responsible for reporting impact across communications and CSR. That includes internal KPIs, how we’re stacking up against the competition, and messaging consumption and reception.

We look at traditional communications metrics like volume, share-of-voice, key message pull-through, and the topics driving the most coverage. That allows us to be data-informed in our decisions. We look at readership across all dimensions to understand what’s attracting the most awareness for our brand and uncover opportunities for the team to extend that impact.

How do you differentiate measurement from data-led strategy?

Tyler: While we spend a lot of time measuring the success of our work, we spend just as much time analyzing data to guide our strategy. Knowing where people read about certain topics helps us be deliberate in our messaging and where we allocate our resources. We use data to transform how we operate and strategically approach communications as a function.

We get excited about Memo because it allows us to compare coverage volume to actual readership, giving us a deeper understanding of what’s actually moving the needle for us and our competition. The more data we have to inform and transform decision-making, the more strategic we can be.

What do you see as one of the biggest challenges the comms industry is facing today?

Tyler: The news environment has become so noisy. It’s more challenging than ever to get your message across effectively. It’s changed where people consume news and how long they’re willing to spend reading. Our communications team motivates me every day in how they adapt and leverage data to be strategic about where we message, how we message, and everything in between. Creating a data-informed approach to communications helps us truly understand if we’re focusing our resources in the right places and if what we’re doing is resonating.

Where do you think there’s still opportunity for data transformation in comms?

Tyler: Historically, data within the communications industry has been incredibly difficult. The lack of available and accurate measurement tools left the communications industry hungry to become data-informed. With readership and other new data entering the communications world, we’re seeing a larger transition from data-informed to data-transformed, which is an exciting place to be.

We’re seeing the communications industry evolve before our eyes, and I’m so inspired by how T-Mobile’s communications team has adapted to the new environment. My role in this evolution is to be as knowledgeable as possible from a data perspective. That way, I can understand what we will learn from new data, and I can alert our communicators on what we’re seeing across the landscape to help inform their strategies. For example, what we’re able to uncover through readership helps us reach our customers and prospective customers more effectively than ever before. 

As the media landscape continues to evolve, I expect us to see more technology in the communications and media ecosystem designed to gather and interpret. While these tools become more data-focused, we’ll see more accurate measurements of impact and standardization industry-wide. Leveraging data to plan strategy ahead of time, instead of leaning on data to reflect what was already done, is the future of comms data.

To learn more about how data and insights empower powerful media strategies, visit https://memo.co/resources/.

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