Nearly every business function relies on data to measure performance and make business decisions. Why should communications be any different? Walmart’s Senior Director of Insights & Analytics Angela Palladino spent more than decade focused on quantifying brand awareness and leveraging data to inform everything from messaging to PR campaigns to business decisions.
We sat down with Angela to get more insight into the evolution of comms metrics, how big brands like Walmart leverage data to inform strategy, and what the future holds for comms insights and analytics. Keep reading for a glimpse into the conversation.
Tell us about your current role and how you got here.
AP: I got started in the world of data and comms in New York City working at a social listening startup over a decade ago. We tackled data collection across social media channels to help brands make sense of it and aid better business decisions. From there, I moved to a PR agency to work on their new (at the time) digital practice, focusing on digital platform and media analytics and helping the agency leverage data to craft better PR campaigns and pursue more strategic media outreach for clients.
That brings me to Walmart. I joined the company 8 years ago on the Corporate Affairs Insights & Analytics team, which works in close partnership with Communications. Walmart is such a large organization and brand. Comms is the messaging vehicle that supports many critical business functions, both internally and externally. The Insights & Analytics team collects and analyzes data from a variety of sources to provide decision support to internal partners. For Comms, this means leveraging data to refine our strategies, measure effectiveness, and better understand the ever-evolving media environment we operate in.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for comms teams today and how does that shape what you focus on?
AP: One of the biggest challenges for comms teams today is the fact that attention spans are getting shorter, meaning we have a smaller window of opportunity to get in front of our audiences and have our message heard. There is so much information available for consumption being pushed on people through so many different channels. As a result, people are paying less attention to everything. Comms teams need the ability to keep up and make sense of it all.
Leveraging data helps teams take a reform and inform approach to media strategy. By that I mean rethink strategy with data to actually reach the people you want to with the messages that will resonate with them.
We put a lot of effort in making sure we have the most sophisticated tools available in our tech stack, so we can more efficiently and effectively understand what’s important to our stakeholders and reach them with things they care about.
Where do you see data making the biggest impact for Walmart?
AP: We’ve made a lot of progress in harmonizing the art and science of communications. Art being writing and messaging, and science being the data that can inform all that. As an organization, we’re always striving to stay aligned with what matters to our stakeholders–the values and priorities for the communities we serve, business leaders, customers, suppliers, etc. Culturally, are we aligned with what our audiences and stakeholders care about? Everything we do from that data side is to make sure we maintain healthy relationships there and can deliver authentically on our brand purpose.
Data & Insights help inform how we at Walmart get in front of the right audience, with the right message, at the right time. Getting smart about news cycles and what people are paying attention to at any given time helps us, as a broader communications team, make smarter decisions for the brand.
You’ve seen metrics in the comms and social space evolve significantly throughout your career. How do you see them evolving further?
AP: The level of sophistication of technology needed to make sense of data is what has changed most about the industry – in a good way. Gone are the days of manual clip tracking, report writing, volume and impression counts. Solutions leveraging real-time automation, large language models, AI/ML are now easily accessible. These new capabilities are allowing the insights industry to transform in really exciting ways.
On top of that, the speed at which things are changing is transforming the industry. Attitudes, information, trends are all changing. To keep up, there’s a new expectation of real-time translation and understanding. Human analysts cannot do this alone. The only way to keep up with it is to build a sophisticated tech stack that is fully integrated into your processes.
How do you see your job continuing to evolve over the next 12 months? 5 years? 10 years?
AP: Over the last decade, there has been a lot of talk about growing distrust of media and the rise of misinformation. It begs the questions, what can the media do to build trust? What can platforms do to combat misinformation? There is a movement brewing around data transparency. One of the reasons I love Memo is because it gives publishers an opportunity to be more transparent. Not only does readership help us connect with our audiences in more meaningful ways, it helps build more trust in the publications our communities read most.
We’re also going to see even more integration of new tech like generative AI enter the stack. This will help brands evolve how they reach key audiences. It will also likely lower the barrier of entry for data analysis across comms teams. More people will pick up data analytics as a skill set, which means that ownership won’t necessarily fall to one specific team. This is a good thing. Data can be incredibly valuable. The easier it is to analyze and understand data, the faster we can all make smarter, more strategic decisions for the brand, for the business.
Comms is all about how brands tell their story, where, when, and with whom. The new frontier of comms tech is already here. We’ll keep seeing more tools aimed at helping comms professionals make informed decisions, just like Memo helps us understand who is amplifying our messaging and showing us who we should pay attention to. As a result, we’ll see more personalized and targeted messaging and PR even more closely connected to content strategy.
To learn more about how data and insights empower comms teams to make smarter decisions, visit https://memo.co/resources/.