Digital analytics and argyle sweaters: Chuck Hemann has the digits

I first learned of Chuck Hemann on Twitter.  I don’t recall exactly how and when and it doesn’t matter.  What does matter is his perspective when it comes to data or metrics or if we’re being a bit cool about it, digital analytics(BTW, WordPress doesn’t recognize analytics as a word.  It’s that cutting-edge.)

Chuck Hemann

My first impression of him was he’s smart and a bit grumpy.  Interestingly, he must have received some feedback about this (grumpy) because somewhere along the line I recall him acknowledging it on his blog, “Analytics is King,” to which I recommend you subscribe.  While you’re at it, follow him on Twitter, too, but his blog is where it’s at.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him in person to confirm whether he truly is a little grumpy, but I have a suspicion he’s not so much that but rather passionate about his craft and confident in his abilities.  As a result, he’s not so tolerant of ill-conceived ideas and remarks concerning PR, marketing and social media. And I’m with him, but that’s for another post.

Another reason I think he’s more the latter than the former is because as someone known to don an occasional argyle sweater myself, it’s impossible to be grumpy when you’ve engulfed yourself in diamonds about which people consistently compliment and secretly wish they could pull off, too.  My advice – start with argyle dress socks.  Whenever possible, sit along the wall in large meetings and cross one leg over the other so as to humbly present your ankle diamonds.  As compliments are tallied and sideways glances from admirers are captured, your confidence will increase, and before you know it, you too will find yourself strutting about your place of work with a diamond-protected torso.

Fashion isn’t the only thing Chuck and I have in common though.  I, too, share a strong interest in data and gaining insights from it.  That said, he’s way smarter than I am (Again, subscribe to this blog for info treasure.), and for quite some time I’ve wanted to pick his brain.  Fast forward to today and voila! I present to you Chuck, who-is-so-smart-he-should-go-by-Charles, Hemann, VP of Digital Analytics at Edelman Digital in Chicago.

1. You’ve branded yourself well as an “analytics guy.” Where does the passion for data come from?

The passion for data is actually kind of strange. When I was in graduate school I was a graduate assistant for the Center for Policy Studies at the University of Akron. In that capacity, I was responsible for a lot of data collection and analysis. Before that I was your typical social sciences hack just trying to avoid “math.” Now? I absolutely love the process of collecting data, segmenting it, analyzing it and then developing insights.

2. There are so many web platforms out there. What’s your advice to those trying to navigate the digital world to achieve something?

You’re absolutely right. There are a ton of different platforms out there for companies and people to choose from. The only advice I can realistically give is don’t build up a predisposition to use one tool over another. I think this horse has been beaten to death over the last three to four years, but go where the research tells you to go. If your research tells you to go to Google+, then go there. Don’t listen to the so-called “experts.”

3. Sound communication decision-making involves many variables to include hard data. How do you help clients blend math, science and art together?

This is kind of the secret sauce, right? What’s the appropriate blend of all elements? The answer, like most things in life is “it depends.” I do know this… The abundance of data available to us via social media (or any other form of digital communications for that matter) has almost made qualitative analysis even more important. There has to be a human on the other end of the computer who can collect, segment and analyze for the ultimate use of developing brand-specific insights. Without someone adding the human touch, data is just data. Useful, but only to a certain degree.

4. For small business owners out there who want to make more data-driven marketing decisions but are short on time and money, what should they do?

I actually don’t think the size of the business should be a concern. The number of free tools available to you is staggering. Heck, you can learn a lot just by doing Google searches. Now, granted there are plenty of additional advantages offered by paid tools but it can be pieced together for free. What’s interesting, though, is that piecing together through a lot of free tools takes time. Is that time worth more than the paid tool? If so, why not invest?

5. In your view, what are the top 3 things all brands should be doing online right now to market and why?

Wow. These are tough questions! Three things every brand should be doing online to market themselves right now? I actually think the question is more fundamental than that. Most brand’s don’t have the infrastructure to support social the way it needs to be supported. That’s changing, but slowly. If I were to narrow it to three infrastructure-related items I’d say: 1. Developing a listening approach that builds an insights library for your company; 2. Setup the appropriate measurement process involving true business objectives and performance metrics; and 3. Make sure you have a strong response protocol in place when/if a crisis arises online for your brand.

6. As PR becomes more data-driven and the lines between PR and Marketing blur, what do you see the future of PR and Marketing looking like?

To be totally honest, one of the debates I really think serves absolutely no purpose is that of PR versus marketing. Does one belong under the other? Where does social belong? Talk about two questions that gets us nowhere. It’s hard to tell where the two disciplines are going. In my ideal world I’d say that they will be working in perfect harmony toward building maximum brand value. In the real world I’d say that the lines will continue to blur between the two functions causing “fights” over budgets, resources (people) and attention within the organization. Hopefully it’s somewhere in the middle.

7. Do you think Texas Instruments calculators should be part of every professional communicators’ toolkit? If so, which TI model do you recommend, or will a smartphone calculator do the trick?

HA! Awesome last question. Actually, the one item that should be in every PR pro’s toolkit is the ability to use Microsoft Excel. It’s not a hard tool to use, and you’d be able to track and measure your programs more effectively. (DISCLOSURE: Microsoft is a client of Edelman).

So there you have it.  Do you disagree with anything Chuck said?  Something to add?  Interested in what he’s wearing?  Comment below!

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