Why your PR & Marketing Data Needs a Single Source of Truth (& How to Achieve It)

digital city
digital city

Did you know that 90% of the world’s data on the internet was generated in the last two years alone? This data brings about access to more business-critical insights than ever before. While this is positive, it has made the landscape more difficult for professionals to navigate. We particularly see this is the case for PR and marketing professionals who rely heavily on digital channels and the data they produce.

PR and marketing teams who bring external insights gleaned from online media into the boardroom make more informed and competitive decisions… But this isn’t the case if the data hasn’t come from one single source.

The immense amount of data available today has led to major PR and marketing decisions being made based on fragmented data sources.

During this article, we’ll walk you through what is meant by a ‘single source of truth’, how this differs from a ‘single version of the truth’, why both are important and how to obtain them both!

What is a ‘single source of truth’ and how does this differ from a ‘single version of the truth’?

While some use single source of truth and single version of the truth interchangeably, they are in fact different.

A single source of truth is a data storage principle to always retrieve data from one point of access. For example, analysing media data within a command centre that has various other data streams coming in from other systems, such as business intelligence solutions. On the contrary, a single version of the truth is the view that everyone in the organisation agrees that data from one singular provider is the real and trusted figure. For example, having one global media intelligence provider, rather than many, in order to obtain a holistic view.

The problem with having data in different locations (single source of truth) and from different providers (single version of the truth) is that they don’t communicate with each other. Having multiple and competing versions of the truth is confusing and this disjointed view of business performance often leads to poor decision making. Inconsistent and contradictory data is a sure way to erode trust in your numbers. For years marketing, comms and PR professionals have fought to have their say in the boardroom – the last thing you want is to damage trust before you’ve gained it. 

The benefits of a single source of truth and a single version of truth

Data misalignments caused by having multiple systems that capture and measure data can have serious consequences. Without a single version/ source of the truth, it’s easy for marketing and PR teams to end up focusing on the wrong activities that fail to generate the most appropriate ROI. This is because teams end up being pulled in different directions — many of which will be the wrong ones.

Obtaining a single source/ version of truth is critical as it ensures that the data we’re using for reporting is reliable, accurate, and comparable. It has the benefit of providing management with a holistic overview of their strategies by enabling their teams to speak in the same data language.

Let’s explore the benefits in more detail.

Reliable and Accurate data

The quality of media intelligence vendor data varies, with some being more precise, up-to-date and consistent than others. Such variables are impacted by a whole range of elements such as how real-time the platform really is, how many sources it tracks, how many languages it supports etc. This challenge is eliminated when a single version of truth is activated by consolidating vendors and only using one globally – you just need to make sure you choose the right provider; but more on that in the second half of this article!

Comparable data

How media intelligence providers go about organising unstructured data (such as online news and social media mentions) will differ from vendors to vendor. In turn, this has an impact on analytic results, as well as your ability to benchmark your local teams and competition against one another. This challenge is very apparent when it comes to metrics. While metrics may share a similar name, they can, in fact, be measuring very different things. Often differences can come down to when, where and how the data is collected and structured. Unless you’re using the same provider throughout reporting, it’s near enough impossible to compare data. A single version of truth combats this challenge.

Since a single source of truth allows professionals to connect the dots between data types, it also makes data highly comparable. That way businesses can compare apples with apples and gain a true overview of their progress while understanding the different factors contributing to moving the needle.

Breaking down silos

It’s not uncommon for teams across the organisation to struggle collectively building the company when business units don’t speak the same data language. One source of truth can break down silo working as all departments have access to the same insights. For example, companies who activate single sources of truth can spot patterns between consumer data, business data, IT data, marketing data, PR data, social media data and more – purely through data collection and integration. If your team understands how their work is impacting other divisions (and vice versa), they’re more inclined to work collaboratively. Cohesive working through information exchange also has the added benefit of greatly impacting alignment between the leadership team too.

Trustworthiness

Using one singular provider that offers one consistent view of the same metrics reduces the chance of leaders inflating their teams’ results. If figures can quickly be challenged, people are less likely to over-represent their impact.

When a single source of truth is in place, professionals have a chance to access and blend data from different sources. This gives them a real 360-view of their company, preventing them from making decisions based on one stream of data. When everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet and are able to connect the dots between data types, you have more trust and confidence in the numbers, and therefore decision making.

digital world

Establishing a single source of truth

According to a study by Hubspot, the marketing function alone use on average 12 different tools – so you can only imagine how many tools a company uses collectively! A single source of truth focuses on managing disparate data by integrating and synchronising data from various sources. The most common way businesses do this is through command centres.

Command centres offer the ability to visually unify business data from across all business functions, in one interface.

The idea of a command centre is that all business-critical data required to run a company is stored and made available from within one platform. That platform should then be used as the ultimate source of information on anything and everything to do with your business, no matter the department and function you work in.

By using command centres, businesses can find anomalies and patterns, and present them back in a singular view. This aids them to create scalable strategies, capitalise on their strengths, put strategies in place to improve on their weaknesses and act faster on external opportunities and threats.

man on the phone in digital board room

Establishing a single version of truth

You don’t necessarily have to have a single source of truth in place in order to obtain a single version of truth. However, in order for a single source of truth to be successful, one must have a single version of truth agreed upon.

So how do you go about choosing a vendor to act as your single version of truth?

Choosing the vendor best suited for your needs

A quick Google will uncover tons of media intelligence providers, with that being said, I can only imagine how difficult it is to decide which is best for your needs. To help with selection, check out the below video and important questions to ask media intelligence vendors.

To ensure a provider is right for you, I’d recommend mapping out your exact requirements before subscribing. Outline your PR and marketing objectives and ask the below questions. Also, look at the breadth of their coverage and size of marginal errors – these important details will make a world of difference and will guarantee meaningful results.

Some questions to consider:

1. How big is their source database? What types of outlets do they cover?

You want to ensure their source database includes all of the media you intend to engage with – including outlets from your first, second and third tiers. If you want a rounded summary of your PR efforts, you’ll need them to cover earned, owned and paid media.

2. How can they help you measure and identify the right metrics to quantify your PR efforts more accurately?

Look at the types of measurements they provide – do you want a simple media intelligence service or a service with multi-measurement frameworks that explain more about your audience? Consider their measurement accuracy and read reviews.

3. How fast can they update you?

Modern media is fast-moving, so it pays to be updated in real-time – or as close to real-time as possible. Consider how and when they provide you with updates (weekly, daily, hourly) and look for services with automated email alerts.

4. Do they provide retrospective data?

Having access to old campaigns and historical data means you can mirror the elements of the campaigns that worked and will ensure previous mistakes aren’t made twice. I recommend you request access to information from up to two years ago, benchmarking new campaigns against old ones along the way.

5. What does their support network look like?

If you’re PR and marketing teams are spread across the world, you’ll want a measurement service with local industry knowledge so you’re not wasting valuable time explaining things over the phone. You’ll want 24/7 support regardless of time zones and public holidays. Depending on your requirements, look for a software provider with local and/or international teams – either way, they should both be able to provide one-on-one support when and where you need it.

*Disclaimer* Finding a single version of truth is not always as simple as it sounds.

It has to be said, implementing a single version of truth is not all roses – and I’m not just talking about the sheer number of vendors out there to decide on.

As organisations grow, the ‘single version of truth’ challenge becomes more apparent and complex. One example the Enterprise team at Meltwater often comes across is local field PR and marketing teams having differing preferences over the media intelligence provider they choose compared to the one HQ wishes to implement. In most cases, local regions feel their needs are completely different from that of their geographic neighbours. I can definitely empathise with this. There are of course differences that only certain providers can help with, for example, the tracking of Asian social channels such as Weibo. With that being said, a strong vendor will be able to cater to all needs – both local and global.

Before a single version of truth can be implemented, corporate and field marketing must first agree on the metrics they’re using to measure performance. In most cases, such alignment requires buy-in around changing current KPIs, since metrics are measured differently depending on the vendor used. There’s an art to consolidating and aligning reporting and analytics – and change management plays a crucial role in this. Change management tactics differ depending on the organisational structure and current situation, so if you’d like to learn more about facilitating this for your company, feel free to direct message me and I can share my top tips, personalised for your needs.

Create clarity with Meltwater Global Solutions as your single version of truth

Meltwater is the leader in media intelligence, providing software solutions to over 30,000 organisations around the world.

At Meltwater, we believe that corporate solutions need local support. With a presence across six continents and clients present in 125 countries, we pride ourselves on global experience and local expertise. That’s why so many of our clients use Meltwater as their single version of truth.

By tracking the largest content database in the industry, our tool eliminates blind spots. Through smart AI crawling, our media intelligence tool sifts through more than 275,000 global online news sources, comments, review sites, forums, message boards and over 300 million blogs in the blink of an eye. We ensure no stone is left unturned, so you always know where exactly where you stand from a global and local perspective.

Meltwater platform on laptop Mac

Meltwater captures real-time data and presents it in digestible dashboards.

When your business chooses Meltwater as your single version of truth, you’re able to benefit from our partnerships with leading local and global news and social companies. From Dow Jones to WeChat and Weibo, we hold partnerships with a global network of industry leaders so you can sleep well knowing that you can track and analyse the full picture – not just a section of it.

Our service is unified across the globe, ensuring you have the consistency needed to effectively benchmark and measure the impact across countries, languages and continents.

Remove data silos with Meltwater Display & API as your single source of truth

If you’re currently using a command centre, Meltwater offers an export and streaming API solution so you can blend data from your own applications or third-party business intelligence systems with online news articles and social conversations.

As a full enterprise partner of Twitter, with the largest global news source base, our APIs enable analysis to be built on top of the most complete data set possible.

Meltwater API gives you out of the box, real-time integration, ensuring you have all the insights needed to run a successful and competitive enterprise in one interface. Whether you want to see raw volume or specifics, the choice is yours. You have ultimate control over how, where, and when you receive media analytics through our APIs.

Meltwater analysis screenshot

Alternatively, if your company doesn’t currently have a command centre, Meltwater Display is the most appropriate solution for big data integration and visualisation.

Professionals around the world use Meltwater Display as a single source of truth, making sense of internal and external data. Meltwater Display integrates content and data from Meltwater, Sysomos, Salesforce, Zendesk, and a variety of web analytics sources to provide a complete 360° view of your brand and business. The Command Centre creates flexible and dynamic visualisations that tell real-time stories of the metrics and KPIs that matter most to your business while adding context and insight.

Meltwater Display is perfect for companies struggling to present complex information in accessible formats. We achieve this through cohesive and interactive dashboards. Whatsmore, visualisations change automatically in response to shifts in data. That way, you can quickly access critical insights and signals for dynamic situational awareness, in-meeting answers, and smarter decision making.

Meltwater Data analysis

So there you have it, what is meant by a single source of truth and how to obtain this for your PR and marketing data! If you’d like to learn more about what this could look like for your organisation, fill our the form below and we’ll be in touch!