How to Train Your Staff to Use Data
Publishers have a wide variety of data at their fingertips through their e-newsletters, digital subscriptions, social media, websites, and more, but many media companies fail to implement this data in a meaningful way. Executives who spoke at Publishing Executive Live: Data, Insight & Revenue Summit agreed that getting editors, salespeople, and even marketers to embrace data-first strategies requires a cultural shift. In particular, leaders from Forbes, Penton, and IDG Enterprises maintained that training was key to getting staff to adopt new data tools and processes.
Following are four recommendations that Mark Lewis, VP of insider/strategic initiatives at IDG Enterprises, Tricia Syed, VP of user marketing and marketing analytics at Penton, and Ann Marinovich, VP of advertising products and strategy at Forbes Media, offered during a panel at Publishing Executive Live titled, “Making Data Part of Your Culture.” The executives said that data training and talent development is an ongoing process, particularly as new tools and technology enter the publishing market.
1. First, hire data analysts. Although existing staff can be trained on how to interpret and implement data insights, professional data analysts are necessary to guide training within the company, said Marinovich. One way to hire data talent without significantly increasing overhead is to evaluate open, legacy positions. For example, whenever Forbes has an empty position, its leadership weighs whether they should rehire for that vacancy or if the company should hire for a new role. Often, Forbes fills these vacancies with data-savvy professionals, said Marinovich. “I would say 90% of the time we end up hiring a different role than the position that the person just left,” said Marinovich. “Most of the new positions have ended up being much more data-oriented.”
2. Schedule small, hands-on group trainings. Both Lewis and Marinovich agreed that smaller, interactive trainings are the most effective for teaching staff how to use a new data tool or better understand the data they receive on a regular basis. In smaller groups staff are able to ask specific questions and learn how to access the data they need. Informal, one-on-one trainings are even more effective, said Lewis. “We try to formalize training on how to use tools, but it's really an individual who has to really be looking for something specific and then ask us to help them to find that information,” said Lewis. “That’s when they really start learning.”
Marinovich added that the success of these small group and one-on-one trainings have led to the rapid growth of Forbes’ analytics team. “Our analytics team is one of the fastest growing parts of our organization and having more people that can sit and work with different groups of the company to make sure they’re getting what they need is critical.”
3. Find the data champions within your company. If publishers can’t build out a data team as rapidly as Forbes, they can identify what Lewis called “data champions” within their organization. For example, IDG Enterprise has a staff member who works in editorial and is well versed in data tools like Omniture, Chartbeat, and Parse.ly, said Lewis. She’s the editorial team’s data champion and can train her colleagues as needed to use these tools. “Our analytics team is always there to help, of course, but I think it's those champions within the business units that are really valuable.”
4. Formal trainings can work too, especially if they are hosted regularly. Although many of the panelists emphasized informal trainings, Syed said that Penton has had success with formal training sessions in its marketing department. Because much of this team is remote, Syed said that she and her team began hosting a marketing webcast twice a month for staff across the country. She said that the webcasts’ regularity keeps marketers up to speed on the latest data strategies and techniques. The webcasts are an hour long and often cover a specific topic, such as a new data tool. “We usually send FAQs and guidelines along with the PowerPoint slides after the webcast,” said Syed. “They’re pretty thorough so that’s worked pretty well.” Syed added that individuals can reach out to the webcast presenter to address more specific questions and concerns.