Data driven communications is the future: IBM's Ray Day at Chai Talk Special Events

How do you tell a story in a disruptive age, how do you then measure its impact on the brand and its business objectives? What does the chief communication officer of the future look like?

Ray Day, chief communication officer, IBM shared his views on all of these issues at Chai Talk Special Events in Bengaluru earlier this month. The senior audience of brand side communicators made the conversation very insightful, sharing experiences and questions.

To  listen to the Chai Talk @ 5 PM podcast with Ray Day, click here. Or check it out at the end of the story.


What makes a story a story?

One of the key points Ray Day emphasised about storytelling was that there was too much focus on where to tell the brand story and that can change every three to five years.

Ray believes, based on early conversations with Pixar's creative officials, that the best stories are those that have emotion and take people back to where they haven't been for a long time or have never imagined before.

To be an effective storyteller, Ray Day is using B2C techniques at IBM to highlight the relevance of an iconic firm. This effort is based on a storytelling strategy that provides detailed insights on how to best use digital content.

If you can't measure it, you can't manage it

A data driven approach defines Day's measurement philosophy. He says, " If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." This kind of meshing of storytelling with data insight, believes Day, is what matters as communication shifts from mass to micro storytelling.

The audience at Chai Talk IBM

To make the best use of data for storytelling, IBM now has a content hub within IBM. 50% of this hub is made up of the data and analytics team and the rest of the hub includes writers and video producers.


Who's afraid of measurement?

Day said that sometimes communicators can resist the idea of measurement of PR outcomes as they may feel that this could cut down on their job standing. 

However, Day believes that communicators have the same concerns about the brand as marketing.

Day shares that, "I have the same metrics for brand health as the CMO."

What else should you measure?

Day defines improvement in reputation as the sum of  improvement across business performance, behaviour (brand values) and communication. He also regularly measures the growth of the communication team via stakeholder feedback and analytics. 

The shape of things to come

What will be the shape of the future PR professionals. Day believes that the CCO of the future will need to be a futurologist, able to do concrete crystal gazing.

To that end IBM has been looking to hire futurologists to find out how people will consumer information in the future. 

According to Day, as per the social scientists, people are heading for an information overload. Within a decade, a situation can emerge where people turn away from this overload by restricting their use of digital platforms. 

Chai Talk participants ponder the question of consumer backlash against information overload

Communicators speak at Chai Talk 

Ira Pradhan, who leads corporate communications at Mercedes-Benz RD India said, "The key topics in communications, storytelling and reputation, I believe, should be discussed in the context of staying relevant and data. After today I am adding a new topic to my portfolio - data scientist for communications."

Rahul Nag, national head of corporate and regional communications at ShareChat, India's largest Indian language social platform, said that what resonated with him was insights on data analysis and PR measurement.

Nag shared that,  "Truly measuring at scale is what he could like to work on with his communications team."

Shakambhari Thakur, head of corporate communications at Samsung R & D Centre at Bengaluru, said she believes the key to moving from mass to micro communication is micro personalisation of storytelling.

For Dhruti Kapadia  Krishnan, senior communication and engagement lead at Unilever, the conversation with Ray Day revealed , "The 'How' we tell stories is changing every 3-5 years. The future needs compelling storytellers. As communicators, we create and tell stories in that order. Do you tell them chronologically ? Or do you take them back or where they have never been before. Think about the best story that has stuck with you; the greatest stories have emotions."

Sreedhanya Shanmughan, communications lead at Cargill India said that what she found very interesting in making data and analytics a reality is the role of Ray Day’s chief of staff,  a non-communications person, data expert Sunita Menon who has a background in data and analytics.

As a structured leadership program in IBM, a senior leader job shadows a C-level executive. Ray’s idea was to have a reverse mentoring opportunity, and Sunita is now mandated with not just running his office, but also to establish a strong data and analytics platform for the communication team.

Thank you Bengaluru communicators for supporting PR conversations of the future with Chai Talk.

The Chai Talk roundtable with IBM's Ray Day at Bengaluru, November 2019

Chai Talk is a platform for senior communicators to connect co-created by PRmoment India and Weber Shandwick India