Datadriven comms needs a healthy error culture

Datadriven comms needs a healthy error culture

At the end of the quarter, many communications departments produce a quarterly report that is sent to management to prove its importance. It is not uncommon for people to focus on tuning the report as a success story. Less successful measures then fall by the wayside or only data points are extracted where the lack of success is not immediately apparent. This reveals a data culture that prevents communication departments from realizing their full potential.

Lack of credibility and relevance

Anyone who manipulates data in order to “look good” to management is falling into a trap of their own making. Firstly, such a report has little credibility and is therefore not suitable for convincing management of the performance of the communications department. Management sees its task as using data to control business processes. This is clearly illustrated by the example of financial or sales figures. In my two decades on management boards, I have rarely seen discussions revolve around success. We talk about things that are going wrong and require action. A report that shows no need for action is quickly identified for what it is: a lot of sugar-coating on little substance. Secondly, such comprehensive reports, often consisting of 50 or more slides, have no relevance from the stakeholders’ point of view. The hard work involved in creating it cannot be rewarded because countless data points – or worse – pretty pictures of media pick-ups or social media posts do not provide any insight. Anyone who produces such reports should reconsider this and invest the time in sensible handling of data.

Against our better judgment

Now it can be assumed that the colleagues who still produce such reports actually know or at least suspect that a lot of time and money is being invested in a pointless endeavor. Why does it still happen?

One important reason is probably the human nature to prefer to talk about successes. As a result, the understandable efforts of employees to present themselves as efficient performers to communications management result in a bundle of “great” achievements, omitting anything that could tarnish this image.

Learning from data is the main purpose

This attitude must be overcome because it is toxic to the goal of learning from data and making decisions for the operational and strategic management of communication. As always, the fish stinks from above. Because when it comes to developing a data culture, it is up to the management. The commitment must be: Mistakes must be allowed to be made. Impact measurement must not be misused as performance measurement. This understanding must be lived and must never be questioned. All it takes is a thoughtless remark in a team meeting. Once there is commitment, employees are more willing to share and deal with critical data.

Data culture means a culture of trust

This is a process and must be anchored in meeting routines in which the findings are regularly and openly discussed. Data culture means a culture of trust. To provide support, the communication manager must request that data be prepared in such a way that options for action can be derived from it. This means comparing like with like on the basis of a content model, benchmarking and mapping not just data points but data series. This claim also makes the creation of opulent quarterly reports appear dubious, as it is not suitable for the operational management of communication.


Developing a healthy data culture is not a quick process and requires a rethink at all levels among employees and management. It is not just about admitting mistakes, but also about learning from them and actively using these experiences to improve processes. A critical but fair approach to data leads to more authentic and effective communication strategies that ultimately strengthen the entire company. By fostering a culture of openness and continuous learning, we can significantly improve the way we communicate while strengthening integrity and trust in our communications departments.

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