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Welcome to the “The Ask,” a content series that gets up close and personal with the people of Weber Shandwick Seattle. This month, we caught up with Kyle Cook, an analytics master who works with clients along the West Coast.

Hi, Kyle! What do you do at Weber Shandwick?

My role is to use data to solve problems and help our clients make informed business decisions. I am responsible for enabling data-driven decision-making. This could be identifying target audiences and providing insight into how to engage them, ensuring the proper framework is in place to measure the impact and return on investment (ROI) of communications and marketing efforts, or uncovering new market opportunities.

Why is data important for communications?

During a time when the marketplace is saturated with content and attention spans are shorter than ever, how do you know what message will actually resonate with an audience? Data can tell you. Not only can data help inform decision-making, including who your audience is and how to engage them, but it can also prove the value of work. By using data, you don’t just have to think your efforts are effective (or not), you can provide evidence.

You taught yourself the ins and outs of analytics. What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

Curiosity. Knowledge and technical abilities are important, but it is essential to be curious about how things work and why. Curiosity is crucial for analysts because we should always be seeking to reveal truth, not just answers.

You recently relocated from Texas to the Northwest. What’s your analysis of Seattle after surviving your first winter?

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t start by saying that my analysis is likely skewed by limited data and the rare occurrence of the Seattle Snowpocalypse starting the day after I moved here. That being said, I absolutely loved all of the snow and being so close to the mountains that I could drive up for a quick afternoon of skiing. Also, it actually turned out to be less gray than I expected based on everything I’d heard about Seattle weather, but I’m definitely happy spring has arrived!

That’s cool (pun intended). OK, back to the professional stuff: How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest tools and trends?

My work is constantly changing and challenging me to learn new skills to solve the problem at hand. I use online classes and analytics communities, such as Kaggle and Stack Exchange. I also like to keep up with the latest news and trends across business, marketing and PR through sites such as Harvard Business Review, Ad Age and Marketing Land.

What’s your advice for communicators who want to bring more data into their work?

Start by laying a foundation for understanding what is and isn’t working. While many communicators understand the importance of tracking data and using it to make informed decisions, they often forget to set measures of success or do not align their key metrics to the larger organizational objectives. If you take a step back and create a measurement plan at the beginning of a project, you can ensure your work aligns with your client’s business goals and you can develop relevant KPIs to measure the effectiveness of your communication efforts.

Parting question: What’s the best taco, fish or beef?

This must be a trick question, because al pastor on a corn tortilla with cilantro, onions and salsa verde is the absolute best traditional taco. If you don’t believe me, go to Carmelo’s Tacos in Seattle or Las Trancas in Austin to try for yourself. However, having just moved from Austin, I would be shamed if I did not give breakfast tacos a shout-out as well. That is why tacos are my favorite food: They are versatile and can be eaten for every meal!

So your taco KPI is meal versatility?

Exactly.

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